COLUMN: Please don’t stand close to me in line –— now or 20 years down the road


AP Photo/Devon Ravine

People gather on the shoreline in Destin, Fla., Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that there seems to be a “change in the air” where people think the pandemic is over. 

Just because we reached our one year mark does not mean that it is over. Please stop standing close to me and walking around indoors and in public without a mask on. Guidelines are still in place –– not everyone is vaccinated yet. 

During the course of the pandemic, I really have questioned the way things were before our lives changed so abruptly and how we once cared or didn’t care enough about public health. 

We used to stand so close together in lines, sometimes feeling the breath of a stranger on our backs. We often went to work sick, coughed openly around our peers and loved ones and spread flus and colds like we were okay with infecting one another. 

Once the pandemic is over, there is a list of things that I know I will never go back to. Some of the things I did once before –– like sharing a drink with a friend in a bar –– were out of sheer stupidity. And some others –– like not wearing a mask when I felt a cold or cough come on –– were out of sheer selfishness. 

There’s no use in predicting anymore when the dust will settle, everyone will be vaccinated and we can go back to a completely normal life –– but we can prepare for that time. I have prepared by compiling a list of things I know I will not do. 

Standing close in line with strangers

I’m not sure why we thought it was okay to get into each other’s personal spaces when we were waiting in line –– but it’s sure something that we should never do again. 

There’s no use breathing down a stranger’s back when waiting to get somewhere –– it won’t make the line go by faster and it’s definitely not going to make the person in front of you let you cut them. The pandemic has proven that it’s rude to get in someone’s space and can be dangerous. But truthfully, it’s always been rude. We just didn’t always have the stress of the pandemic and fear of Covid-19 like we do currently. But now, I will snap at you. 

Not wearing a mask whenever we have a cold or flu

I remember when my grandmother was ill back in 2017. It was one of her last days when my mom, dad and I visited her in the hospital, she had sepsis and if anyone around her had a cold or flu, she could get sicker. I remember walking up to my dad by the coffee station and seeing him wearing a mask – one like those we wear today. At the time I thought it was funny because I knew he wasn’t a doctor, nurse or surgeon. But he explained he had a cold and didn’t want to make my grammy sicker. Wow, what a thought.  

People were already wearing masks when they felt sick around others, especially in other countries before the pandemic, as it was a respectful thing to do. In America, we are just so individualized that it doesn’t matter if we get others sick –– just mattered if we could get ourselves well again.” But wearing a mask whenever I have a simple cold, flu or runny nose  is not something I’m going to give up when the pandemic is over,especially when considering I haven’t gotten a cold all year –– probably because others are wearing masks.  

Not sanitizing after touching things other people have touched

How gross were we? I used to touch door knobs, CTA poles, railings and ate at tables that people once ate at without properly cleaning it beforehand. We know now that germs are everywhere and they stay there for a while. We used to touch things not thinking about what was on it –– and then sometimes we would touch our faces or eat food right afterwards. Once the pandemic is over , I will never not carry hand-sanitizer and be aware of the germs around me. 

Eating a someone’s birthday cake after they blew out the candles 

One of the best parts about having a birthday party or celebration is blowing out the candles on a cake, when everyone’s eyes are on you and rejoicing in music the anticipation to blow out those candles builds up. And after puckering your lips to blow out those candles, the germs on the cake build up too.

One thing that should not return after the pandemic is over – is blowing out birthday candles on big party cakes. Also, please no more combined toddler parties where two or more toddlers are both blowing out the candles –– that’s even yuckier. 

There’s something even more special about having a birthday cupcake or a mini cake all to yourself, “this one is mine, therefore I will blow all of my germs on it to mark it.” Then others can have one, big, boring cake not marked with your germs. 

Blowing out candles on a cake is harmless –– or so we thought. That air that’s in one’s mouth is now all over the cake, people are eating each other’s germs. What if the birthday girl has a cold? Why risk it all to eat cake? 

Regardless if this pandemic ends this year or these next couple of months –– there are just things we should not go back to just for the sake of our public health and respect for others. 

Of course there are going to be people ripping off their masks whenever they get the chance or spreading their germs because they think the chances of getting sick are gone. But there’s also going to be so many others who have opened their eyes to the world we live in –– and how gross or inconsiderate we used to be with our space or germs. There will never not be a day, now or in 20 years, where I won’t have a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer and a stylish mask on me. I’ll also have a clear depiction of what six feet away really is and never stand close to someone in line again.