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Nine Painfully Awkward Stages Of A Meeting In Malta During COVID-19

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Man, 2020’s been a ride and a half. And as if the annual arrival of million-degree weather wasn’t enough this summer, we also got a pandemic’s second wave to deal with. Trag.

As most of the world enters its sixth month of COVID-19,  everything from retail therapy to romance has had to adjust, and business is definitely no exception.

But while it’s absolutely possible to meet people again, that doesn’t mean having a meeting isn’t as awkward and uncomfortable as heck.

In fact, here’s exactly why it’s just that.

1. As soon as the person walks in, you instinctively reach out to shake hands

You can’t help it. It’s embedded in your DNA. It’s what everyone does. For all you know, prehistoric man was shaking hands whenever his cave colleague successfully lit up a bonfire. You’re not going to just forget such a vital part of human behaviour.

And to make matters even worse, the person right in front of you is thinking the exact same thing, and in an effort to be polite and break the ice, you’re both going at it and reaching out faster than the speed of sound. Which is probably why there was an awkward silence just two seconds ago.

Madonna Madonna, issa tard wisq.

2. The second you get very close to actually shaking hands, one of you pulls back

Oh God, the embarrassment is unpalatable.

If you’re the one who pulled back, you feel like you just denied a fellow human being a basic sign of respect. You know it’s the right thing to do with an infectious virus on the loose, but you still feel bad, and the only thing you can do is awkwardly smile as he mirrors your pained, pained face.

If you’re the one who got denied the handshake, it’s even worse. You’re just left there, feeling like the irresponsible fool you were for thinking life is currently normal. You scramble to say something, to explain how you just can’t get used to this “New Normal”, but it’s too late now. You’ve gone and messed it all up. And the meeting hasn’t even started yet.

Mulej aħfirli, għax ma kontx naf x’qed nagħmel.

3. The other person instantly takes out a sanitiser

You know they’re being a responsible adult, but your first thought has nothing to do with that. Instead, you think to yourself; Damn, do I look that dirty? 

Is it my tie? Hair, maybe? Why do they think they’re going to get so easily infected just by standing around me for too long?

If you’re not thinking that, you’re either looking at them weirdly or cursing yourself for not having done the same.

No matter what, though, you’re clearly yet again on a different page.

M’hemmx tmiem minn dan l-infern.

4. You realise you haven’t taken your mask off yet… and you’re not sure whether you should

Look.

I know this technically isn’t a public space.

But it’s closed, isn’t it?

And I definitely don’t share a household with this person.

But does that mean I should keep my facemask on all the time?

Do they expect me to? Will they think I’m weird if I do?

Why is life so hard?

5. You’re not sure whether or not to turn on the AC

A quandry for the ages.

Deep down, you know Malta’s non-AC weather is at least a couple of months away. Even if it might’ve rained for two hours in the middle of the night, you know it’ll keep on feeling like 35°C for at least a couple of weeks. Because whether or not September is here and you sometimes get to see a couple of clouds in the sky, such is Malta.

But do you offer everyone in the meeting that moment of respite by turning on the AC and cranking it all the way down to 20°C, or will they see it as an act of madness? Are you a monster who’ll gladly marinate in your own sweat for a whole hour? Or are you a monster who doesn’t care about a pandemic and will gladly throw everyone’s bacteria around and hurl it at each other with an almighty AC fan?

Mulej, nitolbok tilluminani.

6. You offer them water or coffee… and the pain returns

Of course they want refreshments. You’re about to ramble on for a couple of hours and it’s about a billion degrees outside.

But when the time comes for the glasses and mugs to be handed out, the same conundrum y’all just went through when you tried to shake hands rears its ugly head all over again.

What do you do? Do you put the mug down, rub it down with sanitiser and wait for the person to reach out and take it themselves? Do you use some sort of long stick to push it to their side of the table? Do you both laugh nervously and decide to ignore “all this extra bullshit” for the time being? Are you taking enough precautions? Are you overthinking all of this and they’re just looking at you thinking you’re the weirdest person on the island?

Ħawwaddni ħa nifhmek.

7. *insert lame cliché joke about waves*

“Have you been enjoying going to the sea this summer, jew? Naqa mewġ bħall Corona hehehe.”

Hehehehehe.

Hehehe.

He.

Please send help.

8. You realise you’re not quite sure whether the other person is a Doomsday Prepper or a Conspiracy Theorist

Do they think we’re all going to die? Are they still pissed off they can’t go and party with all their friends in a crowd of thousands of people? Do they never take off their mask? Do they think masks actually make you sick? Are they counting down the minutes until a COVID-19 vaccine is made available, or do they think Bill Gates is an Illuminati lizardman hellbent on chipping everyone with 5G vaccines?

It’s already been more than a quarter of an hour, and you still don’t know. And you’ve just realised now how much all of the above can have been interpreted way more differently.

Mulej, għalieeeeeeex?!

9. It’s finally time to leave… and the handshake attempt now turns into a botched elbow bump

You’ve both learnt from your past mistakes. No one’s going to be shaking hands today, brother. But that doesn’t mean you’re in the all-clear. Nope, not at all.

One of you decides you’re just going to exchange pleasantries and not even reach out and go through that hell all over again. The other tries to make things better and more current by putting their elbow out and repeating some overused joke about how “this is all getting a bit ridiculous now”.

Whichever one you choose, you’ve still lost. Congrats; time to shuffle back home in shame.

Tag someone who understands the pain all too well

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