Sternutation Hysteria

It was provoked by the woman by the handcreams,

Testing the tester,

Squeezing liberal quantities of pink gunge,

Slathering her hands with the welcome freebie,

Unwittingly unleashing the fragrance.

A pink perfumed bubble engulfed her,

Intense, fragrant particles filled the air

Then escaped, spreading rapidly

Into the surrounding territories

To those with less pampered hands.

In my unglamorous world

Bathroom cleaners beckoned.

Colourful plastic bottles of bleachy fluid, froth and foam,

Different shaped vessels, lids, containers,

Various ways to squirt, pour or spray contents,

The choice was overwhelming.

But I was focussed, on a mission,

I just had to concentrate, not get distracted,

Or forget why I was there.

But then it happened.

I should’ve anticipated it,

In fact it happens so regularly

I rarely even think about it,

And there’s nothing I can do to stop it anyway.


Involuntary, semi-autonomous,

Convulsive expulsion of air

Via the nose or mouth,

Most often due to naughty foreign particles

Irritating the nasal mucosa.

AKA ‘a sneeze’.

Sternutation time.

Well, several of them actually,

And in quick succession too.

No tissue, of course,

Still in dog walking gear,

The humble tissue isn’t necessary kit

In the great outdoors.

But here, perhaps….

The air in the aisle

Seemlessly blended perfume with sternutation stuff.

‘Bloody cosmetics!’ I chuntered,

‘What a pain they are!’

I looked behind me,

Hoping the lady had had her fill of freebies,

And thankfully, she had –

There she was, at the other end of the aisle,

Apparently in a sudden and inexplicable hurry.

Thankfully, the aisle was now empty

So no more concerns about

Unexpected releases of smelly stuff,

And free to make an important decision

About toilet blocks.

Mission accomplished

I meandered my way till-wards,

Thankful that the aisles were fairly empty

Even the check-outs were pretty clear.

Then I saw her again,

Hand-Cream Woman,

Apparently in a bit of a tizz,

Obviously now regretting her freebie-fest

And clinging onto a staff member’s arm,

Pointing at me.

Media-induced hysteria, yet again.

Have these people no shame?

Or any awareness of the fear they instill?

Can’t I even sneeze in public now

Without being labelled

A menace to society,

A selfish super-spreader?

Guilty as charged

In the absence of any evidence?

My drenched and splatted appearance

Offered plenty clues of time spent outdoors, in winter storms.

Silly hysterical woman with perfumed hands,

Another panic-monger.

I owe you neither explanation nor apology,

But I will look you straight in the eye as I leave.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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