How to Be Sick AND Polite

Germy germs

Getting sick happens to the best of us, but you don’t have to be rude about it!

In general, the best thing to do when you aren’t feeling well is to just remove yourself from society by staying safely in bed. But if you do need to venture out, here are some tips:

A Cold:

  • Sneeze and cough politely. The best place to direct a sneeze or a cough is into your elbow, that way the germs don’t get on your hands and transferred to other people.
  • If you find yourself having a coughing fit, excuse yourself from any situation where you might be disturbing others- a classroom, a movie theater, a library, etc until it subsides. (I sometimes get terrible dry coughing fits that last 10 minutes, so trust me, I have been there with this! It is super embarrassing too.) Also try to carry cough drops around with you.
  • Use a tissue or handkerchief to blow your nose.

Vomiting In Public:

We’ve all been there, the only thing you can do is do your best to make it to some kind of receptacle.

Really Disgusting Infections:

True story, the one and only time I ever had pink eye, I woke up with it the morning of the day I was supposed to have a long-anticipated date. I had to postpone and things never really worked out after that. The point of the story is that I looked like a horrible demon but I had to go out in public to go to the doctor, pick up my prescription, and pick up some food to sustain me through my suffering. Sunglasses were key in this situation. I just wore them right into the store and kept them on so as not to frighten small children.

The point is, if you have weeping wounds or other seriously disturbing visuals, do your best (within reason!) to keep them covered up when you absolutely must be around other people. And no, I’m not talking about your everyday rosacea or acne or other stuff that people should learn to deal with and definitely not tease you for.

Contagious, Preventable Illnesses:

Get your damn vaccinations already, oh my god.

Can I Hand Out Tissues to Strangers?

Spread tissues throughout the land and you too might get your own postage stamp.
By USPS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dear Women Ladies,

After a particularly harrowing experience in 2nd grade where Ms. Cipriani didn’t have a box of tissues at her desk, I’ve always carried a pouch of pocket tissues on my person where ever I go. This resource became known throughout high school as I would happily dole out a mini-Kleenex tissue to anyone in my area with the sniffles. Now I ride the subway to work every day and am surrounded by strangers doing the last-gasp hard snffffpphh every thirty seconds in a desperate bid to keep the viscous waterfall from cascading down their noses, horrifying themselves and any small children in the vicinity.

My first instinct is to help and offer the tissues, but this seems like its own social gaff: eavesdropping on someone as they sniff; offering help to someone who might not want it; making them feel like scumbags in a moment of weakness, essentially saying “oh God ,you horrible snot-filled monster, please, for the sake of decent society, take some fucking tissues before you make the rest of us civilized folk gag, you uncaged, ravenous animal!!”

So, how do I politely help my fellow human people, countesses of courtesy?

– Johnny Tissueseed

Official Etiquette:

Miss Manners says it is good to offer a tissue to a crying stranger. She also doesn’t oppose offering a tissue to a coughing or sniffling stranger.

Anna Post, of the Emily Post Institute, says it’s fine to hand out tissues to strangers.

I had thought that older etiquette required that men relinquish their handkerchiefs to any damsel in need, but a perusal of old etiquette books did not support this theory.

Our Take:

Victoria: This question! So adorable I could die, but I also don’t know the answer.

Jaya: Haha I know! Well okay, I think if I were the sneezy person, I would like being offered a tissue.

Victoria: Totally.

Jaya: I think of it like offering a seat to someone who clearly needs it. Some old people are gonna get offended like “why do you think I’m so old I need a seat?!” but i think most 80 year olds would appreciate it.

Victoria:You can ask nicely, like, “would you care for a tissue?” So you don’t imply they are gross. Tone is important here, I think.

Jaya: Definitely. you need to make sure it’s an offer, not a requirement. Though, from that person’s standpoint, what do you do when you blow your nose? Just put it in your pocket?

Victoria: Just… whatever you would do if you remembered to carry tissues anyway. But yeah, put it in your pocket.

Jaya: But on the subway specifically there’s no place to throw it out! Okay, i guess that’s alright. Eeewwwwww.

Victoria: Let’s make UC handkerchiefs and hand them out on the subway.

Jaya: Hahahahaha