This man’s sneezing commuter story is a tale of bravery in desperate circumstances
This sneezing teen is everybody’s hero.
It was a pretty ordinary day for barrister Jamie Susskind, and he was on his usual, if a little depressing, commute on the London Underground.
I took the tube to work this morning at rush hour. It was absolutely mobbed. Carnage. You know the drill. Queues of anxious commuters waiting to board. TFL guy yelling incoherently about the doors.— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) January 25, 2018
The mood on his train was particularly bad, and tensions were already running high before the drama kicked off.
But today was different. The crowd was tetchy. There had been some jostling on the platform, and the odd (half-embarrassed) cry of "move DOWN". When I boarded, a lady with a strong Liverpudlian accent had started yelling at the guy next to her for squashing her arm.— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) January 25, 2018
But things were about to get much worse than being squashed into unwashed, or over-perfumed fellow travellers.
About three feet away, there's a small bloke standing with his back to the door. Must be 16/17 years old. He is truly hemmed in, arms locked to his side, his wee head like the end of a sausage poking out of a hot dog. And the look on his face is one of sheer terror.— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) January 25, 2018
The commuter describes seeing the face of teenage boy squashed next to the doors of the carriage, “his wee head like the end of a sausage poking out of a hot dog” with a look on his face of “sheer terror”.
But what on Earth was wrong with the poor guy?
For a moment I wonder if he might be able to suppress it. He's trying his best. He's doing everything he can. But I can see that he is ultimately powerless. Like a gathering storm, the sneeze cannot be resisted. It is a force of nature.— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) January 25, 2018
Onlookers could see it in his eyes, he was desperate to sneeze.
There’s only so much you can do to avert one, and this guy was doing everything he could to suppress it.
But there was nothing to be done, and it was only a matter of time before the teenager turned this section of a rush hour tube carriage into his own personal sneeze splash zone.
In the microsecond before the sneeze comes, I lock eyes with the guy. He looks at me like a man who has been sent to the gallows. I try to look sympathetic.— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) January 25, 2018
Despite looking “like a man who has been sent to the gallows”, he continued to fight the urge to sneeze, frightening those in its direct path as they noticed the fearful look in his eyes.
The tweet thread’s author knew he was safe, but he still pitied the poor guy, who was about to make an enemy of everyone there.
His head jerks back, hitting the door behind him. His eyes are closed. In the same second, the people surrounding him begin instinctively to recoil— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) January 25, 2018
But at the very moment of climax, the instant when I thought my fellow Londoners would be covered in nasal debris, something incredible happened. I'll remember it til the day I die.— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) January 25, 2018
It seems like the teenager’s fate was sealed, until this water cooler moment turned into something the onlookers would tell their grandchildren.
The sneeze hits, but he somehow manages to save himself, and others, from the ultimate public transport faux pas – getting bodily fluids on fellow commuters.
It was LOUD. Half the carriage crane to look. No one knows what's going on. The guy's eyes are half-closed and streaming with moisture. Were it not for the passengers propping him up, he'd have collapsed from the effort.— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) January 25, 2018
According to Susskind, the guy’s “entire face – cheeks and upper neck area – expand outward like a bullfrog before rapidly contracting again”.
Then “he emits two noises simultaneously: a high-pitched squeak and a deep, guttural moan”.
Anything’s better than sneezing on the very passengers who are huddled so tightly against you that they are effectively holding you up.
And his actions were undoubtedly heroic – especially considering the news last week that a man ruptured his throat by stifling a sneeze.
In a case report published in the British Medical Journal, a 34-year-old man had to be fed through a tube for a week after he clamped his nose and mouth shut to suppress a violent sneeze.
That guy is my morning hero, and I wrote this thread in homage to him.— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) January 25, 2018
With a bow of his head, the sneeze-stifling stranger accepted the silent appreciation of this commuter, and presumably went on with his day.
But he’s a hero, that’s for sure.