Body Chronicles: Weapon of Mass Distraction
My nose is pretty standard, dramatic enough to make a point but not too dramatic that it becomes a dramedy. My nose has a secret weapon: my sneeze. It is a weapon of mass distraction. For those who have caught wind of it or been caught in its wind, you know the gale force. My sneeze has rendered me infamous in many circles as well as a few popular internet forums.
One of my favourite places to sneeze is in a university amphitheatre lecture hall during math class. The acoustics are great and also sometimes the highest form of entertainment for the lecturees. University professors are a diverse lot. Some professors are warmly encouraging with audible memes like, “You can do anything.” Some crush like trolls with phrases like, “If you can do anything, please do something else.” One math professor I had in university wrote on the front page of one of my exams, “I strongly recommend that you drop this course.” Now, how is that a cheerleader of higher learning? And, hey, he’s not the boss of me!
This math professor, known from here on as Prof, is a stern stem of rigid height, spindly and awkward and mean. He’s all doom, no dancing. He’s continually droning on and on about the derivative of a function of a real variable and how it measures the sensitivity to change of a quantity which is determined by another quantity. It’s a fundamental tool of calculus, and I accelerate quickly into abysmal boredom. I’m bored out of my tree. (Where does that phrase “bored out of my tree” come from? You can be scared out of your tree too. What is everybody doing in trees? Sounds like a lot of unnecessary camping to me!) Anyway, I’m sitting bored out of my tree in the front row of math class. All the less-prominent seating in the lecture hall has been taken by the time I clamour in spilling my coffee over my PJs. The podium where Professor plunks down a gloomy stack of math exams is right in front of my seat. I’m sure he’s penned a lovely note of inspiration on mine.
As mentioned, my sneeze has force. It’s impactful enough to blow 10 to the power of 10 whole stacks of exams without evening aiming. This is an empirical fact. On the day of this account, I feel a sneeze come on suddenly. It’s always sudden. There’s no time to give warning to my surroundings. And it’s loose like a rocket, a huge blast off: AAAACHOOOO!
I see it before it happens, a slight quake from the midsection of Prof’s stack of exam papers. And I know that stack’s gonna slide from the impact of the sneeze. Prof is a good 10 feet away. 10? 15? I don’t know measurment well and I can suck much at math. In a noisy sneeze-filled instant, Prof’s blathering is brought to a direct halt. He and I make direct eye contact at a deep level. Each of our gaze is intense as we turn to aim our respective gaze at the stack. We make eye contact again, and again to the stack; back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I can see the wheels in his mathematical mind turning, spinning and cranking into slow motion as he goes into decision mode: Should he take action and make a run for the podium in an attempt to stop the sliding stack when there’s no guarantee he’ll get there in time? Hmmm…
You know that moment when you’re in a time-sensitive decision of what you should do with your body in that moment? There’s a small moment of time within which hesitation can be your downfall. You may use initiative and inertia to move your body in time to make it to where your body needs to be in order to save the day, and that physical leap out of your comfort zone will render the image of your body to onlookers as completely ridiculous and unattractive BUT when you make that save it will render you a hero…. orrrrr…. you could make that risky move looking completely ridiculous and unattractive AND you don’t make it in time enough to save the day and escalate to that hero stage so you just end up hanging in that ridiculous and unattractive body position while the object you’re trying to catch succumbs to the force of gravity and bonks you on your head and spills your dignity to the floor. You know that moment? Prof was in that moment as my sneeze still echoed throughout the hall in a haunting taunt of “chooeyooeyoo!”
Our eyes lock— to the stack, to each other, to the stack, to each other. He and I both know by the powers of Newton’s Second Law— and the acceleration of an object in motion once set in motion— that there is no way he is making it to that stack before it slides. And I am just revelling in this slow-motion moment of mildly calculated realization.
I nestle in as time slows down and the room quivers equally with my sneeze and his uncertainty. As we are still locked in this moment together eye to eye, I bring a tissue to my nose, drop him a wink, and say to him in my mind, “This class is not what I’m dropping, sir.”
The paper stack gives into the law of gravity at the rate of 9.8 metres per second squared and finally breaks free from its inert state, accelerating to the floor at the speed of hilarity. And the lecture hall erupts in boisterous laughter.
I showed him that he was not the boss of gravity and he was not the boss of me! I’ll have you know that I did not drop that course! I hung in there and failed it legitimately.