A few weeks ago, in the halcyon bygone days shrouded in myth and lore when there were at least two brands of toilet paper on the shelves, someone wrote a piece against “sneeze shaming.”
The writer had allergies, and was tired of getting hard, barbed stares when he ah-ah-ah-achooed. It’s not even a COVID-19 symptom. Relax!
I understand. And by the way, it’s really important to say “COVID-19,” in case people think you’re referring to some other COVID. For all we know there are hipsters in Brooklyn who sniffle a little because they think they have a cool, indie alt-virus and say, “It’s COVID-20. You probably haven’t heard about it.”
Anyway: If you sneeze, you should say, out loud, “Allergies!” Then everyone will relax. If you add: “To what, I don’t know, first time it’s hit me like this,” people will perform extreme social distancing, someone will get out an atomizer of Clorox and douse the air, and then everyone will ask him where he got the Clorox, and you can escape without eliciting any shaming.
We don’t seem to fear sneezing, because — at least at the time I’m writing this from the bleach-swabbed bunker — people aren’t shuffling around gummy-eyed and gluey-mouthed convulsing with sneezes. We are wary of the existence of people, period, because they may have It, and you can’t tell. It’s utterly irrational: If I see another human and light is bouncing off them and touching my eyes, am I safe because I wear glasses?
We’re past sneeze shaming. We are also past toilet-paper shaming. For a week the internet abounded with pictures of selfish jackwads pushing a Costco cart laden with bales of Charmin, answering the question of whether the men who pushed aside small children to get on a Titanic lifeboat were, in fact, reincarnated. Apparently so!
You ask: Will there be opportunities for different kinds of shaming? Yes. There’s sanitizer shaming. If you find yourself in a store that got a shipment, and you see someone taking all the containers like a roulette table winner pulling in all the chips, you should most definitely shame them. But how?
Glaring? In the Before Times, glaring was satisfying, because, by gosh, you let them know what you thought. Your eyes were like wood-burning tools, etching nasty thoughts. You might even huff or snort, or make a huffy snort.
Alas, I must inform you: Snorts or huffs are useless against these people now.
If you want to get aggressively passive-aggressive, you might say, “Well, I guess someone’s hands are more important than everyone else’s hands.”
Or: You could fake a huge sneeze. Then you explain: “Allergies! I get a reaction to selfish people whose entitlement keeps useful products out of the hands of the vulnerable population.”
That should make them put some back on the shelf. If not, try a glare. But not a huffy glare — we have to save that for vaccine-line-cutter shaming.