Finding a COVID-19 Careful and Empathetic Way to Interact With Each Other

By Tami Sulistyo
May 5th, 2020

I ordered margarita mix and tequila delivered to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with build your own tacos at home tonight. When I answered the door, the delivery man asked to see my driver’s license.

In these COVID-19 days, I anticipated we would keep to social distance. In my mind he would look at my license from afar, but he asked for it. If I had it to do over again I would have said no, could he please just look at it without touching it. However, in the moment I handed it over.

I have never had liquor delivered before so this was new to me. I only opened the outer glass door enough to stick my hand out. As I waited, the first thing I noticed was that he looked like a really nice person. Next my eyes traveled to his hands holding my license. I could tell my facial expression changed instantly to one of disgust, as I imagined he was spreading infectious germs all over it that could be transferred to me.

Then I felt guilty for looking at him as if he was a walking disease-spreading machine when literally a moment earlier I had observed that he seemed to be a genuinely pleasant person. I was grateful to him for shopping and delivering items to me but my nonverbal communication conveyed the opposite.

Sure I think it would have been fair to have handled looking at the license from afar instead, but I could clearly tell he was focused on trying to do a good job. He did not deserve the horrified glance I gave him, and I should have explained myself instead of just thanking him so that he would know that my grossed out reaction was one hundred percent about COVID-19, not about him as a person. I feel bad for that. At the time I was too concentrated on getting the license quickly to the sink and disinfecting it and my hands. To my delivery man, thank you for your service and I’m sorry and please don’t ask to hold my license next time because I won’t give it to you.

So here’s the thing. When we transition out of shelter in place to being able to gather in small groups at a social distance, there will be awkward moments we need to navigate. Like when someone gets closer to us than we are comfortable with, or when we forget and try to shake hands with someone.

What I learned today was that I need to get better at saying what’s on my mind in the moment, in a respectful way, to minimize being misinterpreted. And at the same time, I need to watch my nonverbal communication so I don’t offend people, most importantly by remembering that most people are simply trying their best to figure out a new way of being together.

Pictures are uploaded from google images – grocery delivery

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