“The New Normal” has become a trite phrase with no true definition, yet it provokes sighs and eye rolls. It is a term that combines both hope that some day we will crawl our way out of Covid Craziness, and resignation & frustration that our lives will never be the same as they were less than a year ago.
Besides the big concerns over things like good health, travel, gatherings, face coverings and hugging (I’m a hugger. Trust me, hugs are a big concern). I’ve been wondering abut the long-lasting ramifications of some of the new behaviors we’ve all adopted which, let’s face it, initially felt pretty darn odd but are now almost second nature. Studies have shown that doing something for anywhere between 21 days to two months will turn that behavior into an automatic habit. If that’s true, then the die is cast, and we can all look forward to a few things no longer being odd:
Following arrows: Everywhere we go now, we are instructed to look for arrows and walk in certain directions. The hallways at work, the flow of a retail store, the aisles of a grocery store. Like my dog chasing a squirrel, we are laser focused on those paths. If we come across someone going the wrong direction, the masked-face death-stare is employed. How dare you, can’t you see the arrows?! But really, we’ve all arrow-cheated, haven’t we? When we JUST want to get to something that is 3 feet away, and walking 20 yards to get to it seems like such a chore and waste of time, we’ve gotten pretty creative with the arrow law breaking. There’s the ‘look both ways to make sure there’s no one else in the path’ cheat, kind of like hunting for cops hiding along roadways before gunning it to our destination. Then there’s the backing up effort which takes some balance and coordination, to show that at least we are facing the right direction, even though we are going against the flow like salmon up stream. My favorite is the park & sprint, where I will leave my cart at the end of the row and literally run to the shelf, grab the item I need and run back. And come on, admit it, we’ve all done the “oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see the arrows!” excuse. Some day when we’ve gotten clearance to walk willy-nilly anywhere we want, we’ll still be looking for those blasted arrows and the acceptance that we are headed in the right direction.
Trained body parts: Everything we used to do with our hands we have now trained our elbows, arms, feet and hips to do. Opening and closing doors, pushing buttons, catching sneezes, even scratching… our hands are permanently on vacation. Our fingers are saying “oh, you want me to touch that? Sorry, no can do unless you cover me in vinyl or latex.” I marvel now at the ingenious ways we’ve found to open doors. Gone, I believe possibly forever, is shaking hands to greet each other. Fist bumps may come back, because for some reason we feel that germs on the back of our hands are safer than our palms. But those elbow taps, foot knocks and air-high-fives, yeah, those are with us forever. Remember the creative handshakes that only the coolest of the cool could manage easily? I figure soon we’ll see the foot version, which will look a bit like two people playing hacky sack.
Goldilocks Sanitizing: We have by now all developed the fine-tuned skills of applying just the right amount of sanitizer. In early pandemic days, it was a common occurrence to dump far too much sanitizer on our hands, thus creating the sloppy drip onto our pants, or our car seats. We’ve all experienced the shake-your-hands-out-the-window to get rid of excess move. The opposite extreme for sanitizer neophytes was not enough, thus providing coverage to only about three fingers. Not enough, too much, now we’ve got it down to juuuuuuust right. And p.s., most of us R.W.’s now carry our preferred brand and scent in our purses because we know those industrial tubs of sanitizer that greet us at various establishments feature a horrendous smell that lingers unpleasantly.
Sweet spot waving: Sure, we’ve all known how to wave at each other and passersbys. But this is the other kind of waving. That frustrating hand dance under, and in front of, hands-free faucets and towel dispensers. It starts with a calm swipe-swipe kind of wave. Then it gets more animated with a faster side to side and up and down motion. Then more exuberant. WAVEWAVEWAVE. Soon we look like we are trying to land a plane, not just wash our hands. It is only when we are nearly ready to give up that the water mysteriously appears. Don’t move your hands, or else it will shut off again just when you’ve managed to build a good lather. Then move on to getting towels, and you look like you are saying Hi to a robot. Only time, skill and practice has led us to more easily find that sweet spot.
Brady Bunch Syndrome – Thanks to the never-ending deluge of remote on-line meetings, conversations, and family gatherings, we have grown completely used to seeing each other from shoulders up, in little squares like the start of the Brady Bunch show or Hollywood Squares. We are fascinated by backgrounds, but seem totally unphased by the fact that we have basically become Muppets with no legs. Someday we’ll see each other again in person and may be shocked by how tall everyone is. But for now, we live in little animated boxes and only need to be concerned about being dressed from the waist up.
I’ve had conversations with other women about how ironically weird and odd things will seem when we eventually start coming out of this mess. We’ve talked about how nervous we will be to let go of our masks, and to be in crowds and groups again. It will take time before we are trusting enough to head into whatever our new normal will be. And I’m guessing it will take even longer for us to stop holding doors open with our feet and looking for arrows to tell us where to go.
I’m just hoping the new arrows point me towards a sunny beach with a margarita bar.