Ask Amy: Courtesy questions in the time of COVID-19
DEAR AMY: Here's a typical scenario: I am walking on a trail that is only a few feet wide. Someone is coming toward me. Neither of us is wearing a mask. I step off the trail to give the other person (and myself) space. The other person walks by without saying anything. Am I wrong in thinking I should receive a “thank you” for moving aside? Or, I'm in a market with the aisles marked as one-way and a person with a cart (with or without a mask) is coming in the other direction. I'll either retreat from the aisle or face the shelves to allow the person to get by. I passingly wonder if I should remind the person that they are walking the wrong way, but again, a “thank you” would be nice. And then there are masks in general, the wearing of which seems to be devolving into a political statement. I wear a mask in public (especially indoors), not because it protects me (most masks available to me will not prevent airborne viruses from getting through), but because it protects other people. If we were going to be courteous to other people, wouldn't we all wear a mask? I realize that courtesy and etiquette in the age of COVID-19 is a minor issue (and it is a minor issue to me). But I think things would be a little better if we were more courteous with each other (and less political). Am getting too worked up about nothing? I'd appreciate your thoughts. — SEEKING TOO MUCH COURTESY DEAR SEEKING: You might benefit from some perspective. I wonder if for every instance of rudeness, there might be two or three of people demonstrating social kindness. But — rudeness takes up a lot of space. In every instance you cite, I agree that you are being courteous, and the other person should acknowledge your courtesy. But — people don't always behave in optimal ways. In American culture, we don't seem to have a very rigid code of social conduct. This means that some people interpret their own personal freedom as license to behave however they want, claiming a sort of sovereign rule over what should be shared public space. (This is how going without a mask somehow becomes a political statement, rather than one of protecting public health.) Also — lots of people weren't raised as well as you may have been. Or — they're having a bad day, are stuck in their heads, or distractedly walking the wrong way down an aisle accidentally. One minor tip from me, to others: People should not necessarily wish for a verbal acknowledgment from a maskless person if they are also maskless. As you know, the virus seems to be spread primarily through aerosolized particles expelled when people speak, cough or sneeze. A silent wave, thumbs up or head nod might be preferable to a verbal “thank you.” DEAR AMY: My wife and I moved to Florida 15 years ago. We have many friends here and realize that politics and religion are two subjects to avoid. Unfortunately, given the current state of affairs, a slip-up can happen. A couple we have known for six years visited for five days during the Super Bowl last winter. We have enjoyed many moments with this couple, but unfortunately we have not communicated since their visit, when a short political discussion took place. To go from frequently talking to zero is very confusing and disappointing. My question is which path should we pursue: My wife thinks we should drop them and move on, as she feels disrespected. I think we should have some closure to our relationship. — CONFUSED IN FLORIDA DEAR CONFUSED: If you have not received an acknowledgment or even a pro-forma “thank you for hosting us” from this couple after you hosted them in your home for five days, then I'm with your wife. However, if you have something YOU want to express to them — then you should go ahead and do so. If you know you offended someone, then maybe you should apologize, but you have the right to discuss politics and shouldn't regard it as a “slip up,” just because a guest in your home disagrees with you. DEAR AMY: I loved your answer to “Georgia on my Mind,” a self-professed “Larry David-type” who wants his wife to change her life for him. Thank you for suggesting that these two live apart for a few weeks. His wife deserves a break! — A FAN DEAR FAN: My heart went out … to her. You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.