Handwashing, Personal Space, and Other Seemingly Obvious Concepts

The last few weeks have sure taught us, meaning the people of the world, some tough lessons. I am sure your social media feeds are pointing those out regularly. No one can deny the vulnerability we have all felt by something we can’t even see. A germ. A virus. A contaminant.  Simple concepts such as handwashing and personal space have become a topic of imperative survival skills. I’m not quite sure when people ever quit following those rules anyway. It seems like common sense. I can remember being questioned so rigorously as a child by my mother on whether I had washed my hands after using the little girls’ room that I am still guilt ridden even as an adult if I ever think of skipping out on that step. Even today I check my kids’ hands to to see if they are damp after they go to the potty because they are sneaky critters that love cutting corners and I don’t have time for a bout of E. Coli poisoning. And as for personal space, have ATMs and church pews not taught us anything? No one, and I mean no one, ever moves to the center of the pew at church, leaving room for people to sit next to them at the end of the row. I know this first hand because I’m always the late mom coming in with crazy kids having the uncomfortable task of smooshing in next to someone else as they grumble and roll their eyes at my audacity. My friend Whitney hates the “close grocery line patrons” and hastily asked a lady that had crowded her in the checkout space if she minded crawling out of her purse.

We all know what it feels like to become panicky when our space has been violated. So why have these recently highlighted practices been so hard for most to comply with? My personal guess, is TIME.  We are all too busy for the seemingly daunting task of washing our hands because there’s typically no immediate threat, or at least not one we can directly link to anything negative. Until now. Now we are all extremely scared of a germ, a virus, something we can’t see and it finally matters. A lot.  And as for personal space violators…. that too, due to TIME. Or lack of it. Let’s face it we aren’t getting close to the person in the DMV line or the grocery line because we love them and want to hug them. No! We want to rush them. Which leads to our other recent social reality check… The beauty of slowing down!

Suddenly, slower paced things like sitting on the front porch or cooking a home cooked meal do not seem so archaic. We have been forced to remember how good it feels to not have the pressure of 100 after school activities, except for a good old neighborhood bike ride. We now remember what our porches look like without an Amazon box sitting on them. Sure, all of our modern luxuries are easy and accessible, but also tangible.

Before Covid-19, the closest “pandemic” type disease that our current population would have experienced would be cancer, in my opinion. It’s scary, potentially deadly, can affect any and all ages, no definite cure, has huge economic impacts, and most importantly is caused by cells we can’t see with the naked eye. The obvious difference between the two is contagiousness and personal impact. It’s so easy to see social media posts of friends, family, or even people you don’t know who have cancer and feel sympathy for them, but also a false sense of security because their situation and disease can’t be passed on to you directly. Covid-19, on the other hand, has leveled all of us to the same playing field at the same time which has had a direct impact on everyone’s daily routines from the POTUS down to the grocery store clerk. It has also united us all for a cause, a cure, an end to the spread of disease. I couldn’t help but start thinking today in my downtime at work (which is a new thing due to Covid-19) how cancer had united Lindsay, Suzanne, and myself similarly for a cause too several years ago. We dreamed of making a tiny difference in the world with a safe, clean, and fulfilling work space and haven for self care. For years we have had to answer questions from family, friends, colleagues, and strangers on why our concept was different? Why did it matter all that much? Can you really “catch something” from a pedicure? Can you really get sick from fumes? You can’t see the germs, toxins, or fumes, so they can’t hurt you, right? Well, I think we can now all agree on the answer to those questions.

Unfortunately until we as humans have been personally affected by something difficult and life threatening, it’s hard to understand or make it a priority. And while I hope that our world never has to suffer this type of tough love ever again anytime soon, I sure hope that the sickness, death, and fears of Covid-19 are not in vain and that simple hygiene, health awareness, and core family values are not soon forgotten.


Christy Harpring, Co-owner Sea Salt & Sugar