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A-choob tale

rant.jpg (29653 bytes)

Illustration by Marie

I am not easily startled out of my commuting reverie: The laughing school kids, squeaking Anpanman shoes, keitai melodies and dozing salarymen on my shoulder do nothing but instill in me a sense of the familiar and safe. That was until recently. I have become haunted by an unsettling sound - The Sneezing Salaryman.

The Sneeze of the Salaryman is a deafening phenomenon that barely resembles a sneeze. It's more like a sudden verbal explosion or shout, as if a man had been threatened by an axe murderer. Every time I hear the sound I immediately turn around to offer help to the victim but to my horror and surprise find that it is just a salaryman who has sneezed. He clearly shows no signs of remorse or embarrassment and quietly resumes his daydreaming. Sneezes aren't meant to be this loud, are they?

In England if a sneeze approaches you try to hide it as best you can, whereas the salaryman embellishes it and turns it into the most ecstatic event of the day-for him that is. For me it is a frightening episode in my otherwise peaceful commute. It's impolite to blow your nose in public but OK if you want to sneeze like an elephant!

By contrast, the average female Japanese sneeze is a tiny implosive whimper, like a mouse sneezing. Why such a big difference? And why is it only me who seems to be perturbed by the sound? Nobody else on the train bats an eyelash and I think to myself, "am I finally going crazy, hearing sneezing in my head?" But then again most of them don't suddenly jump around with joy when they hear Anpanman squeaky shoes, so I conclude that the sneeze does exist, but that they have long grown accustomed to it.

Aside form the initial horror, this is a rave rather than a rant, for I think that the salaryman has caught on to the major benefit of the sneeze, i.e. relaxation. It's a harmless and enjoyable way of releasing stress and nervous energy. The salaryman spends an inordinate amount of time in his office, and the strain can take its toll, so I think it's only fair to grant him a moment of explosive freedom and intensified stress relief. So the next time I hear the sound of the Sneezing Salaryman I shall, standing a few paces back, say, "Sneeze on and bless you."

Many thanks to P.A. Scher for this Rant.

Metropolis Online
381: The Crisp Linen Suit Syndrome
Unbearable heat and crisp linen suits
380: Smile
Smile when you see another foreigner
379: What sign are you?
When signs start to complicate life
378: Off with the gloves
Battle of the readers
377: Stop before you shop
Stores that scare away gaijin
376: Home sweet home
Modern housing in Japan?
375: Nihonjinron
Theories of Japaneseness and insecurity
374: Plastic bags
Do we really need them for everything?
373: Doctor knows best?
A scary visit to a Japanese hospital
372: Don't forget the finger wagger
So you've never complained about Japan?
371: A-choob tale
The Sneezing Salaryman
370: The gaijin language snob
Dare to cross his path
369: Nihongo
One man's struggle...
368: Making sense of Roppongi
Why do I keep going back?
367: Hateus Japanus Expatricus
Great bar bores of the world
366: Plants and animals
Darwin's turning in his grave
365: No more groping - for now
Women only train cars
364: Man's best friend
Pets have it rougher
363: In praise of Tokyo taxi drivers
A good ride all around
362: The Big Boot Brigade
Masters of the oversized-shoe
361: The case of the missing garbage cans
Where art thou o garbage can?
360: Ramen for the soul
Japanese chicken soup
359: Revenge of the nerds Part II
Geeky guys with hot girls
358: Little old ladies
Grandmas packing a punch
357: Starbucks sanctuary
Stop the Starbucks insanity
356: Pet name problem
My sweet little... carrot?
355: Unclean Jeans
Jeans McNasty
354: My chosen profession
Lindsay Nelson's the name, English teaching's the game
352/3: Merry Christmas... sort of
Merry and not-so-Merry Christmas in Japan
351: Last temptation of rice crackers
Breaking big bills the hard way
350: Revenge of the nerds
Gaijin girls are just jealous

ISSUES 300-349
ISSUES 250-299
ISSUES 233-249