East Lansdowne in the 1940s was a working-class town with many first generation Armenian and Italian immigrants. Many of my classmates’ parents spoke with a thick accent and enforced strict old-country rules at home.
The Italian fathers had one talent that amazed me—they could blow their nose without a handkerchief. In the middle of a conversation (outdoors, of course), they would lean to the side, somehow pinch their nose with their thumb and forefinger, and blow out a long string (or two, I never could tell) of snot onto the ground.
What a useful skill, well worth learning! No more soggy handkerchiefs wadded up in my back pocket all day. I even could put out small fires and repel threatening dogs. I imagined my classmates at recess smiling in envious admiration as I leaned toward the school wall, and, with supreme aplomb—snort, splat!
I tried many times. Do you pinch one nostril closed, or do you pinch both halfway? Nothing worked. All I got were sticky green ropes hanging on my mouth and chin, sometimes on my shirt.
I thought maybe you had to be Italian. The Armenians and Irish didn’t do it. But neither did my Italian classmates who certainly could have learned it from their fathers. Maybe you had to be both Italian and older. I could never figure it out.
I now think it might have something to do with confidence. Like breaking a brick with a karate chop, any doubts of success will result in hesitation and certain failure.
If any of you know more about this, let me know. Now that I have more time to practice, I’m determined to learn. I want to surprise my wife on her birthday. And what a surprise for you, too, at our next reunion. Watch your shoes.