diamond geezer

 Friday, June 18, 2021

Imagine if you will a 10-point scale of pandemic behaviours, from relaxed at one end to careful at the other.

I wonder where you are now. comments


In spring last year most of us were 8s, 9s and 10s, not least because the law said we had to be. But things are safer now, and looser, so most of us will be further to the left than we were before.

I'm not seeking to quantify precisely what a 7 means, nor what makes a 2 subtly different to a 3. Neither am I trying to define precisely what behaviours I'm talking about because this scale could be applied to all sorts of situations. Instead I'm particularly intrigued by the idea that, wherever you think you are on the scale, most other people are somewhere else.

Over the last fifteen months we've been bombarded with advice, rules and guidance on how to behave, backed up by a vast amount of evidence, opinion, common sense and hearsay. But we've all soaked up a different subset of information, and taken it on board to a very different extent, so that our ideas of optimum behaviour are wholly disparate.

Take washing your hands, for example. It's one of the first things the government advised us to do, merrily singing Happy Birthday twice as we headed to the sink after being outdoors. It's still top of the advice mantra 'Hands Face Space', and a lot of us are hardwired to sanitise more often than we ever did before. And yet handwashing actually comes from the influenza playbook, the first thing ministers reached for before they understood how Covid behaved. More recent evidence suggests the risk of passing on the virus by touch is insignificant compared to aerosol transmission so we may have been brainwashed into doing something intrinsically pointless. Well that's what I heard anyway, and you may have heard something completely different or disbelieved it or just gone along with what you were told... and is it any wonder we all have subtly different opinions on exactly the same thing?

Or take passing people in the street. Two metre distancing is another rule introduced early in the pandemic and reinforced by countless signs across the outdoor environment. Keeping away from others helped to keep us safe by avoiding any rogue breath, cough or sneeze invading our nostrils, as well as protecting them from us. And yet research suggests the chance of passing on the virus via a brief encounter outdoors is minimal, short of someone spluttering into your face at the crucial moment, or at least that's what I heard scientists had confirmed in that news article someone tweeted and the government have never specifically confirmed we're wasting our time. Again it's no surprise some of us still dodge out of the way and others walk straight past, because who knows precisely what body of information led us to our current behaviour?

I'm not really interested in your views on hand-washing or social avoidance. I'm even less interested in why you think you're right. But I am fascinated by the variety of behaviours across society at large, and how some people never stop to consider why others might act differently to them.


Wherever you are on this scale, on whatever aspect of pandemic caution, most of the population will be to your left or right. They've dipped into the same pool of information as you but seen different things, acted on different beliefs and drawn different conclusions. You might still be reticent to do something others do without worry, or you might have decided there's no risk in doing something others still feel they should avoid. It's how we are. There's no need to shake your head or sneer that others don't share your opinion on what correct behaviour should be.

If you're an 8 on masks it's pointless to get angry that some other people are a 2.
Had to use the tube on Saturday for the first time since forever, and - wow - not even a token attempt at social distancing, and less than half the people around us wearing masks.
And if you're a 2 on 'pavement dancing' best not be condescending that others are an 8.
Outdoor swervers and mask/visor wearers who pull self-righteous cats-bum faces when you dare to pass them are among the more annoying aspects of what has now become a national malaise of laziness and/or paranoia.
I'm particularly intrigued by the 0s, the minority who treat all guidance with diffidence or disregard. Some are just those who never pay any attention to others anyway, the kind of people who'd block a passageway with a wheelie suitcase without it ever crossing their mind someone might want to get past. Other 0s are perennial naysayers, mistrustful of government and unconvinced by experts, who see the less cockwombly in society as ignorant sheep. And some 0s have simply weighed up their selected evidence and decided it doesn't apply to them (I'm double jabbed, I'm fine), without considering that the rules might be there to protect others not themselves. comments

It doesn't help that the government has been deliberately vague on so many aspects of optimal behaviour. Instead of presenting agreed scientific evidence in crystal clear terms, for example the benefits of ventilation or the uselessness of visors, we get three word slogans and exhortations to use our common sense. If masks really should be an 8 and pavement dancing really is a 2, a press conference where this is explicitly stated would be more useful than another ministerial ego massage.

As lockdown inexorably eases and eventually there's no need to be a 7 or even a 3, remember that others may not be at the same point in their behavioural journey as you. They're not idiots, they've just come to a different conclusion, indeed evidentially they may be more on the ball than you are. Whatever your position on the continuum, a bit of self-awareness never went amiss.

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