There are benefits to this pandemic, as there have been during many world crises. 

World War II, for instance, led to many new and ultimately beneficial inventions, including computers (thanks, Alan Turing) and jet planes (thanks, Germany). So too is the current pandemic leading to developments that, though perhaps not so dramatic, may prove beneficial in the long-term. 

At Oak Park Farmers’ Market, one humble though ultimately beneficial development is the prohibition against touching produce to see if it’s ripe enough, juicy enough or otherwise “good enough” to buy. Walking through the market, we saw “Shop with Eyes Only” signage at many stands, and this is not only a gentler way of saying “don’t touch” it’s also a useful suggestion for how you might shop, now and into the future, without squeezing and fondling the produce. 

In 2013, in Wednesday Journal, I supported this touch-free approach when I beseeched readers “Please Don’t Wipe Your Nose on His Peaches.” Last summer I did a public service video with Joe Kreml that appealed to Villagers to refrain from bruising and contaminating produce by squeezing and fondling it. 

Now, shoppers at the farmers’ market are similarly requested to shop with their eyes rather than with their hands or noses. One hopes that this trend continues even after the pandemic passes, and there are other positive developments to arise from the Covid-19 crisis. 

My friends have joked about what may seem to be my compulsive habit of washing my hands before I eat anything. Now, we’re reminded to wash hands regularly, and this is a good thing. Now more than ever, people are aware of the importance of hand washing, a good habit to acquire if you don’t already have it.  

Hugging, in the past decade or so, has become a thing. It’s expected that you will hug everyone, and that seems nice, I guess, but honestly, I’m not that into it. I used to prefer shaking hands, but now touching of any kind is considered potentially harmful. So, what’s a feasible replacement for shaking hands or hugging? May I suggest a short, crisp bow (say, 10-15 degrees). Since the pandemic began, I’ve watched over forty Japanese movies (thanks, Criterion Channel), and I’ve been paying special attention to how the depth and duration of a bow can indicate respect or just a quick “hello.” Bowing is an easy, inobtrusive no-touch alternative to shaking hands or hugging.

So, there’s some good to come out of this pandemic. I’m not thankful for this mess, of course, but trying times can cause us to modify our behaviors in ways that will have long-term positive consequences. So, thanks, Covid-19, for that. #silverlinings

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...