16 Things Likely To Become Obsolete In A Post-Coronavirus World

“The Obsolete Man,” a classic episode of “The Twilight Zone,” deals with the state declaring certain human beings “obsolete” and sentencing them to death.

Obsolescence will gain traction, thanks in part to coronavirus concerns. Actions, traditions and items – whether temporarily, partially or completely – are likely to fade over time as a result of the new normal, social-distancing, germ-conscious world the virus is helping to shape.

Related coverage: Obsolete! 23 daily life moments, objects becoming outdated

So we offer 16 examples of what we might expect to see fade away to one degree or another in various walks of life:

Buffets and salad bars

A few years ago, we took a cruise, embarking after a flu bug previously had wound its way around the ship. Ship staffers constantly disinfected every surface. The two key changes: Every restroom on board had signs instructing passengers to use a paper towel to touch the door handle, and the buffet was converted into a serving line for the first 48 hours – the incubation period. It’s hard to envision self-serve buffets or salad bars making it though this pandemic. The sneeze bars don’t seem like they will do enough. Self-serve brunch buffets? Gone.


National Handshake Day is the last Thursday in June, but it’s not looking like much of a celebration. The handshake is as good as gone. CBS Sunday Morning’s Mo Rocca beat me to the punch on this one. Can you remember your last handshake? What will replace the traditional business greeting is anyone’s guess. The “Star Trek” finger split isn’t going to work and is not original. I’ve opted for a peace sign the old-school way – victory formation, fingers up – not sideways like suburban kids trying to look fierce. Sportsmanship on fields and courts will take a hit. No pregame basketball starters shaking hands and hugging, no postgame hockey lines? Greetings will change, somehow. Hopefully, new symbols of sportsmanship will be created. Losing the handshake changes the face of business, society and sports. Speaking of …

High five / slapped hands

The high five had a good run. Its origin dates to 1977, an impromptu invention from Los Angeles Dodger teammates Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker after a home run. Though the insipid congratulatory slaps after missed free throws will not be missed. But what will happen to the choreographed routines after sports come back? They might subsist as multiple charades-like motions – with no touching.

Food-store samples

Call them loss leaders, bonus enticements or face-to-face marketing of a product, but don’t look for free samples in grocery stores. Stores are looking closely at developing curbside-pickup-delivery initiatives, so the toothpick-spearing days for a nibble of diced cheese, cube of meat or dessert cup with tiny plastic spoon are in the past to stay.

TP-ing houses

TP-ing, rolling – whatever you want to call the age-old hijinks or celebration – is a thing of the past. Drive by one and you’d smile, if it weren’t your house. Now, if you were to see the white strands streaming from tall branches, you’d think of empty store shelves and purchase-limit signs. Don’t worry, if you long to see this, just tune in to any number of 1980s movies.

Sharing drinks in a bar

“Wow, this wine is amazing – you have to try it!” I’ll stick to what’s in my glass, thanks.


Six-foot markers will be the norm, along with maximum-capacity signs. And you can bet when there looks to be a violation everyone with a cell-phone will turn into instant filmmakers. More concert-ticket lines will be virtual. Staggered entry times at ticketed events, spaced-out booths with multiple lines at festivals, designated exits and similar measures could adhere to social distancing. But one funneled, roped-off line that packs in people to snake them into an exhibit, theater or amusement-park ride doesn’t seem enticing. Can you imagine ticket snafus bottlenecking fans at FirstEnergy Stadium? Slow-moving cattle-like lines are rarely fun, and they might be on the way to extinction.

Knocking bottoms of beer bottles

This pointless tradition of walking up to someone who is holding a bottle of beer and clinking the lip with the bottom of another bottle should have been outlawed years ago for sheer lack of imagination. (If you never tried it, the simple act will volcano up your suds. So funny.) It’s gone. One, craft beer costs money. Two, more cans are on the market than ever before. What does this have to do with coronavirus? Not much, except no one is going to want to waste good beer when we go back in to bars.

Manned tollbooths

Lanes with automated coin bins and E-Z Pass-only have been in use for years. With manned stations, one worker is exposed to scores of drivers who might not be wearing masks in their vehicles. And if the worker is contagious, he or she might as well be handing a petri dish to each driver.

Mosh pits / floor seats

Yes, I know the coronavirus hordes who descended onto Florida beaches might make up some of the same folks who enjoy crowd-surfing at certain concerts. But with all the stories that have come out about how contagious the virus is, and the fact it has hit all age groups, eyes might be open now. The appeal of bodies crushing – standing or surfing – for 90 minutes might lose some of its appeal, especially if social-distancing remains in place in arena or sweat-box clubs.

Rugby, wrestling, boxing

A scrum with athletes hunched, arms and shoulders locked around each other. Boxers in a clinch, amateur headgear butting into an opponent’s chest. Wrestlers gripping and grabbing. What could possibly go wrong? Face it: We’re living in a vaccine-yet-to-be-developed world with a lot to learn about whether subsequent cases of the virus can emerge in positive patients or if seasonal swings might result. Seems like these sports might be shelved for a while.

Holy water

The stoups were dry in churches in the weeks leading to the shelter-in-place order. Will a symbolic replacement be found for baptism, a sacred rite?


Free – or price-inclusive – seats on airlines are rare to begin with. Remember how we all were aghast when we learned fees were being tacked on for checked luggage, extra legroom and preferred seats? If you thought a handful of middle seats were the only thing without such fees, envision this: A not-so-optional cleaning fee couched as “safety premium,” where an extra squirt of bleach spray will be applied to your tray table. If you’re stuck with a middle seat, you might be forced to buy this. Apologies for giving the airlines the idea.

Physical offices

The quick work-at-home shift, the proliferation of video chat and Zoom meetings, and the comfort of sweat pants might make companies question why they are paying rent and enduring commutes. Monthly or quarterly outings could suffice for real face time. Other uses – creative startups, artists’ studios, emerging businesses, storage spaces, short-term initiatives – might be found.

Key-chain store club tabs

No need to fumble through the coiled discount club-member cards on your key chain when you can upload them via an app and flash them at a scanner. Toss them, and the germs they bring.


Aunt Margie – who you haven’t seen in years – coming up to you and planting one on your cheek at your cousin’s wedding might be a thing of the past. Kissing-endurance contests will go the way of flagpole sitting, previously cast into the land of obsoletion, and what about the coming-of-age spin the bottle? Sportswriter Rick Reilly muses about New Year’s Eve moments and kiss cams at games, if stadiums and arenas ever open. Kiss them goodbye. (But if and when minor-league baseball returns, the sumo-wrestling gag seems safe and compliant with social distancing.)


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