Small Humiliations: Part XI / by Courtney Mehlhaff

The recent onset of "spring" has me thinking about sneezes.

I put "spring" in quotes because, though the hometown baseball season started today and I haven't scraped my windshield in a couple weeks, I remain skeptical. We've been burned by you before, Old Man Winter! You lull us into complacency with the sight of grass and the euphoria of shedding heavy down coats. And in the joyous fog of walking to work in actual shoes ... yes, the very same shoes we'll wear all day long ... we start believing we can do crazy things like plan road trips and park on both sides of the street. We dare to dream!

And if you don't hit us with a final, random, soul-crushing snowfall, and instead retire to what I can only assume would be an icy, icy bed ... well, there's still allergy season.

Which brings me back to the sneezes.

I can think of one truly epic sneeze that still makes me laugh every time I recall it. Naturally, it occurred on the bus and was made even funnier because of that particular locale.

One morning, I felt a tickle begin in my nose. Even though I quickly realized it was probably going to be a full-blown (pun intended) event, I tried my best to stifle it. Because let's be honest, nobody is ever thrilled when someone really honks one on public transportation. You can aim that sneeze into a tissue or into your sleeve, but all anyone is thinking about are those little germy particles floating around in a confined space.

So I pinched my mouth shut and closed my eyes and fought it back. It looked like I was having a mini-seizure, but it worked. Or so I thought. In the brief moment that I relaxed with relief, the sneeze came back. With a vengeance. It now caught me completely off-guard, and I had even less control than usual.

I don't think I can do justice in print to the sound that came out of my mouth, but the closest approximation is probably a very loud, very high-pitched "YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Despite my good intentions, I was now the girl who suffered a mini-seizure and then screamed at my fellow riders for no apparent reason.

The scream even scared me. And then, because I was so embarrassed, I closed my eyes immediately and pretended that nothing had happened. As if the people around me wouldn't notice that I was red in the face and giggling uncontrollably.

So, to sum it up: seizure, frightening verbal outburst in public, laughing to myself while "sleeping." It's a wonder I'm still single.