It Is Time for Some New Social Manners Guidelines.

Good manners, courtesy, etiquette, social skills, call them what you want, these kindnesses are the oil that keep the wheels of our hectic world turning. But the old rules can no longer be applied. We need to devise a new set of social guidelines.

Just as the rules of the road keep us safe and maintain order, so do our agreed-upon social manners. There is no magic forcefield holding back your car when a traffic light turns red, but at some point, we all agreed to respect the law associated with it.

Additionally, in restaurants, there is no magic barrier around plates of food, preventing you from dragging your finger through the Crème Brulee belonging to the person at the table next to you. We all learned that is not how you behave, and most of us agree to abide by this social contract.

Then along came C-19, and suddenly many of those guidelines vanished like wine at a book club. Now, not only are we not meant to pull our elderly neighbor’s emptied trash can out of the road and back down her driveway, or toss her newspaper closer to her front door (the virus could be clinging to those surfaces) she can’t even see us smile when she thanks us for doing it. All our old natural, instinctual behaviors must be tamped down.

A new social order needs to be put in place—quickly.

I won’t repeat what we all know about masks, social distancing, no touching, etc. If you aren’t already fully informed in that area, you need to relook your nap schedule. 

Here are some new guidelines that I think could work. If you have other ideas, different approaches, or suggestions, please put them in comments and then share them. Maybe we can put together a handbook of agreed-upon rules?

Who gives way to whom? 

  • The person running must give way to the person walking. Logically, if you are moving faster than the other person, you can move out of their way quicker than they can get out of yours. If you are running, and come up behind another person, you have to swing wide of them and not skim past their shoulder while puffing and panting!
  • The person who is in any way encumbered (pushing a stroller, elderly, very young child) stays where they are while the other person moves away.
  • People walking with others (husband & wife, family group) must go into a single file.
  • Try to avoid setting up games on sidewalks. I know sidewalk chalk is very popular, but you are forcing others to avoid long stretches of a public area. 
  • Try not to linger at bottlenecks. If you need to stop to do something, move away to an open area.
  • Unless you are under the age of 7, all cyclists must get off the sidewalks.

Sidewalks in cities where you can’t quickly whip across the road.

  • Single file is the rule. 
  • Walk as close to the edges of the sidewalk as possible. At very narrow points, the person on the outside edge is the one to step into the road—when safe. If this isn’t possible, the person closest to the building must duck into a doorway.
  • Be ready to pause. If you both keep bouncing around trying to figure out who goes where you will quickly become annoyed. Be prepared to slow down and figure out how you can make this work. 
  • Stay off your phone! Keep your eyes up and be prepared to weave your way around people.

Use hand gestures—no, not those ones!

As you approach another person, if you are happy to cross the road or move out the way, just indicate your intention so they can stay where they are. Masks are blurring our usual facial expressions, and muffling our voices, go back to basic gestures to convey your message. It will save us all that awkward dance when you both hop back and forth.

Say or nod, thank you.

When someone shows you the courtesy of moving out of your way, thank them with a word or nod of the head. 


Drivers—slow down! Expect people to dart and dodge in front of you. They are trying to get away from the coughing person in their path & may see dashing across the road as less of a threat than the potential virus-carrier. Fewer cars on roads does not mean you can speed.

Homeowners/property owners

Expect people to walk over your grass or on your private land. If the only way they can put six-foot between them and another person is by walking on your private property, you need to accept it as your part in winning this fight. 

In supermarkets

Again, I won’t go over the obvious, mask/gloves, etc. rules—we all know these by now.

  • Shop alone.
  • If the store has one-way arrows, follow them.
  • Do not dawdle. If you don’t know what yogurt you want, stand well back and peruse the shelves until you have decided.
  • Do not pick up anything unless you plan to buy it. Yes, we all love to press the avo’s, but those days are over.

I believe our new normal, the one with masks and social distancing will be with us for a while. The sooner we all agree upon the rules, the sooner we can move forward into our new world.

Please leave your suggestions in comments.

2 Comments on “It Is Time for Some New Social Manners Guidelines.

  1. When buying loose avos or other similar fruit / vegetables, I take the plastic bag supplied for the avo, put my hand inside the bag, then use the bag as a glove so that I can feel various avos. Once I have chosen the avo I want, I hold onto it, and then turn the “glove bag” inside it out, so that the avo is inside the bag.

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