My roommate went on a date during coronavirus, violating our agreement to self-quarantine together. Am I wrong to be angry?
Etiquette tips on how to interact in today’s world. Have a question for Mister Manners? Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org and look for replies in the coming weeks.
Q: During this period of quarantine, my best friend and I are both working from home. As roommates, we made a pact to keep isolated from others, which allowed us to enjoy the activities we partake in together — from cooking to board games. Last week, after disappearing for a few hours, she came home late looking all glam, and admitted she’d been out on a date. I was stunned she had violated our agreement. Am I wrong to be angry?
A: People across the world are dreaming of a return to normal social interactions right now. For someone single, the chance for romantic attention could be tough to pass up. And when the biggest daily wardrobe decision many Americans are making is whether their t-shirts clash with their sweatpants, I understand her desire to be glamorous and forget about the pandemic for a spell.
By going behind your back, however, your roomie put her dating life ahead of your well-being. No matter how slim the chances of her falling ill might seem, she disregarded the potential health risks to you and others. She has also put your friendship in jeopardy.
That’s where things get complicated. I’m surmising neither of you have a Plan B for living arrangements over the next two weeks — let alone the next few months. Chances are, you’ll be coexisting in the same space for a while, and at least until social distancing restrictions begin to ease.
For the sake of under-same-roof harmony, I urge you to take the high road. (And precautions, too.) A stern but rational conversation will serve you way better than a livid outburst. Ensure she knows how you feel and why. Then set some new ground rules. Keep physically distant from one another to the extent possible, at least until a prospective incubation period has passed. Use the kitchen at different times, and she should be extra-meticulous about cleaning surfaces such as doorknobs and counters. You should also forego jigsaw puzzles and Jenga marathons until it’s clear she is not carrying the virus.
Perhaps most important of all, until life eases back to normal, as long as you’re sharing the same space, you get veto power on a second date for these two lovebirds.
Q: I am so tired of going to the store and encountering other customers not wearing masks. Is it okay for me to approach them and — in no uncertain terms — share my opinion?
A: And by approaching them, potentially put yourself at risk? This is a battle I advise you avoid. There are many reasons someone may not be wearing a mask—from the benign (“the elastic snapped”) to the less so (“I don’t want to smudge my makeup”). Whatever their rationale, with our world upended and every other customer in the store looking like an extra from The Great Train Robbery, these careless shoppers cannot claim to be unaware of state and local restrictions.
It is up to the store to police its patrons — not you. If you witness another customer doing anything seriously reckless, speak with a store manager. Otherwise, lead by example and simply keep your distance.
Mister Manners, Thomas P. Farley, is a nationally regarded expert who appears regularly in the media to discuss modern-day etiquette dilemmas — from how to split a check fairly to how to get a word in edgewise. Follow Thomas on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @MisterManners. And for more insights, listen to his brand-new podcast, “What Manners Most,” which will be focused exclusively on Coronavirus-related etiquette for the foreseeable future.