Who's teaching COVID-19 etiquette?
Last updated 4/29/2020 at 3:28pm | View PDF
I was at the grocery store last week picking up a few things and was wearing a disposable mask. I noticed most customers were wearing masks as well and wiping down their carts.
The checkout line had horizontal lines taped to the floor indicating where each customer should stand while they wait. It became my turn to put my items on the conveyor belt and as I started to, the woman in front of me, wearing a medical-grade N-95 mask, ordered me briskly to wait back and not place my things until she had finished checking out.
I felt embarrassed for assuming it was my turn, immediately apologized and moved back, waiting for her to finish checking out. The cashier then told me it was OK to place my items onto the conveyor belt, as the customer's transaction was nearly complete. I obeyed the worker and placed my items, to the visible disdain of the woman. She looked utterly appalled that I had listened to him and voiced her annoyance to me and the cashier. When he went to hand the woman her receipt, she refused and ordered that he place it in the bag, so as to avoid any physical contact.
All the while, the woman's teenage daughter was standing close by, with no facial covering whatsoever.
I understand this is a scary and uncertain time for everyone. Societal norms are being tested and redesigned to fit this new COVID-19 era. Things we used to do subconsciously have to be reconsidered to account for the physical interactions they might encompass.
We are told to stay at least six feet apart in public when possible, but what about the brief time spent trying to reach an item in a crowded grocery aisle? Obviously it is done with harmless intentions, but it can make those around you uncomfortable. Or the hazardous allergy sneeze in public that can make those around you immediately assume the worse. These are things you can't help, but it doesn't make them any less anxiety-inducing. I don't know the proper etiquette with which to voice concerns on social distancing. Someone may be too close to you, but how can you express those feelings without being seen as rude?
Personally I have been going on many runs around the neighborhood since the stay-at-home order went into place. When I see someone coming in the opposite direction, I always mentally prepare to make a decision as to whether I should run off the path to ensure more space between us or keep my pace. Do we smile at each other? Look down and avoid eye contact? It isn't a lack of courtesy for the stranger - rather an acknowledgment of these tricky times. I feel as though nobody knows how to interact with one another anymore. I certainly do not.
Fortunately, it seems as though we have at least another four weeks to navigate our future social outings from the comfort and safety of our homes. In the meantime, I can enjoy my virtual interactions without fear of being too close to someone. We all have some things to learn to prepare for the post-corona life we are anxiously anticipating.
- Cedra Jazayerli, a junior at Hinsdale Central, is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected]