Thursday, March 01, 2007

Yonkers is a Funny Word

Certain body functions seem to have a greater comedic effect than others. Evidence of this fact is the many movies and television shows that center on, basically, the passing of gas from both the upper and lower egresses in the human body. (I could tell you a story about an oblivious elderly gentleman who was hard of hearing and very gassy while walking through a quiet supermarket in Yonkers, NY. I laughed until I cried – mind you, I was 19 years old – and I must admit my side hurts a bit still when I think about it.) Be that as it may, it’s my contention that sneezing is highly underrated for its ability to produce a laugh or two.

Take my wife for example. As she feels a sneeze coming on, you see her head rear back in slow motion – all the while you’re waiting for her noggin to begin swelling to two or three times its size as you anticipate the build-up – and then she stops but for a split second and the head begins to come forward (which is not too dissimilar to a good golf swing). You’re expecting to see an oral explosion on the same scale as Mt. St. Helens, but at the moment of truth her mouth closes and all you hear is a muffled snort as a puff of air escapes her lips. After seeing this I can’t help but laugh for all the lead up and the less-than-mighty delivery. (When we were first married I would look down at her feet to see if the stifled pressure at her mouth was diverted elsewhere and perhaps blew off her shoes.)

I’m sure you all know someone who makes you laugh every time you see them sneeze. There’s the guy whose whole body shakes like he’s been hit by a shock wave. You have the woman who makes a high-pitched squeak that’s almost the right frequency to be heard only by dogs. And we mustn’t forget that friend or family member who sounds like a machine gun, letting six or seven sneezes come flying out one after the other. Come to think of it, a video montage of people sneezing would be a great thing to watch on YouTube.

Comedic potential aside, there’s something about sneezing that causes me to wonder if people ever listen to what they’re saying. Yes, I’m referring to the sneeze rejoinder, “God bless you.” This stems from the belief that each time you sneeze your heart momentarily stops beating and then starts back up. So, by virtue of the fact you’re even saying this phrase, you’re acknowledging the existence of a higher power, while in the same breath you’re calling the reliability of his workmanship into question. We’ve got it all wrong, folks.

We go through our day-to-day activities vesting far more trust in things that are far less worthy. When we wake up in the morning and turn the light on, we don’t act a little surprised that the bulb works, and say, “GE bless you.” We don’t look down at our watches, shocked that they’re still ticking, and say, “Timex bless you.” Rather than going around looking for people who are sneezing and thus endangering their lives so we can await their hearts’ miraculous restarting to say, “God bless you,” perhaps our time would be better spent watching what we eat and getting our exercise – and possibly having our hearing checked to avoid an embarrassing situation in the supermarket.

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