.Okay is Eh’ Okay.

What’s grinding your gears these days? Is it that you feel you look like Bruce Vilanch and don’t feel hot anymore? For those of you who don’t know who he is and are too lazy to google it, just picture an owl wearing a blond wig. Is it the lady impressing her fingerprints on every apple at the grocery store? Or the mask that conceals your deeply felt facial reactions?

For this post, I added some most pressing reader’s questions that popped up in my email account. Imposing my own etiquette framework on any stranger these days is a gamble and not necessarily one I would encourage. My first suggestion is to find a way to maintain a well of patience during this time. A virtue, sure, but I think patience is actually a skill which can (eventually) bear fruit in all compartments of life, and what better time to refine it than now? Wait, do I write an etiquette column or a horoscope?

If you live in a place where interacting with strangers is commonplace, the most polite solutions seem to be reframing this as an educational opportunity. Rather than asking someone to pick up the pace, I can teach them my tricks for selecting ripe produce and those apples from six feet away. Can you assume the role of a kind stranger, even if your motive may be ulterior? Either the slow-shopper will be appreciative of my generosity of spirit, or they will look for the quickest way to exit this social interaction and take those f***ing apples and get out of my way.

Question: When it comes to shaking peoples’ hands and greetings in work environments, what will we be expected to do? – Handshakeaddict

Dear Handshakeaddict,

The handshake has gone into retirement for the foreseeable future, and I cannot envision an elbow bump performed in a professional setting. Is this an unpopular opinion? Hey, I am Team “Firm-Handshake”. It is my opinion that a succinct, friendly wave will have to sub in for the meantime. Instinctively, most people will follow this with a self-conscious shrug that says, “I am sorry I have to wave at you from six feet away or six feet under.”

Question: Can I have my breakfast at Microsoft Teams or Zoom meetings? – Wearingashirtbutnakedotherwise

Dear Wearingashirtbutnakedotherwise,

Sadly, no. Not cool. Coffee, yes! Nothing has proven the truth in the saying “too much of a good thing” like video get-togethers or mandatory online meetings. While face-to-face time is just awesome, there should never be more than four screens allowed in one conversation. Or no screen and mic on mute. Sadly, not everyone abides by this rule I have unofficially set, so here we are. Maybe, just mute your mic just in time before your kids scream in the back or you say out loud to your partner what you really think about this meeting. And put on pants because you just never know.

Question: As a smiler, I am feeling anxious about how to convey politeness (or any emotion actually) through a mask. Especially when interacting with cashiers, I want to know the best way to let them know I am appreciative, without removing my mask. – Annoyed

Dear Annoyed,

my inclination is that we now have to use language and tone of voice to compensate for what is concealed when wearing a mask. This means being more vocal than usual, for some people, and practicing over-communicating until the correction feels like second nature. In the recent instances when I found wearing a mask to be a social roadblock, I found myself articulating things like, “I just smiled, sorry, I forgot you cannot see it, ” when I realized I might be coming off as cold, arrogant or angry. Adjusting your overall posture and body language are certainly valid ways to communicate friendliness, but I find them more difficult to control than speech.

Question: I find I am more extroverted than I ever realised and craving whatever social time I can get, but I worry about putting something extra on friends who aren’t feeling the same way and are finding it difficult to socialize right now. What do I do? – Constantworrier

Dear Constantworrier,

What a conscientious question. In this scenario, I recommend taking cues from a tennis pro, and feeding the ball into your friends’ courts (30-15). You can send them an open-ended invitation to talk for example. I feel pretty confident that they will take you up on that offer, now or in three weeks. If you have enough of these tennis balls thrown up in the air at once, your social calendar will fill up in no time.

Question: How do you maintain relationships with some “special” people you work with? – SpontaneousInteractions

Dear SpontaneousInteractions,

just send this:

Question: How do I last-minute cancel virtual plans when everyone knows I have nowhere to be and nothing to do? – FlakyFranklin

Dear FlakyFranklin,

I think we should avoid last-minute cancellations to the best of our abilities. I feel that I cannot suggest ways to politely cancel fast-approaching plans. Last-minute-cancellation should be reserved for only the most necessary situations like your child is sick, something at home went unexpectedly haywire and you are in tears because the sauce for your pasta did not turn out the way you wanted it. Consider your plans before you set them in stone, judging them against the criteria of how you anticipate you will feel when you hear the ping of the calendar notification 15 minutes before the start time.

Question: I have been baking bread for the last couple of weeks. Do you have a sourdough recipe that is bulletproof? – BreadforPresident

Dear BreadforPresident,

It seems that baking bread is a consistent activity in this Corona-madness. In Vienna, there was no yeast available in stores for days. But who cares? Who needs bread? Who needs to bake bread? Okay, baking bread opens you to a world of opportunities like fancy-ass toasts or sandwiches. But what is this obsession with baking bread? Check out this recipe.

Okay? Because Okay is Eh’ Okay.

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