Editor's note: Jessica Ann is a restaurant owner who's blogging about trying to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic at My Rebound by FOX 17. She founded The Candied Yam, a Grand Rapids restaurant serving Southern cuisine, in 2016. She is married with a daughter who just graduated high school and an adult son. She lives in Kentwood.
Mother, wifey, entrepreneur and restaurateur. Yep. I check all the above boxes. I also just found out that I am a “space invader.”
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Did not realize it until I was forced to “back up and stand six feet away.” Thanks, COVID-19. SMH. I’m that one who never meets a stranger. The one that compliments your cologne or perfume. The one that walks into a silent elevator and breaks the silence with a question that no one really has time to answer before ascending to the next floor. I am that person that no matter the setting, I am greeting you with a hug. Time to leave? You guessed it, another hug! Yep. That’s me. I’m the one who asks if I can pet your dog or hold your beautiful baby while you seem to struggle juggling multiple tasks. Stranger danger! Can someone PLEASE rescue this “space invader”?! We are supposed to be 6 feet apart at minimum. Wow. Things sure have changed, and I’m not handling it well.
I am very much an optimistic person. Glass half full. Lately, I’ve been struggling. So much has changed for so many. My PR and event company slammed from rocking things out to flat as a pancake. Nothing. Another business venture that I was so proudly working on, the builder and contractors were forced to quit construction because of COVID restrictions. Which only leaves me trying to keep the restaurant going. It’s really the only socialization I get these days, but barely: “Good morning. So glad you came to work today. Anybody around you sick? Let’s get your temperature. Hope you don’t have a fever ‘cause we are down four people!” This is how the conversations start with each team member.
Shortly thereafter, we have a customer. Is that Ms. Walker or Ms. Timms? I am sorry, but I can’t tell the difference with the masks on. Then, I can barely understand a word said with the new face garbs. Did she order her catfish fried crispy or not. Okay. Stay focused. Smile. Can she see my friendly face? I can’t breathe well in this mask. Stay focused. Does she have COVID? Hell, do I have COVID? Focus, Jessica Ann. I wanna tell her about the specials, but she probably won’t understand. Besides, let me use my breath to let her know that we just sold out of peach cobbler. Oh no, the phone is now ringing. Mental chaos. This really REALLY stinks!
I NEED TO BE IN YOUR SPACE!
Interestingly enough, there is a psychology to this. Space invaders come into YOUR personal space, or the region surrounding a person that they regard as psychologically theirs. It’s called proxemics. It is a form of non-verbal communication/the space surrounding each person.
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The Economic Times says there are also four distinct zones: intimate (0-2 ft); personal (2-4 ft); social (4-12 ft) and public (more than 12 ft). Did they say 12 feet? Oh Lord! Six feet is already like a loooong ways away for me. Did I make mention that lately I’m also checking up on my mental health? I need a hug ... or two. I need to invade somebody’s space! I do want to keep people safe, so for now, I will do what I am mandated to do.
I recently found some words that I place at the top of mind that help me to feel better. I look into my team’s and beloved customers’ eyes (totally not creepy 6 feet away!) and use these nice and comforting sayings to others that will improve mood and trigger positive reactions. They make me feel happier too. I think it might help you as well.
“I am so happy to see you!”
“Thank you so much!”
“Your support means the world to me!”
“I am thankful you seem well. Are you managing all of this okay?”
“Now that I’ve seen you, I know things will be good today!”
Since COVID, so much has been taken from me. Precious time with my family, hugs and close conversations with my beloved customers, my job, money, opportunities and resources. Much has been taken away from you, and I pray not more than I. I come in contact with people all day and every day. I am a space invader. I may never get the opportunity to invade again. Be sincere when you speak. Life is too short. Make it the most and best you can. Words are powerful tools that we can use, even with a mask on ... and 6-feet apart.