|RANT 'N' RAVE|
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.