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Learning to play the Circle Game … in easy-to-follow primary colours

BY TERESA MALLAM

Mallam UnMuzzled

I feel like I’m going in circles…because I am.
As our very own Joni Mitchell sang in better times, in The Circle Game, “We go round and round on the carousel of life.”

How true that is. Now we — quite literally, spend our days navigating from circle to circle. There’s circles in stores telling us where to stand, circles at banks keeping us a required two metres apart. Circles guiding us through makeshift mazes in  government buildings, libraries and restaurants.

It all seems familiar somehow. Like a childhood flashback. Yes, now I remember. Shapes of things. Sign of the times. Circles.


When I was in preschool, we were given a big wooden block painted a primary colour, usually red. It had big cut outs in the shape of circles, squares, rectangles and triangles.

We were told to find the wooden pieces from a pile on the table that fit each hole. Then we were given a rubber mallet to beat them all into place.  The point of this exercise was to get us to recognize shapes.

As it turns out, that was good training for the situation we are in now. When I encounter all those circles around the city, or I’m waiting patiently in line at big box stores, (doing my “essential shopping”,) I know what to do.

See a circle? Stand inside it. Make it fit.

But most circles in most places I visit (“limiting my trips”) do not cover me. Not to body shame, but has anyone ever measured the distance between these circles —  taking into account bigger body types, bulky winter coats, baskets and carts?

These circles should be one-size-fits-all.

My best circle experience, so far, was while  moving — at a snail’s pace — in a long line-up at the Bureau de Poste in Quesnel ( I was there on “essential travel”.) I glanced down at my feet to make sure I was in a circle.

This looking down doesn’t come naturally to me —  unless of course I’m on a sidewalk, checking, nonchalantly, for lost change in the snow. But this day, I see I’m standing on a red circle which has the words, “Let’s stand for a friendlier post office.”

Wow. They must know me because I will read anything while I wait in line; phone messages, even old receipts in my purse, to pass the time.
So, after a time spent on red, I advanced to the blue circle and saw this message at my feet: “Kindness helps the line move faster.”

It was also in French, still Canada’s official second language. Finally, I stepped onto the green circle with its message: “Wave when you see us (postal clerks). Welcome.”

I didn’t wave, just smiled, because I’m very shy and drawing attention to myself is outside my comfort zone, I mean, my circle. Especially now that my circle of friends has been reduced to an ink blot, a tiny bubble, and I’m not sure my social interaction skills are still intact.

Circle etiquette can be confusing. And keeping two metres apart in public can often be hard to measure and maintain, especially in an ever moving lineup. So you can imagine my delight when I saw a circle that spoke to me.

I was sixth in line outside the animal hospital, mask on, my cat Leo warm in his carrier in my car, when I saw, printed inside a circle on the clinic’s window:

“Please Wait Here.” Then, an illustration of dogs.  “Leave space for 2 Great Danes or 7 Chihuahuas.”

Now we’re talking. In a universal language that I can understand — with or without my high school French. So thank you to those clever people at trupanion for this very innovative sign, custom designed for people with pets in a pandemic.

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