The Sneeze

So I’m sitting in a seat on the tube playing Settlers of Catan on my phone. I have three ore and two wheat – not to mention all the sheep, wood and brick you could shake a stick at (or better yet, build a settlement with). I roll the dice (actually, press a button which rolls the dice automatically) when I hear it: ‘Ah!’ 

I look up and see a small Chinese woman standing over me. She’s about 40 years old, and she’s wearing an Ally McBeal type pantsuit (Note: her wardrobe choice does not impact the story in any way. I just thought you might be interested to know how some people dress. I was wearing corduroy trousers and a cozy sweater, if you’re interested). Her head is tilted back, her mouth is open, her nose is scrunched up. She does it again: ‘Ah!’

In London, the longer you wait to commute, the worse your commute is going to be. It seems that commuters leave most things to the last minute: like getting to work for example. This means the tube carriages are beyond crowded at peak periods (8:30-9:30am). It is common to have someone’s briefcase, backpack, shoulder, elbow or *worse* pressed into your side for the entire 30 minute journey. It’s unpleasant. It’s unfortunate. It’s London.

So I woke up at 6:20am. Correction: Rhys gently coaxed me awake at 6:30am. I showered, dressed, blew my hair dry, applied make-up sparingly, had breakfast (Fruit & Fibre) and walked hand-in-hand with Rhys to the train station. We commute together to Richmond. He continues on to Waterloo, and I take the tube into central London. I leave early every morning so that I don’t have to have anyone’s briefcase, backpack, shoulder, elbow or *worse* pressed into my side. I usually get a seat. So I can sit and relax, and read the paper or play Settlers of Catan on my phone.

Unfortunately, there are only so many seats… and some people have to stand. Like the small Chinese woman wearing the Ally McBeal type pantsuit (I knew it would come in handy you knowing about her pantsuit – because now you know who I’m talking about). She was standing over me, and had her briefcase on the floor next to my tote. She clung to the green pole in order to keep her balance as the tube tends to lurch to a stop. I heard it again: Ah!

So I roll a seven, which means that I need to move the robber.


I feel a rush of wind through my hair and I close my eyes in disgust. I happen to know that: a) the act of sneezing is called sternutation; b) sternutation is the expulsion of pathogens from the nose and mouth; c) sternutation can travel at up to 95 miles per hour; d) sternutation can travel a distance of up to 40 meters; e) sternutation contains saliva, mucous, and bacteria.

The small Chinese woman (wearing the Ally McBeal type pantsuit and clinging to the green pole) gave me a small wave – like a very small wave is actually going to help the situation. I have saliva, mucous, and bacteria on my hair and scalp. Does she actually think her weak little hand gesture is going to help?

She’s probably thinking: Yes, you’ll have to go home, shower in scalding hot water, wash your hair twice, make a special trip to the chemist for Vitamin C tablets. And yes, you’ll probably get sick from all that saliva, mucous, and bacteria. And sure, you’ll probably have to drink lots of fluids and you’ll probably have to make multiple trips to the doctor. And yes, you will possibly have to take some time off work. But I had to stand for 30 minutes clinging to a green pole, and you had a seat for your entire commute.

And you know what, she’s right. I smiled, got up from my seat and headed straight to the chemist for Vitamin C and some dry shampoo.


2 thoughts on “The Sneeze

  1. Linda Manky says:

    I’m so with you regarding the hazards! I still think I got the horrible cough that the lady on the double-decker bus had. I know that I was reluctant to use the spiral rail going down the stairs to get off after she did….and I now sound just like her!!!! Your mom

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