What helps you feel safe about a place?

I’ve been thinking on and off about this recently, because it’s become such a crucial factor in all our own lives. All of us are making a thousand micro-decisions everyday about things we used to do unconsciously. Stop for coffee. Get gas. Go to work. Send in a show entry. Visit friends and family.

One of the hardest things has been that we are all of us making these decisions based on highly individualized factors. We have to take into account our own personal concerns (based on both our physical and mental health for the day), our immediate communities (town, county) and larger communities (state and ultimately country). We have to maintain a mental database of all the different factors about what used to be somewhat homogenized experiences.

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Summer nights.

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For example: which grocery store do I visit? For me, there are four places that, pre-COVID, I used to visit with some regularity. Each offered a different angle on products, different sales, and each one had at least one item that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I’d make decisions each week based on what I needed, wanted, where I was working or traveling on a given day, and just…go buy the groceries.

Now, I only go to two of them, and I plan my visits carefully. Standard shopping is done at only one store because I know people that work there and trust them, have observed good behavior from the majority of employees (around masks, cleaning, distancing, etc.), have gone often enough to know what times are less busy, and have observed a rate higher than 90% of mask-wearing among customers. The other store I go to is the co-op, which has even higher standards on all of those things, but is further away and was always an occasional visit; now that I am in that neighboring town less due to working from home, I go maybe once a month.

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Struggling lately. This helps.

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There are some things that I feel pretty darn safe about doing (going to the barn, going into my office) because I am either almost always alone or the rules are very firm and well-observed by everyone involved. There are other places I’ve declared no-go zones (a few downtown stores, any kind of dining). There are places I have to go but make me uncomfortable the whole time. (Zero employee mask usage at the tile place, but I had to have a shower, so…)

What are factors that make you feel safe or unsafe in a place? I’m talking a bit less about “well, whatever the local/state/national government has required” and more about the intangibles of places that work to create a safe and welcoming space within COVID structures. (An example: our state rules on gyms are a good base, but my CrossFit gym goes waaaaaaaay above and beyond, and verbally emphasizes the rules repeatedly during workouts, coaches set an example in cleaning and wearing masks, cleaning stuff is readily available without having to ask for it, all communications language is upbeat but firm about what they’re doing.)

Is there something your barn or a show venue has done that has made you feel more confident, or less confident? I’d be curious in building a list of “best practices” as it were. I’ll add my own list in the comments.

2 thoughts on “What helps you feel safe about a place?

  1. It’s such a rolling target here. My county was doing SO WELL for a while keeping cases down, and then people got super lax and now it’s getting scary. I had been mostly limiting myself to one grocery store that I love, but I’m avoiding it now because after Walmart instituted a nationwide mask mandate for their stores, all the uneducated hicks in my county decided to boycott Walmart and come to my nice quiet grocery store with their non-mask wearing selves… ugh 😦 I felt pretty safe making weekly runs into my office for my mail throughout the first part of the pandemic, but the last few times I was there I was unpleasantly surprised by the lack of masks, and I’m still getting regular notifications about positive cases in the building, sooooo…. We’ve been out to eat ONCE since March, and it was at a restaurant that was very clearly taking social distancing and disinfecting very seriously, but once cases started spiking again we stopped even thinking about going out for food. Thankfully with my horses at home, I never have to make contact with people at the barn, and I had been out of the show scene for a few years anyway (particularly after construction) so at least I don’t feel like I’m missing much by avoiding that as well.


  2. The numbers are rising in my region, in part because of the sheer population density, but also because so many people have gone on vacation to hotspots. And we have beaches, where bars were open…

    That said, Maryland has had a mask mandate since March and people are really good about following it: they are accustomed by now. Because it is enforceable by the police here, store employees can ask customers to wear masks knowing that they can rely on the police to defend them if necessary. Both Carlos and I have observed 100% compliance in our local stores, including Walmart. Employees will single out the odd person who tries to wear the mask under their nose and make them put it on correctly. Outside it’s a different story, but the mask mandate is only for indoors here, or in areas where it is difficult to maintain social distance. In our downtown area on the weekends, it’s not uncommon to see 50-75% of people wearing masks outdoors when it’s crowded on the sidewalks. People not wearing masks will give one another a wide berth anyway; it’s become automatic. Generally I feel safe within my state, and within my known stores (Target, Walmart, Giant Eagle, the Petco next to our apartment, the stores in downtown.) Montgomery County, the county just south of us, had the highest numbers in the region for the virus, but it is also where mask compliance is highest: we go cycling there on some weekends and most people on foot are wearing masks, even runners. I wear a mask if we’re around other people while cycling, but leave it off if we’re on the trails alone. We tend to arrive stupid early to avoid the crowds anyway.

    Work is located in Northern Virginia, and it is a safe place. They have gone above and beyond CDC recommendations. Our company believes in science and is staying up to date on current research. It probably doesn’t hurt that the company is owned by a German woman. Masks throughout our shifts are a mandatory work requirement, and I’m probably not well-liked because I will be the first one to report people on other teams not following orders. Even if it’s doctors. It distresses me to see people I respect not complying: it completely alters my opinion of them. Fortunately, this does not happen on my team. We are still doing curbside appointments and for the most part our clients all wear masks.

    Otherwise, I’m afraid to walk into any store in Virginia. I go straight to work and return straight home after. It’s been the same thing with cycling: Carlos has been wanting to explore areas farther away with more trails, but the idea of driving into uncharted territory not knowing if rules are being followed to my standards there gives me pause. Trump country out in rural areas also terrifies me because of the stereotype involved: racism, anti-masking, potentially virus-carrying.

    The barn isn’t really a safe space for me. I go in, check on Gracie, and then leave. No one wears masks there. Carlos recently had to meet the vet for quarterly vaccines while I was at work (he was off) and him and our vet were the only ones in the entire barn wearing masks…and there were other people having her see their horses!

    We cancelled the CrossFit gym membership because they weren’t requiring masks indoors and had cut back significantly on time for cleaning between classes…they just added a kids club. It’s like they *want* their members to catch the virus…I don’t get it.

    Restaurants are also a no-go. Not even for eating outside. If a place is allowing people indoors, we won’t eat there. Which means we’ll only eat ice cream out: there are 3 local ice cream shops that only have curbside service. Those are the only places we’ve gone to recently.


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