Alright fellas - We're men, and We make Fire and all that, but this is about those few times you felt powerless and pitiably at the mercy of that micro-organism going by the name Common Cold Virus. As irritating a day as it might seem to you, it is even more irritating for the ones that inhabit office space, college desks or government land beside you. For there have been times I had a tough time convincing the big boss (on leave, as big bosses generally are) over the phone that I was indeed at work and not volunteering at the steam locomotive shed in Coonoor (Coonoor is near Ooty, which is sufficient grounds for the big.b. to raise an eyebrow) owing to the sniffling, snorting, hissing and hachooo-ing presence of a co-worker whose WBC decided to take a day off to get their rental agreements renewed.
The level of unpredictability and general Murphy-ness I refer to is somewhat like this:
So without much further achoo, here are a list of things you might want to keep in mind to conduct yourself professionally in a stiff upper-lip (tough, under the said circumstances) setting.
The hanky. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. This is not school. Gone are the days of the all purpose sleeve-rub, or (for those of you who have a flat stomach) flicking up the bottom of your tee to wipe a runny nose. Use a large hanky and keep it in a location that renders it at your service in under a second (sneezes, like the world in general, have gotten quite fast paced these days). Precisely at the moment time freezes on an impending sneeze, whip the fabric out and stifle yourself to death with it. Once the dust settles and the clock resumes ticking, nonchalantly remove the hanky with all the collateral damage securely contained within, adjust your tie and cuff-links and shoot off a polite 'Excuse me' to the people around. Like a sir.
Meanwhile, as you were expelling the atomised gas-liquid mixture at a force of many g's, the people around should have ideally just felt a butterfly take off or heard something like a distant door gently click shut. The trick to the entire gesture is subtlety. Reserve all the loud sneezes and the various vocabulary experiments (Hash you, Wah Bishop, Hashish, etc) for the more tolerant confines of your living room. The only thing that should give away what you were up to over the past two seconds is your post-incident, dignified request that everyone around excuse your action.
Needless to say, if you're the kind that regularly leases shoulder real-estate to worried and troubled females (a gentlemanly pursuit, no doubt), make sure you have an extra, unused set of hankies before you offer them to the troubled female in question.
Don't hoard. This is commonly seen with kids, and some of us don't really grow up. The tendency to stock liquid reserves up the nose and, owing to the precariously vertical means of storage, snort every now and then to keep the damn thing from making a quick prison break of sorts. Gravity is your biggest enemy for the day and unless you're the space shuttle you are not going to win. Hence it is better to stop fighting for a lost cause and head to the nearest restroom to clear up matters. Do not make a rush for it, as it conveys a different sense of urgency that might shed bad light on whoever shared their lunch with you for the day. Stroll on, and veer sharply once in close proximity to the place. Once in, make sure the wash basins are completely empty (Do not mind the fact that there might be someone behind the toilet doors - chances are that the noises they have to stifle are more embarrassing than what you are about to sound forth). Blow your nose hard, wash your face and leave.
On the way back to your seat, beam at the person sitting nearby whom you've always liked a lot, and nod politely at the office boy. Silent breathing for at least an hour.
It also saves your index finger from having to take a trip across your upper lip every few minutes, like this:
Finally, keep in mind that your olfactory superpowers might not be in full force this day, and hence if you are working in environments where you rely solely and crucially on the smell of LPG, smoke or frying molaka bajjis to make sudden and quick getaways, you are advised to keep a trustworthy assistant handy.
Keep the beard on, and don't hate the nasal twang in your voice. It's reportedly attractive to some.