Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 01:17:22 -0400

From: Jim Crotty Monkmag[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM

Subject: Re: "Bless you" (was "Good morning")

In a message dated 10/22/97 9:21:54 AM, you wrote:

Gosh, Ron! Spoil my party, will you?! I found this custom one of the few

redeeming social values of living in New York City. In most respects it's

the capital of incivility, where you're apt to get your head bit off for

asking an innocent question in a shop or asking a cab driver to wait for

you, or having the temerity to want to withdraw your own money from the

bank, and where cashiers will slam the change down on the counter to avoid

touching your outstretched hand. Nonetheless, I don't think I ever

sneezed on the street without having some passing stranger say, "Bless

you!" I'm from "Gesundheit!" country, and it never ceased to amaze me.

In the first place, the phrase taken literally seems somehow more actively

kind and caring than "Gesundheit," and even taken as an empty formula, it

still struck me as a conscious gesture of making human contact with a

stranger in a city which otherwise does a poor job at interpersonal

relations. Oregon is a much friendlier place than New York City in all

other respects, but you rarely have strangers on the street say

"Gesundheit!" (or anything else) when you sneeze.

This stereotype of uncivil New Yorkers is once again refuted. New Yorkers are

brusque, but often quite compassionate. "Bless You" is just one example of

the unheralded side of this misunderstood breed of urban animal.