Destination: Six Feet Away

Several years ago I watched the movie “Five Feet Apart” with my daughter. At the time I wondered how challenging it would be if your health depended upon staying six feet away from someone.

And now here we are with Covid-19.

The world is slowly reopening, some places more rapidly than others. Reopening certainly begs the question: how many people actually know how far apart six feet is? Observing human behavior may indicate that people don’t care to stay apart, but perhaps most people simply don’t realize how far six feet actually is:

two yardsticks (obviously)

one foot shorter than a pool cue

a yoga mat

the length of a twin mattress

probably slightly longer than your couch

more than two shopping carts

the width of most vehicles (rearview mirrors inclusive)

the length of two guitars

Measuring Up (or better yet horizontally)

Fascinatingly, the width of your arms is about the same distance as your height. So if you’re close to six feet tall people should be standing double an arms’ length apart from you. Of course that’s less helpful for those of us who are short…

More than half of the population are considered visual learners, so sometimes it’s easiest to simply pull out a tape measure. Even knowing that two shopping carts are six feet, I still misjudged the length of just about everything in my house by at least a foot.

I tried the same experiment with family members, asking them to stand six feet away. Each person misjudged a foot shorter than the CDC recommends.

The line between the dots

The six foot description was initially called social distancing. Lately it’s been called physical distancing to clarify that people should be that far apart even if they’re just passing one another and not being social.

Most stores have dots placed on the ground indicating how far apart customers should stand while waiting in line. The problem is that the dots are incorrectly placed in some stores. One store I frequent has the dots placed one shopping cart length apart. Certainly my own little home experiment shows it’s an easy mistake to make, but even more critical then for everyone to pay attention to the distance between the dots versus the dots themselves.

Why six feet?

The CDC recommends six feet because any shorter distance increases the chance of breathing in what the person next to you is breathing out. Look into more research and you’ll see that recent studies indicate six feet is still not enough. Wearing a mask helps significantly to lower the risk.

I’m itching to travel again, but right now it’s a treat just to go to the grocery and for a walk on a nice day. Just stay six feet away – and if necessary bring a tape measure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *