It’s one of life’s little mysteries, the fact that I can fall asleep in front of the television during a documentary chronicling man’s loudest explosions, yet be kept awake by the sound of my own nose whistling. In my defense, this was a new phenomenon, and something that, under any other circumstances, would have been amusing. However, at 1:30 in the morning, having your nose emit a solid C-major every time you exhale is just plain annoying.
What made matters worse was that I wasn’t alone in my musical endeavors. My wife was also blowing her horn — I’m guessing in E-flat — which, between the two of us, sounded like a pair of jug blowers trying to tune up for the spring dance. Instinctively, I grabbed the earplugs from the nightstand and inserted them. As I quickly discovered, this is a little like covering your ears so you can’t hear yourself sing. I then contemplated the idea of inserting the plugs directly into my nostrils, but decided against it for two reasons.
First, I would be forced to breath through my mouth, which would lead to snoring and bruised ribs.
Secondly, should my mouth somehow fall shut during the night, the resulting pressure would create a pair of high-velocity projectiles ricocheting through our bedroom without warning — the mere thought of which would keep me awake.
As I laid there in the dark trying to come up with a solution, I discovered that if I flared my nostrils, I could change the pitch of my nose instrument. While this wasn’t useful in solving the problem, it did allow me to perform a rather sassy rendition of “Heart and Soul” with my still-sleeping wife as a way to pass the time.
It was this discovery that got me thinking about the science behind the music, and how it was the combination of air, nasal passages and the particular formation of cilia lining those passages that created the sound. Following that line of thought, it stood to reason that altering one of those components would stop the sound. I immediately deemed “breathing” and “nasal passages” as components that were too risky to consider altering, leaving me with component number three: cilia.
While I won’t get into the specifics of how I altered my cilia, I will tell you that it was quick, easy and only required one finger. After a rather lengthy trip through the musical scale — and an abbreviated rendition of Don McLean’s “American Pie” — the music coming from my nose did indeed die.
This left my wife as a soloist.
Now, I’d like to say that I was able to make the necessary adjustments to her cilia without incident, and then fell quietly to sleep.
I’d like to say that, but I can’t.
The truth is, I’m still trying to explain to her exactly what I was doing when she woke up. And why “Heart and Soul” has been stuck in her head all day.
(Ned is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, will be available this December. You can write to him at email@example.com, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)