It’s January, and the cold weather has finally descended upon us. One thing worse than being cold, is catching a cold…or the flu…or worse. There are, of course, some preventative measures that you can take, such as washing your hands, or perhaps not even shaking hands with someone whom you know is ill. However, what do you do or say, when you’re alongside a person who suddenly and explosively sneezes or coughs without covering his mouth, spreading germs—and possibly disease—within a radius of up to 100 feet?
Within the past week, I’ve had three such encounters, whereby I was next to someone who—without apology or handkerchief or the block of a hand—polluted the air with his internal tainted mist. One of those occasions was in the outdoors, as I was walking down a New York sidewalk, at which point I ceased to walk and, instead, ran to escape. The second was in a local , in which the sneezer not only contaminated shoppers, but also the row of over-the-counter products intended to cure him. (Both of these perpetrators were adults.) The third happened yesterday as I was food-shopping at Stew Leonard’s, when a young boy—probably about ten—let out a whopping achoo, less than a yard away from a display of freebie food samples, intended to be appetizing. I was flabbergasted when there was no admonishment from the father, as in, “Son, cover your mouth when you sneeze!”
Unquestionably, such a lack of consideration for the wellbeing of others is beyond rude; it’s potentially a veritable assault on another’s health. But remember, my question in the opening paragraph was about how to respond in these instances, other than arming myself with a surgical mask when leaving the house. Admittedly, my instantaneous repartee is not always dazzling or reliable, as I’m sometimes too stunned for words. Therefore, over the last twenty-four hours, I’ve given this issue some thought and have come up with a few handy phrases to say, all the while shielding my own mouth and nose….
“I’m sorry, but I can’t say ‘God bless you’ if you don’t cover your mouth.” Or…
“You need this more than I do; please use it to block your sneeze!” as I hand the offender a Kleenex stashed in my pocket. Or…
“I really don’t want to catch your cold, but now there’s a good chance that I might!”
If I summon the courage to utter any of these phrases, my hope is that my words might make the transgressor be more considerate towards others in the future. Obviously, these comebacks may not protect me from catching someone’s cold; however, they may make me feel better.