Living Socially Distanced
Okay I’m going to say it once and be done with it … it’s the “new normal”.
No matter what your viewpoint happens to be on the subject, there’s no denying that the Coronavirus has affected you, whether you’re sheltering at home or just on a hunt for toilet paper, household supplies, and a decent bagel. And based on current statistics, it’s going to be some time before we return to a pre-2020 modus operandi.
I won’t comment on my own viewpoint because, well, I’m not an idiot. That subject is about as hot as a $50 Rolex and I wouldn’t touch it with a pointy stick. But I thought I’d pass along a few things I’ve learned to help create a modicum of normalcy and panache while maintaining the health, preservation, and comfort of self and others.
First there’s the Great Mask Debate. Whether you agree with it or not, many businesses (all of them where I live) require you to wear a mask to enter. Of course, you have every right to not wear a mask. And not enter. But let’s say you need to, well, eat, for example. You’re going to need to go out into the civilized world, and you’re probably going to need a mask.
Sure we’ve all seen the YouTube videos that teach you how to make a mask out of an old bra, or a face shield out of a Krispy Kreme box, and yes, I have seen at least one person with a pair of Hanes tighty whities over their head. But get a hold of yourself – you have better options.
A scarf or bandana can be worn as a face covering and slipped down easily when the mask is no longer required – instant fashion accessory. I always have a bandana in my car to avoid the heartbreaking experience of being out, wanting to pick up a Cabernet, and realizing I forgot to bring a mask.
I did buy a pack of the disposable masks when this started, but with this thing hanging on like a hair on a biscuit, I’ve finally purchased some soft, more fashionable fabric masks.
Shove some plastic gloves in your glove box. After all it’s called a glove box. There’s plenty of stuff out in the world, like gas pump handles and public restroom facilities, that you really don’t want to touch anyway, virus or no virus.
Channel your inner Mr. Monk and carry a little bottle of sanitizer or a pack of wipes in your handbag, in case you find yourself in an uncomfortable spot, like having no choice but to use the communal pen thingy at a credit card machine.
Put a roll of paper towels in your bathroom so guests won’t need to use your hand towels. Even if you aren’t having “guests” per se, you may have the occasional Maytag repair man or other service providers in your home, and they may need to use the facilities. It’s good to have a bottle of hand sanitizer on hand in each bathroom too – not only good to use, but you can apply a little to the aforementioned paper towels to quickly wipe down knobs and handles.
Planning to dip your toe in the water for entertaining a few guests? I did that recently, and it’s a whole different ball of wax.
It was the occasion of my husband’s birthday, an event that would normally prompt plans ranging anywhere from a party for 50 or more, to an elegant night out at a favorite restaurant, to a wine country road trip. In other words, something special.
This year, I considered it lucky that we’re no longer counting toilet paper squares. That I can again purchase the flour of my choice for baking. And that most of our friends, verified by subtle interrogation prior to extending an invitation, have been maintaining social protocols.
There are two things to take into consideration for a gathering – the things you need to do to ensure safety, and the things you need to do to address the comfort level of your guests. And when you get right down to it, it’s more than meets the eye.
First there’s the seating arrangement. I planned our little gathering of six people to take place outdoors in the garden, but I wanted to arrange things so that everyone could maintain proper social distancing without feeling like they needed tin cans and a piece of string to communicate. I arranged and re-arranged until I came up with something that felt safe but organic. And at my outdoor dinner table, the same table which seated about 15 the last time I had a party, I generously spaced six chairs.
I prepared my well-cleaned bathrooms with paper towels and sanitizer. And for extra measure, I removed the cloth hand towels, just in case anyone had an automatic reaction to grab for it.
And then there’s the menu. And not only the menu, but how it would be served. Nothing that requires dipping (therefore inviting double-dipping), and nothing that requires shared serving utensils.
I pre-plated the appetizer for each guest, my garlic garlic hummus with extra garlic, homemade sourdough crackers, and a few olives. The individual plating worked out really nicely, since it gave me the opportunity to add a nice drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of smoked paprika to each plate – a nice little chef-y touch.
For dinner, I served a Low Country Boil – a conglomeration of seafood, fresh sweet corn, sausage, and potatoes (but I roast it in the oven instead of boiling, it intensifies the flavors instead of leaving them floating around in a pot of water), and I gave each guest their own pair of tongs to place food from the platter to their plate. Minimal physical contact. Except for me, of course, but somebody has to prepare the food. And I do wash my hands about three billionty times while I’m cooking.
Were all these measures necessary? Maybe. Maybe not. But all it took was a little forethought and planning, and everyone felt cared for and at ease. And it laid the groundwork for creating a normal life in an un-normal, socially-distanced world.
I hope this gives you some good ideas for a safe and graceful re-entry into the civilized world. And I wish you tremendous health, happiness, and joie de vivre in the face of any challenge life throws your way.