A Crash Course in New Normal Etiquette
Welcome to the new age
Yesterday marked a journey I’d been waiting to embark on for a long time: my first visit to the mall in over two months. There for less than an hour, my family had a loose list of tasks to accomplish before heading over to my grandparents’ place: pick up fresh greens and supplements at Healthy Options, make a quick stop at the bakery, maybe pick up a cup of coffee. In the spare moments I wasn’t tracking down a snack to buy along with our predetermined purchases, or those fifteen minutes my mother and I spent waiting for my dad and sister to park the car, I felt something I hadn’t in a long time in the safety of a mall. I felt strangely, overwhelmingly lost.
Mall culture is integral to the Pinoy experience. For the upper classes, the mall is a place to kill time, to watch a movie before a date, to catch a spin class before the workday begins. To those who have less, the mall is an icon of privilege: where kids dream of spending time and having a meal like the folks they see on TV. Like the Filipino I am, this culture of “malling” is in my blood. The mall is—no, was—my zero mile. The default place to meet, the unspoken venue of everything from family lunches to dinner dates, my everyday haunt back when I styled shoots, the place I’d walk through mid-commute because it is just that central here.
Instead of the rush of relief I was expecting upon finally stepping foot in a place I used to be so familiar with, it all just felt… odd. The constant fear of brushing against someone when walking down the hall. The snapping to attention when I realized I was drifting too close to my own family. The fear of touching clothing that hung up in stores, for fear that being curious about its texture would come at the price of sickness. The sight of dead sea cosmetics salespeople using free alcohol spritzes as a means of luring buyers in instead of their usual ‘charge and slather this pedestrian’s hand with product against their will’— a shift I might be happy about but I’m not sure.
Change never does come easy after all, so perhaps the first taste of the new normal was bound to be this bitter. But see, that’s all it was. A first taste, the tip of the iceberg of cultural change. There’s so much more to the imminent new normal than our mall culture feeling foreign and unfamiliar.
This New York Times details how long 511 epidemiologists estimate it will take before we can go back to the activities we used to use to bookmark our lives. Three to 12 months before kids go back to school, companies resume in-office work, airplane travel can be normal again. Even longer before weddings can go off Zoom and resume in real life, concerts are deemed acceptable and friends can hug or shake hands. They’re but informed estimates, but they’re daunting nonetheless. Our lives have, and will continue to change.
As we inch closer and closer to the new normal, we get small tastes of what our new lives will look like from here on out. The new normal, as much as I’ve come to personally dislike that term, comes with a new set of rules—and we need to be ready to roll with the punches.
With three months of time spent apart, reunions and long-awaited hellos are definitely in order. But, before we get carried away, some reminders to keep yourselves in check:
• Hugs, handshakes and handholds remain off the table.
• As do mass gatherings.
• Even during small gatherings, maintain your distance. Make sitting one seat away a standard if space allows it.
• Keep a bottle of alcohol or a pack of disinfecting wipes handy. Religiously cleanse after touching common items: doorknobs, dinnerware, et cetera.
• Keep your mask on.
Working from Home
Many of us may think we’ve mastered the art of working from home with all the time we’ve had to practice, but have we really?
• Days spent inside can feel monotonous, so pay extra attention to your calendar. Check for meetings, deadlines and previous engagements.
• Commit to your churn. Just because no one’s watching, doesn’t mean you can slack!
• Wear something comfy enough to work in, but uncomfortable enough for you not to fall asleep in.
• Keep your camera on during that Zoom meeting, especially when trying to get a point across. Remember how important gestures and eye contact (albeit through screens) used to be.
• Got nothing to say during your meeting? Don’t forget to hit mute.
Working from the Office
Survival tips for when the time to strip ourselves of our one (1) WFH outfit comes.
• Abide by the protocols set by your office, which will most likely include temperature checks, disinfecting before entering every space and elevators functioning at limited capacity.
• The first order of business upon reuniting with your work desk: deep disinfection. Wipe down the surface of your desk, all your decor, the pens you left out in the open, drawer handles and every nook and cranny you, your alcohol and your wipes can get to.
• Make a habit of disinfecting your ID regularly, especially if your office functions on a tap-to-enter system.
• Keep your distance. Sit a seat away from each other, even during large meetings.
• Limit meetings outside the office.
• When taking the stairs, keep your hands off the handrail.
• Steer clear of the communal utensils and water fountains. Bring your own tumbler and utensils from home.
• And yes, keep the mask on.
Making Your Way ‘round Town
When do you think public transportation will finally be at full capacity again? We’re hoping (like, really, really hoping) it’s soon, but until then, how about brushing up on your transportation etiquette?
• If you’re taking a private car, wipe down the seats, steering wheel, doors and all surfaces regularly.
• Keep your mask on, even inside your own vehicle.
• When commuting, yourself with which modes of transportation are functioning and review the timetable of trips, if available, before leaving home.
• Keep your distance to the best of your abilities. Alert fellow commuters if they are unnecessarily violating social distancing protocol.
• Be mindful of social distancing markers. Remember that the “X” marks where you should sit, because apparently we have to adjust to bad design:
The “wala kayong disiplina” crowd is blaming these people for not following instructions, BUT the real problem is bad design. Sino ba kasing nag-isip na X ang sign for “pwedeng umupo/tumayo dito”? pic.twitter.com/j0M8Zdb005
— Lucas (@bashgita) June 2, 2020
Ordering In and Eating Out
Willing to wait po?
• Ordering in remains superior. Keep food delivery cashless and contactless, and tip your delivery person generously.
• If a restaurant looks packed from the outside, opt for somewhere else.
• Maintain distance while queuing and dining, even if it’s your quarantine buddies you’re with.
• Wipe down menus, utensils, the outside of your cups and communal condiment bottles before use.
• Don’t eat with your hands.
• Choose to order from and dine at homegrown restaurants and food establishments.
Breaking a Sweat
All who miss the gym, the spin studio, the barre studio, say I.
• Home workouts are still a very real option. Here’s a quick series worth trying.
• Remember the gym is a hotbed for bacteria. Keep your workout quick and efficient, and stay home if you feel under-the-weather.
• Wipe, wipe, wipe. Everything from the bike seat to the handlebars to the communal weights to your body. Wipe it all down!
• Bring your own yoga mat, towel and water bottle.
• Hold off on the small talk and the high-fives.
• Check the operating capacity of your gym or workout studio. If a class is looking packed, opt for the next one.
• Yes, you’re still going to want to keep that mask on.
We’re Going Shopping
As quarantine restrictions ease up a little, physical stores are gradually reopening. But what does that mean for us shoppers?
• Treat shopping as a way to secure necessities, not an excuse to get out of the house.
• Stick to online shopping if possible. Tip your delivery person generously.
• In physical stores, be mindful of what you touch. Disinfect like it’s your religion.
• Before heading out to buy clothing, familiarize yourself with the store’s size guide. Check the size of items you already own from the brand to eliminate the need to fit items.
Who’s ready for the world outside?
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver