Vexations and Conundrums
By Katina Pontikes
Confounded By Covid Etiquette
Manners were always drilled into me as a child. As I became older and entered the business world, I realized that courteous behavior became an unspoken attribute that bought far more points than the effort extended. Most people were not giving this subject a second thought as I bought thick etiquette books, then studied and referenced them often.
Quickly I ascertained that friends who took time to drop a congratulatory note to someone who got a new assignment or successfully completed a project were the people that others called upon for advice. Courtesy built trust and earned points.
This week I read a brief online essay about Covid courtesy. The article only scratched the surface of concerns I had. It was just a few paragraphs long. I had broken stated rules, on more than one occasion, according to the author. (Hint: Don’t pry into how someone got their vaccination faster than you did. Medical conditions are private.)
I have started to notice how frequently I encounter social situations which cause me embarrassment or reticence on what should be a proper response.
For example, as more people receive vaccinations, most people are still waiting for the arm prick to salvation. One must avoid gloating if they are already vaccinated.
Masking is still an iffy subject, with some people resisting having to cover their faces as the case count decreases. I am told we will be masking for longer than we want. Asking someone to mask is a delicate matter. If you ask to socialize outside, you really show your level of concern.
A group of friendly neighbors used to gather on Sunday nights in pre-Covid times. These meetings resulted in shared building news and answers to group issues, with an occasional spicy gossip item thrown in for good measure. Last week, after a year of no gathering, I received an email that caused me to freeze. Would my husband and I like to go down to the grill area (closely placed tables) and reunite again?
I want to stay close to my building friends. I need to know what has happened while we were isolated. I checked the current CDC (Centers for Disease Control) online guidelines again, even though I can recite them from memory. Fully vaccinated persons can meet in small groups. There were seventeen email addresses on the invitation. Not small. How many of these people were vaccinated? I certainly am not going to do a survey. I sent a respectfully worded decline and requested to wait just a little longer until the vaccination rate has increased, and our comfort level is higher. We didn’t receive an invitation this week.
Greetings are the new landmines. I see an unvaccinated girlfriend and hold my elbow out for a tap. She is a natural hugger who tends to run forward for greetings. She breaks through. Oh, God! Another safety rule is violated. How can this small, loving act result in such worry and regret? I pity those still working, no longer able to shake hands. I recall my now deceased dad teaching me to shake hands firmly and with eye contact, lest the person I was meeting would deem me a weakling, or worse, untrustworthy. I guess that critical character assessor may be gone. Covid has changed etiquette.
I’ve been thinking about the lustful young, all masked and distanced. If they are seeking romance, a partner or even just some nice sex, they are terribly challenged. You can’t really kiss with a mask on. Do they inquire about Covid and vaccination status the same way people once had to delicately explore STDs? Grant them patience as this pandemic subsides. I want to send out a universal message that says, “Hang on! We are almost free.”
I kiss my unmasked husband gratefully, glad I have a partner to get through this. In the meantime, I need to research how to throw a safe party to celebrate the decline of the pandemic, because I want to follow the small courtesies when I throw the Mother of All Blowout celebrations.
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