Congratulations! You’ve survived half of a pandemic!
Our astute governor found us worthy to return some of our basics of life in the midst of the coronavirus infection. The first phase involved going to routine medical and dental appointments starting Friday. Many businesses, factories and offices that weren’t previously deemed essential can open Monday. If we’re good, we can go shopping May 12.
For some people, it’s been a long time since you were out and about on a regular basis. I’ve been living a fairly normal life with one of those “essential” jobs, so I’ve observed how things have changed. I thought you might benefit from some tips on living in our new, extremely sanitized world.
• When you see someone who hasn’t been living in your home for the past six weeks, you have to fight the urge to run up to them and hug them. Life is a seventh-grade dance now: No touching!
• Some of your coworkers and friends have picked up some new hobbies. Some people learned how to bake. Others became home organizational gurus. Others are now amateur epidemiologists.
• Some people may look different than you remembered. Most people haven’t had a haircut or their hair colored in a while. Others of us have been getting home haircuts, which prove the value of professionals doing it. And a lot of us have put on the “Quarantine Fifteen” from all the stress-eating. Be charitable.
• Small talk is even harder than it used to be. You can’t really talk about where you went over the weekend, since odds are your big trip over the weekend was a walk around the block. If you’re going to talk about TV, you’ll have to dig a little deeper than “Tiger King,” since everyone already has an opinion on if Carole Baskin killed her husband. You might try favorite shows from your youth instead.
• We’re trying to avoid the phrase “we’re all in this together.” People under the age of 30 start singing a song from “High School Musical” when you say it. You don’t need that earworm.
• It’s now socially acceptable to put a mask over your face, march up to a clerk at the grocery store and wait for them to give you money out of the till. It’s not called a robbery, it’s called “your change.” There’s also a good chance the clerk might be wearing a mask too.
• The mask thing is a little complicated. Some people will want you to wear one and judge you if you don’t. Others will judge you if you do wear one. The medical experts agree you should just wear one. It sounds a lot like the debate on wearing bike helmets to me.
• Heroes are anyone who worked while you didn’t. That means clerks, convenience store workers, nurses, garbage men, doctors, firefighters, policemen, people sewing masks, that sort of thing. (Not media folks, though. We’re still jerks and clowns who hope we return to the common usage of this term sometime in the next month.)
• Greetings have all changed. You’re not supposed to shake hands or give high fives, since we’re recently learned that hands are absolutely filthy. Just nodding seems to be appropriate and safe. We’ve also replaced “How’s it going?” with “How are you holding up?” It’s an equally empty question. Instead of answering “Fine,” now we say, “Fine, considering the circumstances.”
• If you have seasonal allergies, try to hide them. Coughing and sniffling in public are sure-fire ways to get tested for COVID-19.
• Traffic was great while you’ve been staying at home. People were pleasant and driving respectfully. It’d be nice if that could continue. Drive-thrus were the one exception. Just remember that with no one going inside restaurants, you may have to wait for a car or six in front of you. The good news is the restaurants serve people a lot faster than you remember, since they don’t have much counter traffic with indoor seating closed.
Take a deep breath. You can do this. And welcome back to society.