I stopped saying “bless you” to people when they sneeze.
I used to be a big bless you guy, jumping in mid-sneeze before the spittle even settled. Dutifully blessing total strangers, if necessary, calling out into crowds sometimes, blanketing the room to catch the anonymous sneezer, leaving no expectoration unacknowledged. Not to single out anyone’s deity, I went with the non-secular bless you and left the God part to someone else.
It’s an old custom; it’s polite. It’s up there with “please” and “thank you” and “your zipper’s open.” It’s the thing to do.
Then I started thinking about it.
One theory says, a long time ago, back when we all wore buckles on our hats, we believed “bless you” could ward off the Black Plague. Another theory says people thought demons would somehow occupy our body or our soul or our sinuses, I guess, whenever we sneezed. Commanding God to bless the sneezer soon after warded off the devil spawn and kept the hay fever sufferer demon-free. “Prithee kind sir, whilst I work my magic and keep thee absent of nasal imps.” Or something like that.
Which made me think some more:
Okay, there might be a God out there someplace, but demons? I’m not so sure. I can’t say I possess that kind of expertise. And battling evil spirits who can jump into your very soul the split second between Ahhh and Chooo, that’s really outside my skill set. I certainly don’t feel I wield the kind of power it’d take to keep them at bay so I stopped pretending I did.
I stopped saying: “bless you.”
And now there’s this huge empty space after the sneeze when the sneezer looks at me, waiting, waiting, narrowing their eyes after they don’t get the expected response. They’re thinking: Hey, what’s gotten into this guy?
I don’t know, demons, maybe?