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Archive for Sunday, October 7, 2001

America is in denial about snoring

October 7, 2001

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A man we'll call him "Harvey" went to see a doctor, complaining of tiredness, bruises all over his body, shooting pains, and quotation marks around his name. The doctor immediately recognized these symptoms: "Harvey" had a snoring problem. At night, he was being jabbed repeatedly by his wife, trying to make him shut up. Also, somebody had apparently been shooting him.

Yes, snoring is a serious health problem, one that affects more Americans than shark attacks and Rep. Gary Condit combined. Yet many people and here I am in no way referring to my wife refuse to admit that they snore. Even if they routinely emit nocturnal noises that cause shingles to fly off the roof, they will be outraged that you would leap to the conclusion that they are the source of the snoring, without considering other explanations, such as that a third party, unknown to either of you, is sleeping in your bed.

Women and once again I am NOT referring to my wife tend to be the worst snoring-deniers, because women are taught from an early age that it is not feminine to emit any noise or aroma that would indicate that they are biological organisms. Men, on the other hand, consider bodily functions to be a highly masculine form of manliness. That's why men are not afraid to haul off and let go of a hearty burp, often as a way to emphasize a rhetorical point (Four score and seven BWOOOOOOOOOOORP years ago ...).

Men also take pride in another, even more basic, bodily emission, which, because this is a family newspaper, I will refer to by its technical name, "making a tooter." This is a popular thing to do whenever males gather together. As a youth, I was a Boy Scout, and while I know that scouting is a fine activity that has taught countless young men important leadership and character-building skills, the major activity in my particular troop was slicing the Muenster. We'd go on a camping trip, and for dinner we'd consume huge quantities of Campbell's brand Pork 'n' Mainly Beans, and by nightfall the hills were alive with the sound of tooting. Eventually the entire area would be blanketed by a giant mushroom cloud of Boy Scout gas that caused flocks of migrating geese to reverse course. ("Turn back! We're spending the winter in Canada!")

Medical science tells us that, one way or another, the average man releases 6,000 metric quarts of gas per day, and significantly more if he is in an elevator. Meanwhile, the average woman, striving to be feminine, is keeping all that gas bottled up INSIDE HER BODY. This results in an enormous pressure buildup that can, later in life, cause an explosive and embarrassing medical condition known as "The Mt. Vesuvius Syndrome." This is precisely why one well-known woman who, out of respect for her privacy, I will refer to here only as "The Queen of England" is accompanied at all times by men with bagpipes.

At this point, it might be a good idea for all of us to go back to the beginning of this column to see what our topic is. OK, there it is, snoring. As I was saying, most of us snore, even though and I am STILL not in any way referring to my wife we refuse to admit it.

But what is snoring? Medically, it is when air has trouble getting past the uvula, which is a part of your body that sounds like a dirty word but is actually not. You are free to say it in polite company, in sentences such as: "I hear Todd has a huge uvula."

How serious is snoring? To answer that question, I consulted my colleague Gene Weingarten, who happens to be one of the nation's most respected hypochondriacs. Gene is the author of an excellent book, "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life and Death," which has a chapter titled, "Hiccups Can Mean Cancer."

Needless to say, Gene's opinion is that snoring can, and probably does, indicate a seriously fatal problem. The good news, he told me, is that snoring can be cured by a surgical procedure "that basically shears off the entire back of your throat." Gene adds: "It doesn't always solve the problem."

But what do you care? YOU don't snore.




Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.

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