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Personal pods, ‘bumper tables’ & pool noodle hats? Inventive ‘social distancing’ enforcers ensure New Normal is anything but

Personal pods, ‘bumper tables’ & pool noodle hats? Inventive ‘social distancing’ enforcers ensure New Normal is anything but

As populations emerge from Covid-19 lockdown, businesses are scrambling to comply with the onerous social-distancing regulations still in place, deploying everything from repurposed pool noodles to hula hoops to keep people apart.

Schools and ‘non-essential’ businesses like restaurants and bars are preparing to reopen after lengthy lockdowns, but many governments are insisting on the need for continued “social distancing” – keeping people six feet apart at all times to prevent the spread of Covid-19. After months all but trapped in their homes, many people want nothing more than human contact. How to prevent them from sneaking in a peck on the cheek or a friendly hug?

Cafe Rothe in Schwerin, Germany has outfitted patrons with pool-noodle hats – lightweight straw fedoras topped with a pair of crossed foam noodles that prevent undesirable closeness. They’re floppy enough not to do any damage should someone get too close, but ungainly enough to prevent anyone accidentally thinking life has returned to normal.

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The bizarre constructs are certainly distinctive, but it’s clear from the video that it’s too easy for people wearing them to hug, or hold hands, or otherwise engage in physical closeness. Fish Tales Bar & Grill in Ocean City, Maryland seems to have solved that problem with its “bumper tables” – waist-high rubber inner-tubes on wheels with a hole in the middle for the customer to insert their body.

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While the restaurant is not permitted to accept dine-in customers yet, staff showed off the ungainly constructs over the weekend, walking the freshly-made contraptions off the truck in one of the world’s more unusual fashion shows. The events company that designed the tables claims they’ve had a lot of interest from other restaurants in the area.

Parks are getting in on the social-distancing enforcement too. After complaints about crowding in several New York City parks, the owners of Brooklyn’s Domino Park spray-painted circles on the grass, giving sunbathers recovering from cabin fever plenty of comforting rules to follow even in the great outdoors. The “human parking spots” allow plenty of space to move around, or even have a picnic with a few friends, though they’re far enough apart to discourage interaction between neighboring circles. Who said no man is an island?!

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had complained about the park’s popularity, but his hands were tied after ordering police to shift their enforcement priorities to breaking up “large groups” and end the targeting of mask-free individuals and small gatherings not social distancing. The order came after several shocking videos emerged showing (usually un-masked) cops beating up alleged social distancing violators. But while Domino solved de Blasio’s dilemma for him, the mayor has already hinted that New York’s beaches will remain closed all summer, even as New Yorkers disregard his warnings to frolic in the waves amid the warming weather. What’s next – circles on the sand?

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It isn’t just the adults who get to experience the joys of carefully-apportioned space: children at Holywell Village First School in Northumberland, UK, are set to play in isolated “bubbles” delineated by hula hoops when they return to school next month. Desk areas, too, are taped off, lest children accidentally come into contact with one another.

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As if the notion of forcing children to “play” in total isolation wasn’t disturbing enough, the school also announced (in a since-deleted Facebook post) that pupils would be limited to pre-set “time slots” for using the bathroom, and if they have to ‘go’ outside their slot, they’re out of luck. Kids will be expected to clean or change themselves if they get a cut or scrape – or if they wet themselves from being forced to hold it in until their next scheduled bathroom break. Shocked parents shared the post thousands of times, likening the prodigious list of rules to “prison” and warning the regulations would “do some kind of mental damage,” before the school finally removed the post.

And for those unwilling to risk the potentially sloppy rule-following of others, a Toronto-based company has devised a sort of portable hood – about the size and shape of a baby’s car seat – to be worn over the head. A fog-proof plastic shield in the front provides a window onto the world you’re hiding from, and it supposedly filters all pathogens, allergens and air pollutants for a full 12 hours before needing a battery charge. Weighing in at 2.7 pounds, the wearer gets the workout they didn’t know they needed.

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(Does it come with the hours of therapy someone willing to wear one of these things clearly requires?)

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The futuristic face-hood isn’t on the market yet, but anyone who wants to practice being a “pod person” can pick up one of these clear plastic bubble suits. Carry your loneliness with you wherever you go! Isn’t the future great?

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We could have had flying cars. Instead, we got personal isolation pods.

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Personal pods, ‘bumper tables’ & pool noodle hats? Inventive ‘social distancing’ enforcers ensure New Normal is anything but

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