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National Editorials & Columns

Now that’s something to sneeze at

The concept of the buffet-styled restaurant turns my stomach, specifically ones with working sneeze guards. Whenever I come across plastic, see-through partitions aimed at reducing the amount of contaminated food I digest a series of suspicious red flags arise. Proceeding with caution in such circumstances is usually the best defense a citizen has in the fight against people sneezing all over food.

Quite frankly I don’t enjoy the idea of sharing a restaurant with those who feel it appropriate to spontaneously sneeze anywhere they please. Sneeze guards are bonafide evidence condemning any eatery in my book. It tells me which businesses tend to attract the sort of clientele that feels the need to sneeze all over fine buffet cuisine.

Furthermore, if these people are so uncouth and willing to sneeze on food then what else are they doing to food when nobody else is looking? What is stopping an uncivilized person who sneezes on food willy-nilly from picking up a crab leg, taking a bite and then sitting it back down in the heating tray? The answer is nothing, which is why I steer clear from buffets.

Think how big of a problem sneezing on food was prior to the sneeze guard as we know it today. Was sneezing all over food happening that much? Is it too much to ask for people to politely turn their head, cover their mouth and nose, and sneeze in a direction opposite the macaroni and cheese casserole?

In my limited experience and exposure with sneeze guards I’ve never actually witnessed someone sneeze on one. What are the chances of that? When I was little I thought the whole point of the sneeze guard was to sneeze on them. The name sneeze guard seemed more like a challenge than it did anything else.

Just once I would like to go into a busy buffet after the monster truck rally lets out, walk up to the sneeze guard, and release the best exaggerated, old-man sneeze I can muster. But personally, I have this thing most people call common courtesy, which I exercise in many ways, including by not sneezing on or around food.

History is peppered with several accounts of humans sneezing on food, and that all culminated in 1959 when an entrepreneur named John Garneau filed a history-altering patent for a device that is known today as the sneeze guard. Mr. Garneau was the owner of several American-styled smorgasbords and as such stood to benefit greatly with the invention since his customers apparently wouldn’t stop sneezing all over his food. Urban legend holds that Mr. Garneau was a seasoned sneezer himself and routinely sneezed uncontrollably on everyone and everything.

In a time when the American economy is shuttering, sneeze guards are a healthy business to be in. Last year the sneeze guard industry raked in tens of millions of dollars — and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Even though I know nothing about the stock market, I believe sneeze guards will get us out of this mess. Put your money into gold or silver if you must, but I believe sneeze guards are the sure-fire way of turning a buck on Wall Street.

I say that because sneeze guards are here to stay. People will always place a certain value on putting food into their mouth that wasn’t sneezed on by some idiot.

The last half-century has assured us just how far sneeze guards have come and what place they hold in the history of this planet. Many people are surprised to learn that President Barack Obama is a huge supporter and user of sneeze guards. The president has always been scrutinized for his constant use of teleprompters when speaking to the country. Those aren’t teleprompters, people — those are sneeze guards protecting the president from being assassinated by a wayward sneeze.

Perhaps the most recognized sneeze guard is the Popemobile. That thing is a living, breathing embodiment of a sneeze guard. Nobody is going to sneeze on the Pope (or vice versa) in that contraption. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “God bless you.”


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