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Socializing under quarantine: What to say when you don’t know what to say…

“I send you greetings from afar.” That is the opening salvo I have thought of to try to engage neighbors and unsuspecting strangers I encounter at the park during the current state of crisis and stay-at-home orders.

Health advisers and our government are telling us to stay in our homes and to avoid physical contact with other people. And, I am trying, dutifully, to do my part. Though, human beings are social creatures. It is so hard to go through the day with my only contact being my husband (who is often working from home) and my two-year-old.

In the past, at the supermarket, I might smile at someone who crossed my path. Or, I might even start a conversation with someone who was buying the same odd brand of bread as myself. Now, as soon as I encounter another shopper, there are so many questions and fears running through my mind, I often forget to even smile. How am I supposed to figure out the dance of which way to step aside, when I am thinking about if they could be sick, if they think I might be sick, if I should have put brighter lipstick on to look healthy and put people at ease, and how am I ever going to suppress this cough?

When I take my daughter for a walk in our neighborhood, I have similar feelings, sometimes made more awkward by the fact that there are some people who you kind of know and usually stop to chat with. Is it safe to talk now? How will they know that you are not going to foolheartedly walk up to the beginning of their driveway (much closer than 6 feet away from them) like you have in the past?

On neighborhood walks, and at walks through the park, I started to notice a lot of feelings when I saw someone approaching me. One feeling is just desperation to connect and to chat with another human being. Another feelings is not wanting to frighten that other person by taking a step in his or her direction. How will she know, that I know, and that I respect the fact, that I have to stay 6 feet away?

So, as I encountered people, I started to feel words well up in me, and an urgency to shout to them. It is like two boats passing in quiet waters. You want to acknowledge their presence and to see if they want to exchange pleasantries. The words I felt I needed were simple words, to be shouted out in a hopeful manner. I was longing to say something between “Land Ho” and the words of an Easter sermon I heard, describing the back and forth call of Christians of old at Easter.

So, I tried to see if I could figure out these words and if they could be a useful, new, social contract for people during the quarantine. When you are walking around at the supermarket, or your block, or a park, you would call out to someone from 7 feet away (a hint, that you know you have to stay far away): “I send you greetings from afar”. And, the person, showing that they, too, are interested in pleasantries – and that they, too, understand the 6 foot social distancing rule and promise not to get too close to you – could shout back, “I thank you and accept from a distance…” followed by the start of a shouted conversation.

Can you picture it? Could you do it? Or, maybe the words need some refining before being put into general use…

I send you greetings from afar!

I thank you and accept from a distance!


To me, it sounds like the start of the kind of warm, friendly exchange that we need more of during quarantine. When I posted my idea to FaceBook, a friend’s adult son said it sounded like the Vulcan salutation: “Live long and prosper” which can be followed by the answer, “Peace and long life.” I would not mind people going around saying those words, either. I would just enjoy something to say to ease the tension of life under quarantine and to reach out to the other people stuck here in it with me.


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