Local resident Hal Fishermanski didn"t know he was breaking the law last Saturday morning. He was merely shopping for hardware at the local department store as he customarily does when he suddenly sneezed. Within moments, uniformed officials had him surrounded, guns drawn, threatening him with arrest. "It was a pretty loud sneeze," Fishermanski admitted in a phone interview yesterday. "I mean, I don"t hold anything back when I sneeze. It"s a "look out everybody!" kind of sneeze. It always scares the bejesus out of my wife, but I had no idea I was in some kind of violation of the law." Fishermanski, who was let off with a warning on Saturday, is indeed in violation of a recent law passed as part of the Homeland Insecurity Act. In a little-publicized speech by Ash Johncroft last Wednesday, the federal government has decided to outlaw "certain volatile, un-American behaviors." Johncroft"s beef with the natural spasm we all identify as the sneeze is many-fold. "First off, some people sneeze so loudly you think a bomb has gone off somewhere," he told reporters subsequent to his speech. "We"re in a state of constant alarm already; we think it"s un-American to make what is essentially a mockery of our fear. "Secondly, a vicious sneeze is the physical act that most closely resembles a human orgasm. Now I ask you: Do we want to be seen as supportive for what is essentially a public display of eroticism?" Finally, Johncroft said that the "unleashed sneeze reveals an individual with absolutely no self-control whatsoever. Talk about un-American activity!" Local law enforcement officials, charged with enforcing the new law regarding sneezing, communicated a somewhat softer approach. "Well, it depends on the circumstance," Chief of Behavior Police Niles Swatcher told us this morning. "If someone is clearly trying to stifle the sneeze, we"ll look the other way. After all, as everyone already knows, our jail cells are pretty full as it is. However, if someone really cuts loose with a thunderous, Richter-scale sneeze, we"re going to have to haul them in." The line between an offense and something that can be ignored is admittedly hard to define, according to Swatcher. "In the case of Fishermanski," Swatcher said, "it was somewhere in the middle. When he sneezed, he nearly knocked a few items off the shelves. At the same time, he was well-dressed and clearly there in the department store with an agenda to spend money. So we let him off with a warning." On Monday, Swatcher says, a local woman was arrested at a downtown Buckstars when "she sneezed repeatedly in a loud and lewd manner. Our officers estimated that she sneezed in succession between six and 12 times." The woman, whose name has not been released to news media, will, according to Swatcher, be held indefinitely for questioning. For Fishermanski, the experience was daunting, though ultimately a relief. "I"m just glad I didn"t get hauled in. The way my wife hates my sneezing, she would have never bailed me out in a million years."
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