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The Unreliable Guide to…Bridging the Social Distance

By Nat Shepherd on May 27, 2020 in Satire

ag-a-doo-doo-doo… Photo: Elle Bow

If you look up synonyms of the word ‘distance’ you get some rather bleak results: coldness, aloofness, detachment, reserve, remoteness, void. No wonder going to Woolies is about as much fun as being invited to a party full of ex-lovers you treated badly. Obeying that 1.5 metre distancing law seems to have encouraged people to behave like Londoners on a tube train: no eye contact, no conversation and don’t you even think about smiling. If we all have to don masks, as is currently the law in Italy and New York, then it’s only going to get worse. But never fear! The Unreliable Guide has some tips and tricks to help you bridge that social distance without breaking any rules.

Smiling is contagious – in a good way
Forget the idea that social distancing means you have to pretend other people don’t exist. If you buy into that, going to the shops will feel even more like going to war than it does already. Next time you go out, start smiling at random strangers. Pretend it’s the 1950s and wave at small children. Remember, we’re working together on this and the only way we’re going to get through it is if we emotionally support each other. Smiling costs nothing and it means a great deal, especially if you smile at someone who hasn’t had contact with another human being for a week. You might just make their day.

Chat to your neighbour over the fence
How well do you know your neighbours? Chances are you’ve hardly met most of them. Normally, we’re all so busy, dashing here and there, that as soon as we get home the only thing we want to do is pour a glass of something alcoholic and switch on Netflix. But now – for better or worse depending on your neighbours – you can actually get to know these people. Start now. If you see them in their yard, say hello over the fence. Ask them how they’re doing. If you haven’t seen them in a while, put a note through their door and ask if they’re ok. If you’re going to the shops, offer to pick up some bits for them. This connectivity is how communities have always thrived and survived. We’ve been losing it over the last few decades, so take this time to forge new bonds and make some friends.

Go one further and hold a lockdown-friendly street party
Check with your local council that they don’t disapprove of this (some are all for it, others not so much) but once you’ve got the green light all you need is a driveway, food and drink and some willing neighbours. Decide on a day of the week, let everyone know the time, pull out the camping table or a picnic rug and sit in your driveway, enjoying some food or a glass of wine. People can walk by and say hello, from a distance. You can call across the street and ask people what they’re eating. The kids can wave at each other, from a distance, and do chalk drawings. Everyone is outside, no one is staring at a screen and wondering when the hell this is all going to be over.

Finally, The Unreliable Guide suggests we forget the term ‘social distancing’ and call it ‘social solidarity’. When we’re keeping those 1.5 meters apart we are sacrificing our individual desires for the benefit of the group. We are united in our separation and The Unreliable Guide thinks that is a beautiful thing.

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