I like a good backstory.
If I enjoyed a good movie on DVD, I'll watch it again, with the director's comments turned on. Or, I'll go to IMDb -- the Internet Movie Database -- for those behind-the-scenes pieces of trivia or goofs. (Did you know that, no one actually dies in the horror movie "Poltergeist" or that possible Iowa Great Lakes enthusiast Harrison Ford turned down the role of Dr. Grant in "Jurassic Park?" The real Rudy was filmed, as a fan, in the stands near the end of the movie "Rudy," too.)
So, when staff writer Doris Welle tells one of us "bless you" when we sneeze, she's being polite -- and unintentionally triggering the search for a backstory.
Doris didn't know it, all of those "bless you" wishes have been a lifelong effort on her part to get our souls to return to us. (Incidentally, she'd rather have us keep our germ-riddled, 100 mph sneeze droplets to ourselves, too.)
Sneeze without that "bless you" and you're vulnerable to demonic possession during that split second.
At least that's one theory when you check with websites like "howstuffworks.com" or "straightdope.com." Ultimately, they seem to agree that Pope Gregory the Great started the custom of "God bless you" as an actual blessing.
The pontiff wasn't worried about demons. He had the bad timing of presiding over the Church at the start of the bubonic plague, apparently. Sneezes were associated with the illness and the Pope wanted some help from above to control the epidemic.
As for other sneeze tidbits, it's good to know that your heart doesn't actually stop mid-sneeze -- so a "bless you" isn't needed to get it going again. I don't think you can actually sneeze with your eyes open -- but rumor has it, your eyeballs would pop out if you managed the feat.
Another saying from straightdope.com reminds us that getting sick on the weekend can be a bummer.
Sneeze on Monday for health,
Sneeze on Tuesday for wealth,
Sneeze on Wednesday for a letter,
Sneeze on Thursday for something better,
Sneeze on Friday for sorrow,
Sneeze on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow,
Sneeze on Sunday, safety seek.
Allergy sufferers should make a beeline to their nearest "cash for old jewelry" places according to another superstition:
One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a letter
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret, never to be told.
So, if I sneeze three times on Wednesday, does that get me two letters? Am I in for some interesting Father's Day weekends if I keep sneezing in fours?
I'll stare down that seven-sneeze theory (eyeballs intact) and let you in on a little secret. Doris hears an ornery comment or two here in the newsroom over the summer. When the State Fair Butter Cow gets painted red, a little dark humor is bound to come out.
Does that mean a devilish streak snuck in during one of those awkward tissue moments? I don't remember that scene in "The Exorcist" -- by the way, did you know Linda Blair did her famous pea soup upchuck scene on the first take?
I like a good backstory.