I don’t remember why I decided to start recording the date, time, and intensity of all my editor’s sneezes. When I wrote the first entry in the Sneeze Log on June 16, 2013, I had worked with John Del Signore for more than two years—I knew his sneezes were terrifying Tunguska explosions that defibrillated the hearts of anyone in earshot. But my career as a sneeze counter tracked my career as a blogger: the more I did it, the better I got.
In the beginning, I was a bean counter.
6/17/13 4:32 PM Sneeze
8/20/13 3:40 PM Sneeze
8/20/13 5:15 PM Big Sneeze
No style, very little context, not the kind of data collection that would rivet the future generations of blog anthropologists who would certainly be studying my Sneeze Log.
Then on 11/11/13, at 4:25 PM, a breakthrough:
Super baroque sneeze followed by guttural noises
From then on, I began hearing tones, noticing patterns.
On 5/14/14 at 4:01 PM I recorded a sneeze that John made through the wall that separates our office. (This was relatively common. For instance, on 2/24/15 at 9:15 AM I recorded my colleague Nell say “I heard John sneeze outside the bathroom this morning.” The bathroom is two doors and at least 80 feet down the hall.)
Heard him sneeze from the other side, striking how much more the tone comes through.
And then a note to myself:
It’s less about power and more about melody.
By the spring of 2014 I had noticed that most of John’s sneezes followed the same pattern, which was recorded on 5/15/14 at 6:28 PM as the following:
Sure there were short sneezes (8/29/14 2 PM: Made Daisy the dog bark!) and muted sneezes (12/19/14 1:52 PM: pretty average) but by and large, this signature sneeze would hold until April 1, 2015, at 6:03 PM.
This was the spring of the Pollen Tsunami, after all.
4/7/15 6:02 PM: REGAL—long tone, even tone, magnanimous tone
It was around this time that my subject expressed some discomfort about the project.
4/15/15 6:25 PM WOW, one for the books. John says “I don’t give a fuck”
He eventually came around, but it took months. A rare note unconnected to any sneeze around 12/18/15 has John volunteering crucial information:
“For your records, I threw my back out again Saturday from a sneeze.”
Sneezes marked milestones (The first sneeze of Emma Whitford’s Gothamist career was on 3/30/15 at 2:46 PM) and broke monotony (11/6/14 5:48 PM intern is visibly shaken). Sneezes comprise a mosaic of some of the best years of my entire life.
Today is my last day sitting in this desk, and I'm afraid I’ll never record another one of John’s sneezes.
The last sneeze I noted was on June 6, 2016: “Pretty mild.”
On Monday, we mounted a GoPro next to his desk and set up a microphone so we could share with you a signature Del Signore sneeze. It’s Friday, and he hasn’t sneezed once.
Editor's note: I'm cured! Too bad it had to take Robbins leaving. I'm told he's going across the street to... oh who cares. We all toil for the great and powerful Book of Faces now anyway. Robbins's work at Gothamist, since starting as an intern back in 1993, has been exemplary and inspiring, and we all wish him the absolute best in his future endeavors. He wrote 4,292 blog posts during his time here, and I will remember him for his best Gothamist stories, which include but are definitely not limited to:
Robert Caro Wonders What New York Is Going To Become
What Happens When Low Wage Workers Suddenly Get a Living Wage?
Inside Gothamist's Absurd Struggle To Get NYPD Press Passes
NY Times' "How I Became A Hipster" Story Key Evidence At Intergalactic Tribunal Condemning Mankind
Who Wants To Go To Atlantic City?
Sardines Endorse Barracuda For Governor
De Blasio's NYPD Refuses To Crack Down On NY Post Reporters
Legal Experts Say Eric Garner Grand Jury Did Exactly What DA Wanted: Nothing
Sunday Routine: Beeping Smoke Alarm Edition
NYC's Secret Winter Weapon Is Named "Mitch"
And of course his always trenchant inside media analysis, particularly this collaboration with Marc Yearsley: Here's Why The 8 Best Things The Gawker/BI Merger Means.
But the full force of Robbins's sometimes exhausting perfectionism, more powerful than any sneeze, can be subtly observed in his behind-the-scenes work as Gothamist's features editor. So yeah, Gothamist is hiring a new features editor godammit, details within. (Pet owl preferred but not required.)