When I was a junior at Palm Harbor University High School, I had a physics teacher named Dr. Wilson. He was a bit of a quirky gentleman (but aren’t all high school physics teachers?), and it was something he said that really stuck with me. The funny thing is that it had nothing to do with physics at all – or certainly was not part of the curriculum but, now that I think about it, could be tied to physics in some way.
One day, somebody sneezed in our class. It must have been a loud one that caught everyone’s attention in the middle of a lecture. Dr. Wilson and some of the students were quick to “bless” the sneezer, but that wasn’t the end of the acknowledgement as it normally would be. Instead, Dr. Wilson spent a minute or two talking about sneezes. He talked about how differently some people sneeze, from a very soft-sounding sneeze that might be confused for a cough to a very violent sneeze that is practically alarming to those around the culprit and could literally cause an injury to one’s neck.
This one quick discussion got me thinking about a few things. Obviously, males and females seem to have noticeably different sneezes. The same can be said about younger kids compared to older individuals. Some people only sneeze once or twice during an “attack,” while others can keep the “sneezin’ mo-jo” going for more than just a split second.
I sometimes wonder how someone’s sneezes and personality stack up. Are “violent” sneezers who put their whole body into this natural event generally louder, more boisterous individuals? Are those who hardly make a peep typically soft spoken and fall into the category of introverts? Based on my observations, it doesn’t seem like you can draw a perfect line between a person’s sneeze and their overall characteristics. I’ve met some people who constantly use an “outside voice” whose sneezes are barely detectable. On the flipside, I know of those whose voices can barely be heard but can let loose with the best of them when sneezing.
This is why in my view, sneezes are like snowflakes. Each human being has a slightly different sneeze. Whether it’s a loud “ahh-choo” or a modest squeak, it is fascinating how this human reaction to various conditions can vary so much.
So, the next time you hear someone sneeze, do a quick mental evaluation to see if you expected or were surprised by the sound they made. There’s a good chance you’ll be surprised.