Please Excuse Me As I Don't Kiss You Hello Or Shake Your Hand
To most of us, the word ‘coronavirus’ sounded like gibberish just two months ago.
Today it conjures up a dizzying mix of fear, helplessness and flashbacks to your dystopian virus movie of choice (mine is 2016’s Pandemic -- it was not very good).
The coronavirus outbreak is obviously a serious public health problem -- the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it a global emergency in late January and cases of people infected by the illness are rising, both at home and abroad.
The good news is that public health organisations and experts have offered us a bunch of easy-to-implement steps for minimising our chances of catching the virus. As an eager student of personal hygiene, I have been drinking up these recommendations like a fine wine, making minor but crucial adjustments to the way I interact with people.
Principally, I won't be kissing anyone hello and I won't be shaking anyone's hand.
What else is involved, you ask? Well, let me take you on a journey of what I’ve become...
I wash my hands -- a lot -- while quietly singing "Happy Birthday" to myself
If you’re like me, you’ve been bombarded with work emails and freshly-laminated pin-ups detailing exactly how to properly wash your hands. It isn’t exactly glamorous, but official advice from the WHO and the US' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the old hand scrub is one of the best ways to avoid being infected.
Patronising, right? Imagine! The thought that grown adults need to be told how to wash their hands...
Then again, a dedicated hand-washing how-to on the CDC website explains that you’re meant to lather up your hands for 20 seconds, something I’ve literally never seen anyone do. The advice even suggests that a good way to ensure that you’re hitting the 20 seconds mark is to “hum the 'Happy Birthday' song from beginning to end twice”.
Having taken all this on, coworkers can now find me in the bathroom, scrubbing away like a surgeon and gently singing "Happy Birthday" to myself. The best bit is that it doesn't matter if it’s your birthday or not -- either way, you’ll look like you’re going insane.
I spend a lot of time inside, bingeing all seven seasons of 30 Rock
The WHO warns that we should “maintain social distancing” between ourselves and anyone who is coughing and sneezing to minimise our chances of contracting the virus. Now, not to brag, but I’m quite good at socially isolating myself even when no one has asked me to.
But to be extra vigilant, I have no qualms about bingeing all seven seasons (that’s 138 episodes) of the award-winning sitcom 30 Rock alone in my house.
To be clear, I take no pleasure in doing this. The episodes are long, the jokes are weird and things definitely peter out towards the end of the sixth season. But this isn’t about me. And as cases of the virus continue to climb, I’m willing to endure it.
I’ve stopped touching my face and I certainly won't be touching anyone else's
The CDC have advised everyone to avoid touching their face to quell the spread of the infection. I know what you’re thinking -- who is actually doing this? Well, someone actually studied this and discovered that humans have nothing better to do than to touch their faces 23 times an hour.
And having recently begun a rigorous exfoliation regime (thank you), it’s hard not to join in. In light of the official advice, though, I’ve settled for prodding at my reflection in the mirror instead. And then furiously washing my hands for 20 seconds, of course (see above).
I can't imagine any circumstances under which I would need to touch someone else's face, but I will have to politely decline those offers going forward. At least until this pandemic has been sorted out.
There’ll be no more spitting on the footpath
This is not something I've ever done (because it's disgusting), so it should be very easy to achieve.
But since we're here, this might be a good time to reflect on why anyone in the world has ever done this. I mean, why does this happen? Why has this ever happened?
In the interest of public disease prevention, I’ll be yelling ‘HEALTH HAZARD!’ at the next person who does it. And I encourage everyone else to do the same.
You can kiss the kiss hello goodbye -- I'll tap elbows for a greeting, but that's pretty much it
In the current environment, touchy-feely greetings are becoming a big no-no. In China, some people are greeting each other with toe-taps.
Even France and Italy -- world leaders in the touchy and feely -- are urging their citizens to opt for non-physical greetings. In France (and Switzerland, for that matter), the health minister has recommended that people put a hold on the customary cheek peck. The Italian commissioner for coronavirus has encouraged everyone to be “a bit less expansive” in how they interact. This includes not shaking hands, which the NSW health minister has also suggested.
Since all of this is meant to slow the spread of coronavirus, it's only fair that we all ditch the physical greetings until further notice. Now, my current repertoire consists of aggressive eye contact, an elbow bump or my personal favourite: shouting “I’m here!”.
It’s not ideal, but let’s be honest -- literally none of this is.