June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Welcome back to “How Should I Know?”—the advice column that’s willing to tackle the difficult topics that no one else wants to touch, because of germs.

Dear Mordechai,

When I’m in a public place and I feel an urge to sneeze, should I let go and sneeze loudly, or should I stifle it, making only a tiny noise? Which one is more appreciated by the people around me? —Cold Stricken

Dear Cold,

Clearly the stifled noise is more appreciated, especially if the people around you aren’t wearing raincoats. No one hears a loud sneeze and says, “Whoa! I appreciate that!”

A loud sneeze can also scare people if they don’t expect it, which is why experts recommend that you say, “Achoo!” Because if you think about it, the “A” part isn’t necessary. You can sneeze just fine with only the “choo.” The “A” is to let people know it’s coming.

Though it could come back to bite you, like when you go, “Aaa… Aaa…” and then the sneeze doesn’t come, and everyone looks at you like, “Why did you say, ‘Aaa’ for no reason? We all ran for cover!” and you have to go into a whole explanation. It’s either that, or pretend you’re starting Mincha. “Aaa… Aaa… Ashrei yoshvei veisecha…”

I’m not even sure in the first place why it’s okay to sneeze in public. There are so many bodily noises that are basically harmless, but they’re still considered rude and people will comment on them, but sneezing can cause an epidemic and no one cares, as long as you aim it in the basic direction of your elbow.

Though what are you supposed to do when you’re about to sneeze—jump up and run into the bathroom door with your eyes closed?

So society in general has been looking the other way, with the understanding that if you’re about to sneeze near us, you should look the other way. That’ll stop a plague. Sometimes people turn their heads so as not to sneeze in front of them, and they sneeze directly on the person to their right. So if you’re someone I know, I would advise you to stifle your sneezes.

Doctors advise against holding in a sneeze, though, but I bet if they’re sitting next to you, it’s a different story. According to doctors, holding in a sneeze is not healthy. But on the other hand, sneezing is not healthy. Sneezing is not exactly the epitome of health.

So I would say you should only hold in a sneeze if people can see you doing it and appreciate that you’re putting yourself at risk for them. If no one sees you—for example, you’re in a cubicle—just sneeze. That weird little noise you make stifling it will just confuse people.

Dear Mr. Schmutter,

I’m in your high-school English class, and my parents just got home from conferences. Why did you give them a bad report? —Anonymous, obviously

Dear Anonymous,

I don’t understand what you’re asking. The bad report is the reason I gave them the bad report.

We are not bros, here. I did not betray your confidence in revealing that you’re disruptive in class. I’m not going to have your back and keep it a secret from your parents so you can keep doing it. I don’t like you enough to do that. You know why? Because you disrupt my class. Whose side do you think I’m on here?

Teaching is a business, and the customers are your parents, not you. They’re paying me to force knowledge into you against your will, kicking and screaming, so that they don’t have to do it themselves and damage their relationship with you until you get to the part of your life when you say, “Hey, I did need some of that knowledge, it turns out. Who taught it to me, again? I don’t remember.”

And if they’re not getting what they’re paying for because you’ve decided, “What is that—free knowledge worked into my daily schedule since I’m here anyway? Nah, I already have more knowledge than I need,” then they need to know. Especially if you’ve made an executive decision that no one else in the class needs any more knowledge either.

Yelling at the teacher afterward for giving your parents a bad report isn’t the way to get a good report. Try this: How about not giving your teacher anything bad to tell the parents? Don’t give him material! What’ll he say then, huh? That’ll show that jerk. That’ll teach him for trying to teach you stuff. In the afternoon, for crying out loud. What next? The evening?

Have a question for “How Should I Know?” Try to send it in the mornings.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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