Reinforcements have arrived buying temporary relief from the cuddling kamikaze. To the the Amazon delivery guy who showed up despite the situation: I salute you. It might not seem like much, but this jumpy trampoline thing has given us almost an hour of reprieve. Does it take up half of the space in our kitchen? Yes, but at this point we will take all the help we can get.
Another package arrived as well of equal importance – a printer. It’s the first printer that I’ve ever bought in my life. I had believed that I could go through life without one, and the fact that it’s 2020 reassured me that I wouldn’t ever need one, but with all of the official documents that we need to deal with to move to our new place (hopefully) there was no choice.
The printer also arrived at the right time because now any excursion from the home requires a signed attestation explaining who you are and why you are out. Before the printer arrived yesterday I had to write out a note by hand to go for a run – an exercise that I had to stop because my hand cramped up after writing three sentences. A realization sunk in: I am incapable of physically writing more than three full sentences by hand without putting down the pen. Maybe this is one of the returns to the basics that we’ve been hearing so much about. The 6 km run was far easier than 6 sentences.
And what a strange run it was. After a long and dark winter, it was almost 20C yesterday with full sunshine that felt like it was killing microbes of coronavirus all of the place. People were out with big shopping bags. For a second it felt like waking up from a dream – except that everyone had masks and there were almost no cars driving down streets that are usually packed with them. Then I saw the police checkpoint up the road.
I remembered the signed document that I had in my pocket. Folded inside the piece of paper is my French ID card, just in case. There was a flutter of excitement in my heart. Outside of places like Cameroon and the Bolivian desert I’ve never passed a police checkpoint (the border between Detroit and Canada doesn’t count). My poppy running playlist pulsed in my ears. Would I make it through? Would I get sent back for being too far from my home?
Ahead of me at the checkpoint I saw a fellow jogger. He went right past them. The police didn’t even notice him. They were checking a dude on a scooter and the car behind him.
I kept my 1 meter of distance and they didn’t notice me either. While I was a bit disappointed, at least I knew that I could do my usual run without having to double back a few times. With each stride further and further up the Canal St. Martin the feeling of normalcy grew. People were grilling on their houseboats. Dogs played on the rough ground. Aside from the lack of clanking of petanque balls and the jogger with his attestation pinned on the back of his shirt like a marathon runner, it was a day like any other.
The real feeling of normalcy came when I went to the supermarket to get supplies. I was expecting the same empty shelves of Monday when people grabbed at packets of pasta and emptied entire baskets of green beans into their shopping bags. But no, aside from the plastic panels separating cashiers from shoppers, there were only two empty shelves: a type of cereal that I can’t remember and of course, the 50cl cans of my favorite beer: Punk IPA (it’s rarely in stock even in the best of times – a victim of its own popularity and excellent recipe). I strolled through the store that I had never seen so empty before. I bought vegetables, juice boxes, and paper for the printer.
Can this possibly last? I had already been rationing the things that I didn’t know we would be able to get again soon: a partially cut onion, dish soap, fresh herbs. Companies are still shutting down factories and Europe is closing its borders, so will the products that stock our supermarket shelves continue to show up? When will the ruptures in supply chains start to rear their heads? What should I stock up on now while the stocking is good?
Or am I over-reacting? We are in the center of Paris, the second largest metropolis in Europe, in a capitalist society where everyone needs to make money. The farmers who produce our food, the companies that process it and create different goods, the logistics services that get that food to each store – all of these people need to continue to operate in some capacity in order to survive. That is reassuring. Is Adam Smith’s invisible hand also an invisible shield? Macron is urging people who can work to work. The global economy is in free fall but the needs of each person remain more or less the same. We will find ways to spend money.
It’s a constant state of tension between “oh it’s not that bad, let’s go outside” and “did you just wash your hands enough because we will all get contaminated and die.” It’s listing back and forth between freaking out and chilling out. “Look at the exponential curve of the growth of the pandemic in France” and “just like, look outside man! It’s a beautiful day!”
And of course, “if most people who have it don’t show symptons, and Tom Hanks got it while out in the Australian outback, maybe those of us living in ultra-concentrated metropolises all have it already??” Until everyone gets tested we won’t know, but I cannot wait for a significant amount of people to have immunity to we can start to get back to normal.
Time to go back to work…