Waiting is not a talent the human species has developed in its evolution. Other animals of prey can be observed, crouched or perched, waiting for their next opportunity, for hours. We humans start honking if the car in front of us doesn’t lunge forward within seconds after a light turns green. So, the waiting room is a special kind of torture we impose on ourselves – an unhappy necessity to be survived. The least we can do for ourselves (besides bringing along something to read) is to survive with our health intact.
For adult humans, who have left the cramped confines of classrooms behind and who guard themselves from the proximity of other humans in the workplace with cubicle walls, the waiting room may be the primary danger zone for contagion outside our own homes. Twenty people, in a ten by twenty room, with chairs facing each other at a distance of only a few feet – it’s an optimum travel space for microbes. If you’re in a waiting room to see a doctor, the odds for microbial transmission skyrocket. But even in the DMV, the barber shop, the beauty salon, or the optometrist, the odds are sufficient to warrant caution. Proactive caution.
It is not unreasonable to consider wearing a surgical mask in the waiting room, especially if it is a waiting room for a medical facility. You’re not there to make a fashion statement or be recognized by friends passing through, so why not provide yourself this bi-directional prophylaxis? Your cough, sneeze, yawn or mere breath will not pass your microbes beyond your mask to the airspace and waiting surfaces – or more or less directly to your fellow occupants of the waiting room. In turn, their transmitted microbes will be stopped at the surface of the mask. The mask is a commonplace in other countries (partially due to air quality, but also due to general health consciousness), and is worthy of consideration and use here as well.
Not ready to go that far? At least be sure to cover your own sneezes, coughs, and yawns with a tissue or the crook of your elbow. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use it frequently – particularly after hand contact with any foreign object. Encourage the host for your waiting room experience to provide a hand sanitizer station, if they do not already. Mention the use and contagion-resistant effects of Safehandles while you’re at it. Avoid entering your fellow waiters’ personal space and boldly defend your own. Proximity has a direct proportional effect on likelihood of microbe transmission through the simple acts of breathing and talking. Explain, if appropriate, that you’re not anti-social, just anti-microbial. That book you brought to read? Looking down at it or holding it up in front of you to read isn’t on a par with a surgical mask, but every little bit helps.