December 13, 2009

Sneezing on your sleeve

I WONDER WHO THE IDIOT WAS who first suggested that we sneeze into the clothed inner part of the angle made by a bent arm? I refuse to call it an elbow, because the elbow is the outer part of the angle made by a bent arm. The idiot got that wrong, too. You can’t sneeze into your elbow unless you’re built wrong.

It seems to be the swine-flu epidemic that started this. And by this, I mean the disgusting action of sneezing a noseful of snot onto your shirt or sweater and watching it drip down the length of your arm right there in front of everybody. Who in their normal mind would want to do that?

I remember a more sensible era when good Moms used to check that their kids had nice clean handkerchiefs before they set off for school. Among the posters on walls and hoardings there was one from the government that said “Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases, Trap the Germs in Your Handkerchief.” How sensible. Those of us schoolkids who forgot our handkerchiefs and surreptiously wiped our noses on our sleeve cuffs in desperation, were disdained by the little girls and chastised by our teachers.

And now, what has happened to the handkerchief? Has it gone the way of the Dodo? Am I now the only one who reaches in his pocket for a handkerchief when he feels a sneeze coming on?

What if you’re in evening dress? Are you going to blow your snot and germs onto your tuxedo all evening, and if you do, will your partner still dance with you and kiss you goodnight? I’m all in favor of birth control, but this seems to be an unusual way to go about it.

And, more importantly, what if you’re bringing your rotten swine flu to my boat? Foul-weather gear is not absorbent, in case you’ve forgotten. The snot and phlegm won’t soak in. It will just drip down in thick, slimy, yellow ropes.

And every time you raise your arm to adjust the topping lift or wave at a passing seagull, a vast cloud of predatory germs will spill out. They’ll settle in the galley, just below the hatchway, and lurk there by the million, waiting for something moist and hot blooded — something vulnerable and delicious (namely, me) — to come past. I can just see them there, wide-eyed, smacking their lips and rubbing their little hands in glee, ready to pounce.

Sneezing on your sleeve is not just disgusting, it’s totally unhygienic. I’m not surprised swine flu is spreading so fast. If, for some reason, fashion or plain stupidity has dictated the demise of the handkerchief, then the least people could do would be to wear an absorbent bandage around their arms. There is probably a fortune to be made by someone who invents a Velcro-fastened, throw-away elbow patch. Or maybe, just maybe, if this epidemic goes on long enough we will come to our senses and realize that handkerchiefs were not mere fashion accessories but a truly sensible way to prevent the spread of disease.
Today’s Thought
Human beings are the only creatures who are able to behave irrationally in the name of reason.
— Ashley Montagu

“Dad, why do they throw the meat to the lions like that? Why can’t they serve it nicely?”
“Well, son, the fact is, lions are lousy tippers.”

© Copyright John Vigor 2009. All rights reserved. Not to be copied or published without the express permission of the author.


Jennifer Moran said...

No, John, handkerchiefs have not become extinct. You have thousands of fellow travellers out there. On boats, of course, handkerchiefs are so much more practical than those terrible tissues. They're also very versatile. In the tropics, you can tie a wet handkerchief around your neck for instant cool-off. A handkerchief is a superb makeshift bandage when you nick yourself and don't have time to go below. In terrible weather you can still blow your nose on a wet handkerchief but a wet tissue just disintegrates and leaves a mess in your pocket.
May we run your column on the Hanky Mania page on our website with a link to your blog? Ciao, Jennifer

John Vigor said...

Hi Jennifer:

Glad to hear there are still some sensible people around, at least in the sailing community. You make an excellent case for handkerchiefs.

And yes, sure, you're welcome to run the column on the Hanky Mania page, and edit it as you like.


John V.