Ask Aunty Pam
Ask Aunty Pam
Dear Aunty Pam,
I’m sort of hoping that my neighbors see this column to save me from having to confront them!
The issue is that my husband and I take social distancing very seriously. My mother lives with us and she has A-fib and we are doing everything we can to create a safe environment for her and for us. We wash our hands thoroughly throughout the day and when we go grocery shopping, we wear masks, use hand sanitizer and wipe off everything we buy with disinfectant before storing.
The problem is our neighbors, whom we dearly love.
We have spent a lot of time with them in the past, going out to eat, back yard barbecues, that sort of thing. They’re an older couple, in their 70s, with no children, so I know they miss doing things together. But they keep finding excuses to come over, ring the doorbell and drop off cookies, or have a chat, and they stand far too close when they do so.
To try and remedy this, my husband suggested we take chairs outside and have a glass of wine ’together,’ with them in their yard, and us in our yard, separated by a good 20’.
Things started out fine, then they would get up and come over to show us something funny on their phone, and when I said, ‘Bob, we need to remain 6 feet apart,’ he just laughed and said, ’Now, don’t you think you’re taking this all a little to the extreme? This whole thing has been overblown; you’re not going to catch any virus.’
Now they’re back to ringing the doorbell to bring us our mail, or a package they saw on the porch. What can we do?? I don’t want to offend them, but how do we make it clear to them they have to stop this?
Actually, Aunty Pam doesn’t think you’re being paranoid, I think you’re showing common sense towards a lethal virus that hasn’t been contained, and ‘Bob’ should know that even if anyone isn’t showing symptoms, they could indeed have and pass the virus on to others. And the fact that he pooh-poohs its severity leads me to assume he’s probably not wearing a mask when he goes out to the grocery store, or sanitizing his hands after pumping gas, or taking any of the safe steps you’ve been taking when you return home.
I would remind Bob that Boris Johnson damned near died of Covid-19 after dismissing its severity and has admitted that in an address to the English public. But the bigger picture going on is that you’ve strived to be careful for your family and Bob isn’t respecting this and that’s just not on. While nobody wants to have a confrontation with a beloved friend or neighbor, the fact is that you’re being forced into one by having your request dismissed by him.
The truth is your best friend here, with, my weapon of choice, a goofy accent to make it less offensive, while getting your point across. I learned that doing stand up comedy. If I had a particularly prolific heckler, turning on the southern accent to the point that it was dripping sweet tea while being perfectly capable of knifing them beneath the ribcage, proved very effective when I then asked, “Did you leave Granny in the truck, Jethro? Somebody needs to teach you some manners!” You get my drift.
So, the next time Bob comes bounding over with your mail, like a Springer Spaniel, just don’t answer the door. Phone him, instead, with or without an accent, and say, “Bob, we appreciate you picking up the mail and we miss hanging out with you like we used to, but we are observing strict health guidelines for us, for my mom, and for YOU.” And if he cuts in to say otherwise, you just have to put the hammer down. On his head. “Bob, here’s the deal. We respect your decision not to follow safety guidelines. But you’re not respecting our decision to follow them. We don’t like this anymore than you do, but you have to respect our decision and not come within several feet of us until this thing is all over.”
We also have to remember that Bob and Mrs Bob are probably feeling pretty lonely, so may I suggest you and the Bobs do a Zoom Saturday evening cocktail hour? If they don’t know how to do it, you can send them the invitational link through email after you’ve downloaded it, and then there they are, live and in color, on your laptop screen! Then you can all have a jolly good natter and catch up on everyone’s lives without Bob shoving his petri-dish of a phone in your face, showing you that video of the squirrel being catapulted out of the bird feeder.