Tuesday, April 2, 2013

After the Sneeze.

I was sitting on the train tonight and a lady sneezed.

Not breaking news or anything. Of course not even remotely unusual. But tonight it bothered me.

...not the sneezing.

But what happened afterwards...

It is a rare occasion that I won't say 'bless you' to someone if I witness a sneeze.

When I was a kid it felt like everyone always said 'bless you' after a sneeze and the sneezer always said 'thank you.' It was just what happened. It felt rude not to.

And as time went on and the older I got it seemed like no one ever said it anymore.

I was sitting on the train tonight and a lady sneezed and I said 'bless you.'

She then gave me the dirtiest look.

She looked at me as if I had just said something terrible about her mother. But I didn't. I said 'bless you.'

I almost instantly looked away in shame or shock (I can't tell) and I sat there and I wondered what had just happened.

Now, I am entirely used to people completely ignoring me when I salute their sneeze and I am always very surprised and delighted when people look up at me after releasing their nasal passages, with a smile and we share a little moment of wishing each other well.

But I've never experienced so dirty of a look before.

I sat there and I wondered why I even said it. Why do I keep saying it when no one else cares or not if you acknowledge the fact that they are sneezing? Do I just instinctively do it because I was raised to?

Maybe...I've honestly never thought about why I keep saying it before tonight.

Now, I'm the type of person who always gets stopped in the street and asked for directions or asked to take group pictures. I'm the type of person who if you are standing in a long line chances are if I am behind you or in front of you, we will end up talking. People who notice this quality about me generally say something along the lines of "it's because you seem nice."

I seem nice.

That's not a bad word. That's not a bad thing. But it's also not a specific word or a specific thing.

But I don't think it's the thing that makes these things happen.

We have so many opportunities to exclude ourselves from everyone around us. We put our headphones in and we rush off to our next destination lost in our own thoughts, worries and cares. We clutch our phones and surf the web, catch up with what's going on with people on Facebook and we rarely live in the 'now.' The very literal sense of the 'now.'

I use the term 'we' because I am very much including myself in those generalizations.

Tonight as I stood on the train platform waiting to go home I had a thousand things on my mind.

The train raced up to the platform as fast as the thoughts in my head. The doors opened. I sat down. I thought about how I miss my family. I thought about all the emails I have to send out. I thought about how I am going to need to buy new shampoo pretty soon. I thought about traveling. I thought about buying a dog. I thought about how I need a haircut. I thought about...

And then a lady sneezed and I said 'bless you.'

So tonight after a lot of thought, I've decided I will keep saying 'bless you' no matter if I am given a dirty look, if I am ignored or appreciated because it's an opportunity to check back in with the 'now' and wish another person, who may be sick, who may be feeling alone, who may be lost in thought, well. It's an opportunity to share a kindness.

And yeah...it's nice. I really like nice.


  1. I say it as a courtesy and because I appreciate it when someone says it to me even if it's a totally ridiculous superstition.

    But also? I say it because if I don't, I think, "What if there's an angel on the train like in that board meeting in Dogma and I don't say thank you? That angel might shoot me."

  2. And by thank you, I obviously mean bless you.

  3. I still say it too, and I am still amazed when I sneeze and no one says anything. Oh, well, we can be part of the small group that keeps these silly little traditions alive.

  4. Everyone can use a blessing, whether we realize it or not. Whether we sneeze or snot. Bless us because we need it. Bless us because we deserve it. Bless us because, in one way or another, it unites us. It is a small thing - but a great thing! Miss you, too! -d-

  5. I still say "bless you" too. I think it's just something that good people do. I agree with Anonymous; everyone can use a blessing

  6. Keep saying "bless you." I do too and there is no reason to stop. Don't let that one bad apple ruin your constant kindness.