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.