May 27, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…? “The Big Exhale”


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “The Big Exhale” Chapter 91
By Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams

Most civilized people cover their mouths when they cough—or yawn.  Many sneeze into the crux of their elbow or bend over and face the ground away from others when they feel that familiar nostril tickle (did you know that a sneeze can travel 27 feet?)  So when, exactly, did it become okay to execute a big exhale in close quarters?  I’m here to address this fourth-rail problem with the same efficacy we use for the other mouth-related offenses.

I begin this rant in the sauna at the Y.  I won’t start about sitting too close, holding the door open while you converse with someone on the outside or asking me what I’m reading while I’m obviously busy doing just that and you can see the book cover.  It’s the big “Whhheeewww!” that people tend to let out as they adjust to the 180 degree heat, filling the confined space with all their various internals.  I liken this to an open-mouthed belch—you know, the kind that makes the perpetrator’s lips vibrate cartoonishly.  It’s gross and it’s Covidy…and I’d like it to stop.

There’s a coworker that has often big-exhaled on the side of my face around the desk area after particularly busy spurts, as if to say, “Well, we made it through that rush…here’s some of my current DNA to mix with your eyeball mucus—enjoy!”…notwithstanding my cringing, I usually bite my tongue after a disbelieving head shake.  Pre-pandemic I also abided a cough on the back of my neck while at the DMV—so shocked I was rendered speechless.  It’s a miracle that most of us live to 80 years.

We’ve addressed the chewing with your mouth open—that’s right up there at the top of the Pet Peeves charts for most women (competing with “liars” and the word moist), so maybe it’s time to deal with these inveterate exhalers, these vapor emanators.  I noticed it in the elevators recently in both New York and Las Vegas.  Enclosed space, big breath discharges—often accompanied with that another-day-another-dollar-huh? look.  Maybe those masks weren’t such a bad thing after all?

I’ve now gotten my first cold in two years.  I’m pretty sure it was from the guy in the tank top who kept stroking the veins on his arms in the sauna while he let out his deep, gaspy respirations.  I wanted to ask him how much he bench pressed while I slipped a plastic bag over his head (I even fantasized about whether it would fit over his gigantic melon, but I probably shouldn’t say that out loud).

So, much like the cough, the sneeze, the belch, and the yawn—I have expectations going forward regarding those “big sighs”…cover your mouth!  I don’t want to smell your sandwich onions or have my cheek painted with your lung droplets.  Where an exaggerated “whoooo” might’ve been a shared acknowledgment of the human condition in the past, it’s now an unwanted coupling of the air we all share.  

There’s still the attempted return of the handshake ritual that I could do without (too much of the alcohol in that post-shake hand sanitizer makes my hands crack, but that’s an issue for another day).  For now, be cognizant of the big exhale in enclosed spaces.  And if you’re a natural mouth-breather, by all means continue to wear a mask in perpetuity.  Good day.