Dear Urban Diplomat: My fellow gym members have become Covid germaphobes

Dear Urban Diplomat: My fellow gym members have become Covid germaphobes

I have asthma, and I was recently called out for coughing during my workout. If it happens again, what should I say?

Dear Urban Diplomat,
Recently, I was working out in my condo gym on the stationary bike next to a woman in her 50s. I have asthma, so when I go hard, I cough. Every time I cleared my throat, this lady looked at me and said, “Oh my god!” I understand that people have become pandemic germaphobes, but it’s not like she was wearing a mask, and I feel like she should be told off. Still, we’re bound to meet again, so I want to be smart about what I say. Suggestions?
—Negative Nancy, Riverside

You say you understand pandemic germaphobia, yet you’re primed to chew her out? Try empathy instead. Next time you see her, apologize and explain your situation. Tell her that you realize coughing is off-putting but that you can’t help it. As an asthmatic, you’ve surely had a nerve-wracking past three years—relate to her on that level. Rapid tests are free, so test yourself before hitting the gym to reassure those around you that you’re negative. You might also consider wearing a workout mask. It sucks, but we’re still in this together. Try to act like it.

Dear Urban Diplomat,
I just started dating a woman I really like. The other day, she mentioned that she wants to volunteer for a mayoral campaign, which is awesome. The problem is that she’s picked a candidate I loathe, the kind of guy who prefers BMWs to bike lanes. I want her to back a better horse, but I also don’t want to come off as controlling. How do I broach this?
—Strange Bedfellow, Eringate

Divergent politics have killed many a romantic relationship, so it’s important to get a sense of how devoted she is to this particular candidate. Maybe she’s volunteering for him because his office is near her apartment. Or maybe she’s been a right-winger all her life, which may be a deal-breaker for you. Be diplomatic, but make a convincing argument against her guy and try to bring her around. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, at least you fought the good fight.

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My husband and I have a new garden suite and are looking for a tenant. A good friend of mine, who is single and apartment-hunting, told me that she was interested in the space. I love her, and she is gainfully employed, but her industry is unstable. If she ends up short on cash, I worry that I’d feel obliged to cover her. I’m also concerned that proximity would lead to a kind of forced intimacy. How can I tell her to keep looking without sabotaging the friendship?
—Not in My Backyard, Deer Park

More Urban Diplomat

If preserving your friendship is the goal, lean in to that notion off the bat. Tell your friend that you adore her and that you worry a landlord-tenant relationship would create an awkward power dynamic. Long-lasting friendships are hard enough to maintain even when money isn’t in the picture, and yours is too important to risk over a business exchange. She may feel stung at first, but this hurt is an easier one to bear than a “final notice” from you.

Dear Urban Diplomat,
My colleague and I ride the subway to work every morning. We go in early, when it’s not too crowded, and it’s become a fun ritual to eat our breakfast on the train. Recently, though, he’s gotten into keto, and his morning meal has morphed from fruit and yogurt into a Frig-O-Seal of hard-boiled eggs. Public egg eating is questionable at the best of times, but on transit it’s an absolute no-no. I want to tell him that he must say au revoir to the ova, but I don’t want to overstep. (Truth be told, he is my senior at work.) What’s the play here?
—Egg in My Face, Old Town

The play depends on your relationship with the offender. Option one is the direct route: “Dude, ditch the eggs—they stink!” Option two is the subtler route: sniff the air next time he opens the lunch box and ask him if he smells sewer. If he doesn’t catch on, you need only wait it out—ketogenic diets are meant to be short term, so your egg problem should be too.

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