The oldest surviving copy written movie is titled, “The Sneeze.” It was produced in 1894 at the Edison Manufacturing company by one of Thomas Edison’s employee William Dickson and starred Fred Ott. Funny to consider an early movie would focus on such an ordinary function of most people. My guess is, a sneeze stood out as a greater event to the people of the time in which this very short movie was created. A century ago, folks lead pretty hard lives and probably searched for any pleasure which was cheap and could often be enjoyed. That’s where I want to start.
I love to sneeze, I mean I aggressively pursue every sneeze that even suggests itself to my sinus area. If I leave a darkened building and step into full sunlight, I can almost guarantee at least one sneeze and typically up to four. I like to make them very loud. My workplace has seen a lot of construction in the last few years and occasionally, one of the construction workers will hear my sneeze above the noise and offer “God bless you” after my sneeze. I always yell back a thank-you and move on to the next sneeze.
I believe a sneeze can be cultivated. If I even get a hint of one, I immediately look in the direction of whatever light is available. I take on the function of a human sundial in my pursuit of light which always helps me sneeze. I am careful not to stare directly at the sun but rather use my hand or the brim of my hat in the foreground with the background light creating a mild corona. It is the almost perfect formula to guarantee at least one sneeze and possibly more.
My brother Darrel used to try and derail my mammoth sneeze factory. As young men, he knew a sneeze was one of my true joys and desperately tried to prevent each individual sneeze by waving his hand in my face or by asking me questions. One summer day, we were driving along together-I was in the passenger seat. I had the mere suggestion of a sneeze at play under my eyes and just inside my skull but needed a little help from the ample sunshine. I didn’t want to let Darrel in on the fact I wanted to sneeze so I just stared forward but at the same time directed my eyes to HIS outside rear view mirror. I was able to used this directional sunlight to execute a monster sneeze that actually bulged the windshield just a few tenths of an inch. It was awesome and although I had no idea of the universe of street talk that would have allowed me to properly gloat, I did at least have the wherewithal to look at him and loudly proclaim.”HA!”
A subject of Edison’s movie machine, the first club out of the bag for joy and satisfaction, the working man’s one true solace and a darn fine way to burn a brother. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you-the sneeze.