Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 11.23.04
Stanstead, Quebec


The family that couldn't stop sneezing

When I was a kid, I had a book called The Man Who Couldn't Stop Sneezing. It was about a guy who goes to great lengths to find the source of his non-stop nasal aggravation. He throws away all his possessions, rips off his clothes, and essentially goes berserk, until finally he moves into a cave in the woods with only his faithful dog for companionship.

Yet he continues to sneeze (and I think you see where this is going). Finally, he goes completely bonkers and takes an axe to the surrounding trees, one of which topples onto the dog, killing it instantly if somewhat horribly. The man stops sneezing. It was the dog all along! The end.

Inexplicably, this children's book was produced by the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forests. I'm not sure what the moral of the story is except maybe "If you blame trees for your problems, they'll attack your loved ones."

(Incidentally, you can still purchase this book through the Nova Scotia website. It costs $1.50. Obviously time, inflation, and rarity have failed to increase its worth.)

While I have not yet gone berserk, I can appreciate the man in the book, especially at the time of the year when I react violently to ragweed, tree pollen, and the new TV season.

Unlike the book's hairy-backed protagonist, however, I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone. My whole family sneezes and sniffs and snuffs - year round. Ours is a world of Kleenex and wadded toilet paper. We should buy stock in Scott Paper.

You may have heard the Murray family waking up in the morning. Many have mistaken the noise for a particularly phlegmy flock of geese flying south but, no, it's just us blowing our noses. The only one free of this is Abby, who at 3 has not yet destroyed her immune system with diet colas, red meat, "Entertainment Tonight" and anti-bacteria hand soap. Well, that's one theory.

Our relatives and friends laugh at our constant nose-blowing, not to mention the boxes of tissues strategically placed throughout the house. It's not unusual to see us out for a walk with a roll of TP sticking out of our pockets. When nature calls, sometimes it honks.

But I don't think we're alone. There seem to be more allergy-sufferers than ever.

Certainly, as a child, I don't recall anyone having allergies, except maybe that kid behind me in Grade 5 who was apparently allergic to washing his feet. Likewise, I don't recall any classmates suffering from asthma, peanut allergies, or attention deficit disorder. Or maybe they did but just weren't diagnosed.

I expect some day we'll see a group called Adult Children Sufferers of Undiagnosed ADD who will blame all failings of the past, from poor school grades to disastrous prom dates, on the fact that they had ADD and didn't know it. And, yes, they will seek compensation. Until they become distracted.

For my kids, the allergies are very much real. It was so bad for James last year that we had him tested, only to find that he was allergic to dust mites, the housecleaning equivalent of ring around the collar. When the sneezing is particularly miserable for him and Kate, we dose them with children's allergy medication, which is a new, somewhat unsettling indication of the prevalence of allergies in young people today. I assume the drugs won't do them any harm, as long as they don't operate heavy machinery or do long division.

I'm pretty sure I have dust allergies too. They usually kick up after I've been sweeping to rid the house of aforementioned dust mites. Unfortunately, this has not proven to be a valid excuse to get me out of doing housework.

I'm also quite certain I'm allergic to our new cat. So if you see me naked in my back yard chopping down trees, you'll know why.