The blue ink pen was resting on the carpet below; my arm froze in midair.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t know in this COVID world if I’m supposed to pick up your pen for you or not.”
The irony of the awkward situation brought a laugh from the doctor. Should I be polite and kneel and pick up her pen? Or should I stand there and act like a heel and do nothing?
Reaching down, she answered the question for us both.
“No kidding,” she said. “This COVID is changing everything in the world.”
I’ll admit I’m getting the hang of always having a mask. But what about the time-honored demonstrations of respect such as helping others with the simplest tasks? Opening a door is now a risk, as is offering to hand another a plastic water bottle.
Even encroaching on one’s personal space is now considered not only rude but dangerous. Consider the act of nestling close to a stranger to share a secret a thing of the past.
Dang strange world today.
My mother taught me to always hold open a door for another and be quick to help others when items dropped on the floor.
But the one gesture I miss the most in today’s COVID-19 world is the handshake. Playing second fiddle only to offering your personal word of assurance, the handshake remains one of the world’s most valuable and universal currencies.
Time-honored, respected and considered the final bonding moment of an agreement, the handshake is now being shunned. Welcome to the elbow-tap. If not so pervasive, you might find the motion derived from the sketch comedy group, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Minister of Silly Walks? How about the Department of Assorted Appendage Taps?
Imagine, if you will, world leaders sitting around a large board room, signing and exchanging documents. Moments later, chairs slide back, and everyone leans across the table and offers an elbow. Somehow the optics don’t carry the same weight for me.
One of the fundamentals of sportsmanship is that, regardless of how badly you got stomped on the field of play, you are to shake hands with your opponent afterward, thus clearly defining the end of the competition.
And as hard as this lesson is to learn as a kid, the ability compartmentalizes the moment of conflict and becomes a critical skill to carry into adulthood. And the handshake is universal punctuation calling the contest to a close.
But in today’s world, even the highly caffeinated cousin of the handshake, better known as a high-five, is on hiatus. No longer do ballplayers offer mid-air slaps after home runs or 60-foot putts on the green. No, instead, there is a choice of awkward inaction or other contactless motion invented on the fly.
But at the end of the day (post-COVID-19), I always hope to feel the urge to pick up a dropped item for a stranger. And for the record, I’m not willing to bet world peace on an elbow tap.