Diary

Sneeze Conformity

15 March 2014 | Diary

As a repulsive hipster with an exaggerated sense of self importance, I sometimes place convenience over safety when crossing the road.

Even though I’ve committed to various fitness regimes with an eye to living a long and healthy life, I’m perfectly happy to launch myself into oncoming traffic given the slightest opportunity of saving a few seconds.

Reckless, I know, but the real problem is when other pedestrians follow my lead. They must mistake my impulsiveness and impatience for some kind of magic knowledge. Perhaps they think I’ve noticed that the oncoming truck is actually just a trick of the light, incapable of reducing them to a mound of twisted gristle.

It’s the dangers of conformity. Follow and be damned.

This being said, I’m a terrible conformist myself. I even conform when I sneeze.

By nature, my sneezes don’t sound like sneezes at all. They’re like something between a cough and a cry for help. They go BLASH!

I find myself deliberately altering them to more closely resemble the normal human sneeze. I put a vocal spin on them. My manufactured sneezes go Choo!

It’s not so ill-founded. Do you think Beethoven had such pathetic sneezes as mine? Was Moses’ flight from Egypt punctuated with such ill-defined nasal expulsions? Not on your nelly. By conforming, I can sneeze like the greats.

And then there are accents. I’m especially suggestible when it comes to accents. If I’m in the company of someone with a particularly alluring accent–if they’re from New York, say, or Ireland–I gravitate unconsciously toward it. If I stand between two people with different but equally alluring accents I risk being mistaken for, say, a Brooklyn Leprechaun.

Mannerism reproduction is something I’m prone to as well. Sometimes, in the company of people I like, I find myself mirroring the way they sit, speak, laugh, and generally position themselves. I’ve always seen this as friendly rapport more than conformity but what’s chilling is how I sometimes use my friends’ mannerisms when the originator isn’t even present. “I’m inclined to agree” is something my friend Johnston says and I’ve inadvertently added it to my lexicon wholesale. I’ve got laughs borrowed from other people too, particularly a kind of dry wheeze lifted from my friend James.

That’s not normal is it? And if it is, to what extent are we ourselves? What if James took his dry wheeze laugh from someone else? A third-hand laugh. I want don’t want a laugh with that many miles on the clock.

And then there’s rucksack straps. At school, we’d use rucksacks to carry our books from class to class. For some reason, it was universally agreed that to carry a rucksack using both of its straps was a dorky way to carry a rucksack, even though they were clearly designed to be worn that way. Instead, we’d carry our rucksacks with a single strap over one shoulder. Casual. Nobody was strong enough to be the only one to wear a rucksack with both straps, so we all grew up wonky, spines distorted into nightmare treble clefs. The behaviour is so ingrained that, even as an adult, I think twice before strapping myself fully and symmetrically into a rucksack.

This could cause a problem if I ever go parachuting, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. I’d rather plummet to my death than go around looking like a two-strap dork.

So there we go. A modest bestiary of minor conformities. I don’t think they matter in the grand scheme of things. Unless you think they do, of course, in which case I’ll probably modify my opinion to coincide with yours.