April 6, 2020
What I Need
Dear Everyone Who Is In Charge of Anything Anywhere,
I am writing today to tell you what I need.
Like many of us in this terrifying new world, I have found myself with an excessive amount of time for contemplation. While to me, there’s no place like home, others are struggling with confinement, and even those who are embracing the distance, (it is after all the only thing we can embrace) are starting to champ at the bit. Trust me, I know. As is always the way, the thing I can no longer do is the thing I most want.
The simple pleasure of perusing a menu, then eating food into which one had to put only the effort of thought, the joy of watching a movie in a theater instead on the couch, these are pleasures currently denied us, and when they are available once more we will rush in with open wallets. I wouldn’t even be averse to browsing the mall right now.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, I moved away from anyone standing too close to me in line. I held my breath, and turned my head if I felt someone was exhaling a little too vigorously in my vicinity. If I go anywhere, I change clothes immediately when I return home. I absolutely do not lounge around on my furniture in outside clothes. When shopping, I don’t take items in the front row. I take them from the second, third if I can get it.
When the time comes for businesses that have been shuttered or limited to fling their doors wide, those of us who have been anxiously awaiting their return will need to feel safe. And the standard will be high.
We have talked here about testing at points of contact. We hope some of these tests will become available in the not too distant future. There are companies working on lay-friendly tests that can determine with minimal time whether a person is infected. Antibody tests can determine whether a person has developed immunity to COVID-19. With a combination of these options, and a strong protocol, it will be possible to ensure that no person inside a given space is currently infected.
However, that will not be enough.
Speaking for my people, the time has come for us all to consider the world from a dedicated germaphobe’s point of view. Think of those that cringe from otherwise adorable children with fingers in their noses. Consider that there are people who have to hop their way out of your restroom, holding the door open with a foot after they’ve pulled it open with a paper towel in hand, because you refuse to modernize. Think of the people who cringe when someone brushes against them. Please know, that many of us are disgusted by having to sit on a chair that we just saw a stranger get up from. I don’t want my pants touching a chair that someone else was sitting on without it being cleaned first. I have no way of knowing their habits. There are people who sit on curbs. There are also people who urinate and spit on curbs. It seems like basic math to me. We should all be practicing such basic math when considering the process of bringing people back together.
I want to go down to the corner restaurant and have pancakes. I want to go to the bookstore and browse without worrying about how many grubby fingers were on it before my own. I’ve heard rumors of people who want to watch sports in public with friends.
But safety has to come first. Door handles are not conducive to cleanliness. The time has come for all of them to be automatic. Sink knobs in public bathrooms need to be eliminated. Having a parade of people touching the same surface just after they’ve used the facilities is reckless. I hope never to never again have to use a public sink that is not motion activated. It needs to be kept in mind that viruses can live on surfaces. Just because a person, or group, has been proven uninfected does not mean they do not carry contaminants on their clothes, bags, or credit cards.
There are those who will think me paranoid. Those who do will not be the ones who offer the safest establishments. And post-quarantine, that will matter. It will certainly matter to your customers. It matters to me. It should matter to you. While there are some scenarios that are arguably more likely than others to pose a problem, if there is any foreseeable chance for viral transfer, it should be addressed. Pretty good is far from good enough. I realize that not every customer envisions the grim scenarios that I do. But to reopen safely and ethically, I hope you realize that, in terms of your venue, it is your job to do it for them.