Covert converts 

I have a pet peeve. Once in a while someone in a customer service position, such as a cashier, says at the end of the transaction, “Have a blessed day!” I understand that they’re trying to say something nice, but I can’t be unaware of the subtext of trying to assume me into their form of spiritually, regardless of whether it’s relevant for me. And by responding with a standard, “Thanks, you too,” I am validating their assumption, which I sometimes accidentally do because I’m on autopilot. I’d like to respond to this in a way that suggests that although I appreciate that they’re well-meaning and I respect their belief system, this choice of words is inappropriate for my belief system. Not only do they know nothing about my beliefs during this brief interaction but also I am offended by their assumption that their belief system is the default normal one, and that casual business transactions are an appropriate venue for pushing this assumption. What’s the best way to respond to this?
Dear M,
Ugh, I can’t stand it either. Someone sends you off with a “have a blessed day,” complete with benign, yet expectant smile. They’re just waiting for the “you too,” so either by accident or through feather-soft coercion, you’re in the flock, or at least guilty by association. Even in those cases where intentions are completely innocent, it still grates on the ganglia. Of course, many people in Indiana would tell you to relax, we use the word when someone sneezes, there are worse things than acknowledging God and how dare you try to keep them from doing so you no-morals-new-age-daylight-savings-time-loving heathen. And when you think about it, THOSE are the people that really fry your bacon, aren’t they? Perhaps you and I get irritated with the blessed cashier because our mild discomfort is a distant cousin of how it feels when confronted with the repressive, intolerant, irrational side of fundamentalist Christianity. In this situation, though, it may be the habit of someone who was taught that blessing someone’s day was simply good manners, nothing more. I only bring this up because interactions like this can leave you feeling slighted and angry, and these little things only add to our growing anger culture. So, to diffuse this situation, have a premeditated response of “and you have a nice day, too” in your mental holster. It’s hard to break the quickie “you too” habit, but that’ll get better over time. See, this response is all-purpose. It’s secular. It’s polite. It’s positive. But, there’s a bonus. For blessers who really don’t mean to presume, it gently lets them know that this isn’t an appropriate way of expressing their good wishes to you. AND, as a super bonus, it’s a proportionate push back on the passive-aggressives who’re deliberately choosing a crappy moment to assert their faith. Or, if you really want to transcend, say “Namaste” (pronounced nah-mah-stay). It’s a Hindu phrase that basically means “the God in me greets the God in you.” It’s an expression of equality and acknowledges the sacredness of all things. This is a little exotic, will require explanation and is therefore a bit impractical. BUT, a chance to pay for your groceries and sow tolerance at the same time? None too shabby.

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