Guest Commentary: Please mind your manners


OKEECHOBEE — When we were young, our parents taught us to mind our manners. We were taught to say “please” and “thank you.” You didn’t take the last of any food item on the table unless you were sure no one else wanted it first. You always cleaned your plate. You pretended you liked what you were served. You thanked your hostess for the meal.

When you met someone, you shook their hand, man or woman; it was the polite thing to do. You were taught to go to church and hug everyone you met. As you strolled through the aisles of the grocery stores, you smiled, nodded and often stopped to chat. It was the polite thing to do.

At church, the pastor tried to make sure he shook the hand of every parishioner, because if he didn’t, someone might think he liked them less than he liked the person whose hand he did shake. In some churches, the members hugged each other or even kissed each other on the cheek.

You were taught to keep your voices down and stand close enough to hear the other person but not so close that you intruded on their personal space.

Because of COVID-19, we have had to totally rethink what minding our manners means today. It is no longer considered good manners to shake someone’s hand, hug them or heaven forbid, kiss them on the cheek when you see them. Not only are we not to touch anyone, we are not supposed to get anywhere near them, which makes talking to them difficult. It’s hard to have a meaningful conversation when you have to shout across a distance of 6 feet.

In the grocery store, you do not stop to chat, because you have no idea if your friends are there or not. First, you have no idea who is under those masks. Second, you are too busy looking at the floor to make sure you are going in the right direction to notice who is around you. Third, you are afraid if you look at anyone the virus will somehow jump from them to you, so you just scurry through the store quickly and get out.

It is very difficult for the former huggers of the world to suddenly be told they cannot hug anyone. They have a lost look on their faces. You can see them just itching to run at each friend as they see them walk in the door and then the sadness as they realize they can’t do that anymore.

There are some people who are actually happy about the social distancing. They never liked to be touched in the first place and consider themselves hermits, so for them, this is their time to shine.

Most of us, though, will be glad when we can hug our moms and dads and grandbabies and friends again. But until that day, mind your manners, and please don’t shake anyone’s hand.