I have something to pick with you, and it's not a bone. I was at a wedding recently, as a friend of the bride, and in the middle of the ceremony, right about the time when the best man was pulling out the ring, I caught one of the ushers picking his nose. I suppose he was subtle about it. He turned his head slightly and made it look as if he was covering his mouth to cough. But he clearly stuck his finger in his nose, and he just as clearly came back out with something. I watched him for a while, to see whether he would flick it at the bride or something, but he never made a move, although I couldn't see his hand, so he may have been desperately trying to rid himself of his little green monster. My question for you is why do guys blatantly pick their noses in public? Don't they know we're watching them? Or do they even care?
Cilia: Well, let me just start out by saying that boogers - or, if you prefer, snot balls - are a wonderful thing. They have this horrible reputation, which makes sense, given that they come from the body. In case you haven't noticed, everything that comes from the body - don't make me list them all - has a horrible reputation, even though they are all wonderful things. Boogers, for instance, are the body's way of preventing all that crap that gets in your nose - dust, dirt, germs, pollen, cocaine - from making it all the way to your lungs. Actually, they don't do such a great job with cocaine, which is why you're snorting it in the first place. But that other stuff they do a pretty good job with, trapping it, then moving it along to the back of the throat or the front of the nose via tiny hairs called (as you know) cilia. And once it's arrived at the front of the nose and has dried out a bit, it can be conveniently removed.
Perhaps too conveniently. This is just a guess, but I'm thinking cave men and cave women probably didn't carry lace-fringed linen handkerchiefs, with their monograms embroidered in the corners, around with them. (Would have clashed with their rock-pummeled mastodon-hide outerwear.) I'm thinking they pretty much blew snot all over the place. But we've come a long ways in the ensuing millennia, or at least we had until, oh, about 1924. That happens to have been the year Kleenex first appeared on the market. Before that, handkerchiefs were a noble, even elegant, part of male and female attire. Women would drop them to signal their interest in what came to be known as hanky panky. Men would store theirs in the breast pockets of their suit jackets, neatly folded in various ways. Handkerchiefs were so genteel, in fact, that it's hard to believe people ever splattered them with loogies.
And then came Kleenex, the villain of our piece. These paper-tissue napkins weren't designed for snot removal and disposal. They were designed for the removal of make-up. But people started blowing their noses with the things, and guess what? You didn't have to launder them afterwards. The handkerchief's days were numbered, which is too bad because most of the people who had started blowing their noses with Kleenex were women. Men, who'd been carrying handkerchiefs around in their pockets for a few centuries, found it inconvenient to bring a little packet of puffs with them wherever they went, so they returned to the old pick-and-flick methods that had served the Stone Age so well. Still, the old way lingers. I wouldn't be surprised if that wedding usher had a neatly folded handkerchief peeking out of the breast pocket of his suit jacket.
I also wouldn't be surprised if the handkerchief was a fake, stuck there like a clip-on tie. Unless we're prepared to blow our noses on our sleeves, guys, I suggest we once again get out our handkerchiefs.
To run your hand along the underside of my coffee table, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR EMAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.