There’s a “new world order” in place, put there for the protection of ourselves and others during these troubling times. As with anything new however, there comes a little bit of chaos as we figure out the correct way to navigate what used to be the simple things in life; like grocery shopping, sidewalk walking and greeting friends and loved ones. Today we’re talking about the occasional social awkwardness we’ve all experienced recently as we review sidewalk etiquette and other polite pandemic protocols.

Smile – Even when no one can see you!

Has this happened to you yet? On those few occasions I’ve mustered up the courage to leave the home, I’ve strapped on my mask, grabbed my gallon jug of hand sanitizer, and ventured out into the world. So equipped, I enter the drug store and smile inanely at the first person I see and wonder why they don’t smile back. Attempting to navigate past someone in the aisle I again smile and say “excuse me,” receiving perhaps at best, a slight attempt by the other person to move aside. I get to the pharmacy where I smile broadly again as I pick up my pre-ordered prescription. Why is no one smiling? Oh yeah….that’s right, we’re all wearing MASKS! We could all be grinning madly from ear to ear (the sheer excitement of an outing away from our four walls) or sticking our tongues out at one another and no one would be any the wiser! I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing but I’m choosing to still smile – hopefully they can see it in my eyes.

The sidewalk dance!

Another awkward moment was recently described to me when it came to sidewalk etiquette. We all know that current social and physical distancing rules require us to be at least 2m or 6ft apart. But how to accomplish this on a narrow band of sidewalk when there’s traffic on one side and a slight incline or steep decline on the other? What if there is a cane, walker or even scooter involved? Who moves? The one who is “more infirm?” Do you shout out, “You’re gonna have to move because I’ve got a bad knee?” Then, because we’re all trying to be polite, we do that little dance: both moving to the left, oops, no – to the right, then hesitate, then finally coordinate our movements so that one goes left, risking life and limb getting hit by a car and the other goes right, lame knee and all, awkwardly climbing the hill to maintain social distancing. It’s not like you can even smile your thanks because with our masks on no one even sees it anyway!

Tips and Tools for the “new normal”

Seriously though, how do we navigate this “new normal” everyone keeps talking about? First, let’s be clear that Amintro will always encourage you to follow the social and physical distancing protocols currently in place wherever you are reading this from. That’s paramount for your safety and that of others. With that said, there are some things we all can do to respect distance, boundaries and the safety of others when it is finally time to leave the house!

  • Wear a mask when out in public. While local officials vary, generally speaking wearing a mask will offer you (and those around you) a measure of safety. Keep the medical masks for medical personnel but using a non-medical mask and replacing it regularly or a cloth mask and washing it regularly, is just a good idea, especially for those of us who might be 60 or more and considered to be at a slightly higher risk for contracting CoVid19. Dispose of your masks (and gloves if you’re wearing them) safely and if you do cough or sneeze, use your sleeve!
  • All joking aside, on the sidewalk – where room permits, stay apart and when room does not permit, stand to one side as the other person passes by, doing your best to stay as far apart as possible. If you are a couple who have been isolating together and walking side by side, when approaching others do so in single file. Keep dogs on a very short leash right now, it’s just common courtesy. If you are a jogger and by default more nimble – take the high road and move out of the way of others – because you can!
  • Grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions? If you are now able to leave your home you will see the “new normal” has been taken care of for you. Many stores have implemented specific shopping protocols including: directional signage for going up and down a grocery aisle, marked areas for standing in line that align with physical distancing protocols, Plexiglas shields for store staff protecting both them and us and many stores are also now offering “curbside pickup” where you can place your order ahead of time and not even have to leave your car. Anticipate that this might continue for some time.
  • Think before you touch! Many places now have signs to remind or request patrons not pick up a product (particularly fresh fruit and vegetables) unless that item is coming home with you. So, unless you have to read a label for a specific reason (like checking for allergies) do all of your thinking before you pick that product off the shelf. The less contact we have with items, the better.
  • Have you seen media clips of that awkward looking elbow bump, or people employing the praying hands or bowing method of greeting people? It might look awkward now but this too could become part of our new normal. In some cultures, the prayer hands or bowed greeting was already an acceptable norm for greeting others and for the foreseeable future, the handshake is out. Perhaps it always should have been when even a regular flu season can spread illness. Personally, I don’t see the elbow bump catching on but the point is – if you are out and about, a no contact greeting is what you should be using.

There’s no doubt in my mind that we will adapt. What might seem a little strange to us right now, will evolve if not seamlessly, then certainly with some practice, into a new normal that we will willingly embrace for the greater good. It might not be exactly what Emily Post or Martha Stewart might have recommended in a pre-pandemic world but it’s now in everyone’s best interests to be familiar with the new sidewalk etiquette rule and other polite pandemic protocols. As for me, I’ll continue to smile from behind my mask whether anyone can see me or not!

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