Precautionary Shoegazing: Our 2020 in Pandemic Floor Decals

Donut Shop social distancing floor decal.

Can’t remember which donut shop in Avon has this decal. We visited three of them in 2020.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: pandemic! Pandemic! PANDEMIC!

Among the 6,000 things we hated doing differently for our own safety in 2020, one of the easiest yet weirdest was going into businesses to buy whatever, approaching the register, and having to take standing lessons from social-distancing floor decals. Because in a world where those infected with the coronavirus could unknowingly kill innocent bystanders with their breath like a clumsy ninja Godzilla, some folks were poor judges of distance and/or medical hygiene. As always, in a pandemic or otherwise, some people need practical advice.

If you absolutely, positively had to step away from your home, or if it wasn’t mandatory but you did it anyway, leaving large gaps between you and other paying customers was an integral part of the calculated risk process. That and masks working in tandem, mind you, but all the “Please wear a mask, we are begging you, stop being a stubborn schmuck” signs were often handmade and rarely showed creativity. (We’ve posted a few over the past nine months, but not enough for a dedicated gallery.) Floor decals, on the other hand, needed to be made of sturdier stuff — able to resist thousands of steps per day, not to mention frequent sweeping and mopping (if every proprietor were as fanatical about “enhanced cleaning” measures as they claimed in their groveling email essays, anyway). Most companies likely figured if they were spending good money on safety stickers that would need to remain in place over the next nine to ninety-nine months, then why not class ’em up and make them look good?

My wife did nearly all our shopping from March onward, but I ran quick errands a handful of times. And I mean quick. For most trips I planned my purchases, I got in, got the goods, and got out — very little free-range browsing or otherwise deviating from the plan. Bada-bing, bada-boom, learn from a professional, kid. While cashiers stood for hours behind millimeters of newly tacked-on Plexiglas and rang up products brought before them by shoppers in various levels of contamination and denial, every so often I’d amuse myself by taking a photo of the warning decals that shouted at me to back away from the person in front of me.

Lowes social distancing floor decal.

The first one I saw, at Lowe’s. No frills, just the blunt basics, exactly what you’d expect from a manly hardware store.

social distancing floor decal.

Can;t remember if this was Walmart or Kroger or maybe a Lowe’s upgrade months later. Note the attempt at rallying the community spirit and the row of old-fashioned white-guy dance steps.[UPDATED 1/27/2021: This was at Fresh Thyme. I Stopped there today for odds-‘n’-ends and realized the oversight.]

Rise n Roll Bakery social distancing floor decal.

Rise n Roll Bakery runs a “donut” pun in a different direction.

social distancing floor decal.

Rise n Roll with another pun that would make Ralph Wiggum giggle.

Bed Bath & Beyond social distancing floor decal.

Bed Bath & Beyond will not have fun years from now trying to remove crusty adhesive from their beautiful hardwood floor.

Mall social distancing floor decal.

Some businesses took an extra step (no pun intended) and tried controlling the flow of walking, designating certain aisles and halls as one-way only. Anne tells me grocery shoppers mostly scoffed at such attempts. As I found at Circle Centre Mall, adherence was pretty easy when the place was totally deserted.

USPS social distancing floor decal.

“Y’know you could have done some of this at home, right?” says our local post office’s floor as it plugs their online capabilities in the USPS’ lousiest year of customer service in decades.

Barnes & Noble social distancing floor decal.

Barnes & Noble subliminally reminds patrons they can enjoy reading their purchases while they’re waiting in a line that stretches half the store’s length during the holidays.

social distancing floor decal.

Our favorite AMC theater adds bits of pleasantry because they really, really can’t afford to upset anyone right now.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t disagree with the concept. No competent store manager wants to start carving body-count stick figures into their front doors. They have to do something to protect other humans out of kindness and to protect the company from liability if vindictive lawmakers decide it should come to that. But once the vaccines have been 100% given out by around 2027 or so based on current pace, the necessary distancing fad and its designer appliques will be one of many aspects we look back on, shake our heads at, and not miss one bit.

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