J. Robert King


Nothing to Sneeze At

I should point out, I’m not an epidemiologist.

(You don’t know how many of my conversations start this way.)

All right, so I’m not an epidemiologist, but I’ve got a new theory about the sneeze. For years, we’ve all been told that the sneeze is the body’s attempt to rid itself of something foreign–to get rid of viruses and bacteria and so forth.

Okay, but when have you ever sneezed yourself well? When have you ever sneezed five times in a row and said, “Ah, hah, I’ve gotten rid of that virus”?

You never have. That’s because the sneeze is not meant to get rid of a virus in your system. It’s meant to spread that virus to other people.

Okay, let’s think in terms of evolution. There were viruses that made your face turn green, but they didn’t spread. There were viruses that made your nipples extend, but they didn’t spread. There were viruses that made your hair fall out, but they didn’t spread.

Once a virus made you sneeze, though–well, that virus had a way to spread.

So, over five billion years, our species has played host to millions of viruses, but the ones that are still hanging around are the ones that make us sneeze and cough and spread the virus from one to another.

That’s the point of a sneeze. It’s not your body’s attempt to rid itself of a virus. It’s the virus’s blind ability to make you shoot it out to all your friends.

Why aren’t there viruses that make us fart? Because farts don’t go far. We wear pants. And farts stink, so people get away.

No. Viruses that make us fart have died out (thank goodness), but viruses that  make us sneeze live on because they have a way to spread themselves.

Which is why people with H1N1, should stay home and watch some movies.

For five million years, sneezing hominids have spread viruses, one to the next. They’ve said, “Yeah, I’m sneezing, but I’ve got to hunt and gather, so the rest of you had better just ignore me.”

No more. Let’s stop the spread of sneezing viruses. Let’s stop H1N1 and all those other little monsters by staying home and sneezing on no one.

And let’s take it to the next level. Let’s find viruses we want to propigate. Maybe there’s a virus that makes us kinder. Maybe there’s one that makes us smarter, or sweeter, or more beautiful. Maybe there’s a virus that passes only when we take the hand of someone we considerered an enemy.

Let’s take that hand. Let’s pass that virus. Let’s become better people.

It’s nothing to sneeze at.

October 31st, 2009
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