Would you rather?

Dreamers like me who dare to think beyond THE vaccination have a new festive parlour game – entertainment we would readily engage in should we be allowed to meet in groups for some pre-Christmas party shenanigans. In the absence of such permission, we content ourselves with some social media frivolity, questioning which Covid-related behaviours will remain in the Brave New World of 2021 and which ones will be kicked into touch with a sigh of relief.

Take hand shaking for example. I hear a Behaviourist on Radio 4 (who knew you could do this for a living?) discuss whether hand shakes will make the post-Covid cut; she believes not. I need to think on this. I have always hated hand shakes, but prefer them to those awkward pre-Covid work situations when someone would lunge forward to kiss you on the cheek – or even worse, air kiss and leave you uncertain about whether you needed to reciprocate. Awkward.

Now I realise that I have been missing shaking hands when I meet a new person – they signal the start of a new meeting and give you a sneaky insight into the character of the person you are shaking hands with – firm, reliable and assured, or insipid, limp and clammy. When I worked in marketing I remember being taught how to ‘own a meeting’ by walking towards someone in an assured fashion with an outstretched hand. I was trained to shake hands warmly, look directly into the recipient’s eyes and to resist bone crushing at any price.

What are we left with as the alternative? In the pursuit of dignity, if we refuse to return to handshaking then I suggest that we need to resist high fives or fist pumps. I also hope that we are allowed to veto those cringe-worthy little waves at the start and end of Zoom /Team meetings – if they must continue then we need to have some training about acceptable length of wave and the etiquette around a choice of jazz hands, crab claw or regal. I need to state my position if we are to allow elbow bumps to become ‘a thing’; it is a loud NO.

Perhaps we could adopt the Thai approach and offer a friendly wai, a prayer-like gesture with the hands placed together in front of the chest, fingers pointing upward, head slightly bowed forward? At least it would allow a show of respect and give us time to read the other person’s body language.

Sadly I am struggling to believe that we will ever return to holding a door open for another person – instead we will prise open a door for ourself with our own elbow and let it slam shut on the poor person following behind. Favourite Daughter also believes that commuters will not return to holding on to anything during tube journeys for fear of cross – contamination. She believes that they will continue to non-crowd surf through their daily commute. This feels like chop logic to me, for if you refuse to hold on to a convenient rail when your train lurches around a sharp bend, you run the risk of landing in the lap of a total stranger who will probably sneeze all over you in revenge.

This takes us hygienically to masks. Will we continue to wear them in public places post-Covid if we feel under the weather? Actually, will we continue to wear masks in public when we just can’t be arsed to put on full make up or when we have overdosed on onions/garlic? If we are seen wearing a mask in public will total strangers judge us for being outside when we are clearly under the weather – or will they secretly think we are just begging for a sympathy vote? i.e ‘I believe that is a cold sore you have madam, not flu’.

I speak to Favourite Daughter again to discuss if there are some behaviours we would like to keep post-Covid. For such a great giver and receiver of hugs, she surprises me when she shares the hope that strangers will continue to respect her social space, ‘Commuting is so much nicer without strangers getting close up and personal’.

We both agree that when you are allowed inside a restaurant or pub (don’t hate me because I am a Tier 2 who has just enjoyed a birthday meal out) it is joyous that the tables are now so spaced apart that you do not need a tin opener to prise yourself out from your seat or to apologise as you reverse into the stranger on the next table when you need to use the bathroom. I know this makes me a princess and I know that hospitality is in desperate economic need of a higher cover count, but I am selfish enough not to miss a three-deep crowd at the bar or the long wait for a food order to arrive.

Favourite Daughter also points out that nightclubs are likely to feel different in a post-Covid world – I listen in a politely intrigued way, knowing that any change of behaviour here is not likely to hit my radar either close up or from a social distance. For the record, FD feels that VIP booths will be the only way forward in night clubs – or perhaps even line dancing.

Anyway, much as I would love to, I can not sit here blogging all day for I have an appointment with some eye cream and a face pack; birthday or no birthday, I need to face up to the painful truth that the crow’s feet around my eyes have been produced by mask-induced behaviour. I fear I have been over-compensating on my above the mask smile so that strangers, from their social distance, do not mistake me for a grumpy old codger. I will cut my losses and concentrate on above the line action until THE vaccine is in place; post-Covid, I will then face the issue of my sagging jowls…unless society decides that masks – and the behaviour that they encourage – should not be kicked into touch.

Feel free to join the debate – turn it into a Christmas game if you will; ‘Would you rather…?’ . It may just go viral.

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