The Double Standards of Social Distancing

Unlike the post several days ago about asymmetric thinking, this is the story about how I finally caved in and bought alcohol at Spec’s, and the wicked difference that had me running to the nearest kitchen sink.

I ordered some things for curbside pickup at Spec’s, thinking it was going to be as simple and clean and straightforward as Central Market.

I mark a time for pickup, which was 12:00 to 12:30 (an hour after the store opened). Driving there, I found the streets still bustling in a surprising way, which contrasts to my father-in-law who lives in England. His children from his second marriage have to place a copy of his passport on the dashboard of his vehicle to inform police when they check that they are buying groceries for a 72 year old father.

I arrive at the Spec’s and they are seeing many customers, who are carrying out loads of alcohol in a way that simultaneously had me relieved and worried. Relieved because I wasn’t alone in the desire, worried because perhaps for some of these people drinking was a full time job.

I texted as I was told that I was here. For ten minutes, nothing happened. After texting a second time I was greeted by a man who went to the driver’s side window rather than the passenger’s side. I was told to bring my ID and I showed it through the glass. He looked at it, leaning down, and said, “I still need you to sign.” He held up his iPhone.

I was in shock.

So you’re telling me that I have to place my hands on your phone, and I have to sign where everybody else has signed, knowing full well that COVID-19 can last up to 72 hours on plastic and up to 5 days on glass?

I wordlessly grabbed the iPhone, signed with my finger, gave the phone back, and rolled up the window.

He placed my items in the trunk and I left, saying to myself, “Don’t touch your face,” all the way home.

Every student knows that each teacher has their own set of rules, and part of understanding the world is coming to terms with that and using it to his or her advantage. I am the nicer teacher, so students know to come to me to store skateboards in my room, print things they need for other classes, as someone to talk to when boyfriends leave girlfriends (or vice versa), and generally to help with personal projects.

These double standards are not particularly harmful, as teachers can no longer (thank God) beat children or put cones on their head.

But in the political space, double standards in the acting out of new policies can get people killed. And what is the point of social distancing if the method of payment includes touching the same objects and standing less than four feet away from a driver?

Or perhaps it is my fault. In a country hellbent on individual choice, perhaps since it was my failure to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines, I should be the one paying the price for my choices. The people who walked into the Spec’s knew the risks as well, and chose to go in.

At what point does individuality buckle? At what point does aberrant public policy choice become a fault of those carrying out the order (Spec’s or Central Market) or those enacting the order (political leaders)? Donald Trump had to call Ron DeSantis for crying out loud.

With the confusion top-to-bottom in the past several weeks, many of these questions go on being asked and very few are answered. Occasionally we are drip fed responses about masks, glass, respiratory droplets, and how an estimated 25% of carriers are asymptomatic.

The best thing we can do is stay conservative with our own thinking, and evaluate each choice. I realized I should not have gone out. And I won’t be making that mistake again for a while.

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