• For the majority of us, social distancing is as easy as foot to-foot tapping, elbow bumping and nodding in place of the usual handshaking, hugging and kissing. (Moment RF)Source: Moment RF
How do I tell a stranger, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but keep your distance because you could have a super viral load?”
By
Natalie Reilly

12 Mar 2020 - 11:37 AM  UPDATED 12 Mar 2020 - 11:37 AM

Social distancing. Some of us have been doing it voluntarily for years. You know the types who hate hugging or leaving their house or close human contact of any kind. But according to the World Health Organisation, it’s one of the few ways we can stop or at least limit the spread of coronavirus.

The WHO recommends staying between 1 and 3 metres away from a person who is coughing or sneezing. But Australia’s health department widens that definition to include everything from cancellation of concerts, to school closures to working from home and limiting your social contact to the poor Uber Eats guy.

For the majority of us, social distancing is as easy as foot-to-foot tapping, elbow bumping and nodding in place of the usual handshaking, hugging and kissing. And speaking from personal experience, it has already begun.

For the majority of us, social distancing is as easy as foot-to-foot tapping, elbow bumping and nodding in place of the usual handshaking, hugging and kissing.

There we all were, this week at my kid’s school, us parents keeping a very polite distance from one another while we milled about, waiting for our potential “super spreaders” to greet us, sweaty from the school day -- but fingers crossed, not sweaty from anything else!

We sat there nodding ,and in some cases, bowing slightly to one another in an almost modest fashion, as if we were all extras in a Merchant Ivory production about 19th century manners.

One mother and I talked for a solid 10 minutes while 2 metres apart. It felt strangely chaste.

But standing there, I began to realise how hard it must have been to really gossip back in the day. Because, when you’re having a conversation with someone across such a distance, the only topics that can be broached safely are basically, well, the state of toilet paper and the general madness we find ourselves in.

And it is madness that has ensnared us all and made us this alert. Everybody is opening doors with their sleeves and closing them with their elbows – and that’s just at my house.

Everybody is opening doors with their sleeves and closing them with their elbows – and that’s just at my house.

Last week I refused to go to a friend’s birthday party. I just did not know who would be there, I only knew that my friend has other overly friendly friends. In a normal party situation, that’s an asset. In a coronavirus situation, that is a recipe for some terribly awkward interactions.

Some people only feel a slight fever, or sniffles. What if Mrs Sniffles wanted to shake my hand? Pull me to her bosom for a tipsy goodbye hug?

How do I tell a stranger, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but keep your distance because you could have a super viral load?”

The truth is, I couldn’t. It was easier just to cancel. I mean, I can’t even risk someone sniffing near me! I can’t risk those droplets! The reason, (apart from my mounting paranoia) is because I’m in a high-risk category. I have an auto immune disease, which means my immune system is compromised. I already spend a lot of my days coming down with whatever is going around. It can be a mild stomach thing, a minor cough, but my promiscuous immune system will invite that germ to move right in.

So, as I told my friends, “See you in late April, guys!” That’s when the worst should be behind us. There’s only one hurdle. My Boomer parents, like most people of their generation, believe they are immortal, despite being in a high-risk category, ie, over 70.

They usually see me weekly. Bless their hearts, they also volunteer in a hospital. I’ve told them to stay home, and forget about the chronically ill! Save yourselves!

However, given that my own dear father’s best defence against this near-pandemic is to tell me we will all be fine because Australia is warm and we can wash our hands, I think I’m going to have to limit my contact.

However, given that my own dear father’s best defence against this near-pandemic is to tell me we will all be fine because Australia is warm and we can wash our hands, I think I’m going to have to limit my contact.

Is this how it ends though? With everyone alone? We tell ourselves it’s like that advice you get in a plane “put your oxygen mask on first” but maybe all this paranoia is just exposing our self-centred way of living? The grocery hoarders have certainly proved that.

Ah to hell with it. I can’t limit parental contact. It will break my 4 year-old super spreader’s little heart. Bring me your tired, your dumb relatives, your gross cough droplets! Let’s all go down together!

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