The birds are chirping their little hearts out today. It’s another sunny, springlike day here in Paris. We’re spoiled for good weather. It’s not lost on us that we are probably having so many flawless days due to our inactivity, putting fewer carbon emissions into the atmosphere. If it had been business as usual, we’d more likely have rain. Ironic.
Irony will be felt all around this weekend. We’ve rarely seen such gorgeous weather in Paris and here we are, stuck inside. We’ll be getting up to 70F (21C) on Sunday, with 100% chance of bright, beaming sun. I can only imagine there will be windfall of 135-euro fines for violation of the confinement law. It’s hard to keep a stubborn Parisian down, fines or no. They are barely conforming as it is.
There are only very specific reasons we are permitted to be out and about, defined in a form (L’Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire) that we need to fill out and carry with us while out of our homes, in case the police stop us. You have to check off one of the permitted reasons, sign and date the form, and include the exact time you walked out the door. Permitted activities are: 1) Work deemed essential; 2) Necessary shopping/daily needs (professional or personal): groceries, buying of essential equipment, banking, pharmacy, etc.; 3) Reasons of healthcare, especially treatment of chronic illness; 4) Essential or urgent family care; 5) Short walk, solitary sport activity, or dog walking—limited to one hour daily, within 1 kilometer (0.6m miles) from your home (no sitting or standing around); 6) Important missions that concern the general public (whatever that means).
Number five is a giant loophole—especially for enterprising Parisians who are always looking for a way around the laws here, which can be draconian. For example, if the police did not check your papers when you had your morning stroll, you can go out again, n’est-ce pas? And you can sit on that bench as long as you like if no one is around to see you, mais non? And pourquoi pas stand around in the plaza and chat with your buddy as long as you stay the official 1.5 meters apart? (In France, they felt 1.5 meters, or about 5 feet, was plenty far enough.)
You can see the slippery slope here. If the streets are fairly empty, one or two infractions are not going to create a problem. But if everyone thinks this way, and it’s a glorious day like tomorrow promises to be, it can quickly become a problem. And there are zero police in my neighborhood, so it’s an open invitation to faire comme vous voulez—do what you want. Even if it doesn’t result in a rise in new cases, it could very well create increased restrictions, like when they had to close the parks to stop people gathering. Soon, they may zone off the plazas, too. We’re paying for stupidity with our personal freedom.
Parisians: “Contagion What?”
Even with growing cases, many Parisians—of every age—just don’t seem to get it. More and more stories are surfacing that show people simply do not grasp the simple concept of contagion and how it works—coughing into the air around people, standing on street corners sharing a hash joint or a bottle. I’ve personally witnessed this. The reason we’re locked down is because no one would comply with the request to stay home, to distance. Parks and cafés were still packed the Sunday before the decision to take more stringent measures. President Macron shamed us for being unruly and selfish. Now we’ve been sent to our rooms.
One friend told of her experience in a tiny news kiosk. She was buying some periodicals (yes, people still do that), when two women walked in together. Suddenly, they were three on top of each other in the tiny space. When my friend politely requested the women wait outside, they became offended. How dare she infringe upon their rights. Yes, how dare she try to be logical, safe, considerate, and responsible. (I wanted to ask my friend why she was risking her health going to a news kiosk in the first place, but it seemed beside the point.)
I had a similar experience in a too-crowded grocery story. When I requested people in line at the cashier step away from me and each other, a woman mocked me, loudly. Made an example of me. I was being an alarmist, ridiculous. “Oh yes?” I said in French. Ah bon? “Madame, it’s because of fat heads like you that we are in this crap now.” Dans la merde. “We will see who is laughing tomorrow.” The next day, March 17, we were in lockdown, our numbers having shot up since March 1, from 130 to 7,730. We now have over 83,000 cases and 6500 deaths. This is one last laugh I am not enjoying.
I want to fashion one of my sheets into a sign for my balcony that says: Stop Being Clueless and Selfish.
Denial is Self-Indulgence
This post is not about chiding people for disobeying the law. It’s about getting out of our heads and doing our part. Look, I’m not sure if complete shutdown is the right way to deal with this; there are experts who say it may do more long-term damage than the pandemic itself. (South Korea, for example, didn’t shut down to flatten their curve but employed mandatory testing to isolate those infected.) But social distancing does work, and since national confinement is the chosen measure of a government that is not doing widespread testing like our neighbors in Germany (don’t get me started), then we should all do what we can to make it work. The sooner we do, the sooner this will be over.
As of the time of my writing this, the U.S. has over 280,000 cases, and yet many of my fellow Americans are still poo-pooing this, including some tone-deaf governors who have finally been forced to wake up (welcome aboard, Florida and Alabama). Many in the States, like here, are hanging on to what they think is “normal” life in order to feel safe—running to Target every other day, for example. We need to learn to plan ahead and ration. To do without. To make personal sacrifices. This is how people lived every day before the 1980s, and they also had less debt and more in savings. Why not make this the new (old) normal?
It’s not complicated. Do what is asked of you. Do what is necessary. To not respect quarantine and confinement is to be self-indulgent children—like those women in the news kiosk complaining about their “rights.” Your rights, mesdames, should never put someone else at risk. N’est-ce pas?
Enough of my ranting. Listen to the birds of Paris.
Tip of the day
If you’re making too many trips to the store, you’re putting yourself and others at risk, like the cashiers for starters. Make a strategic list of what you will need for 14 days—one month, if you have the storage space. Only buy what you absolutely need. What can you afford to do without? How can you ration what you have? It’s not a terrible idea to make do with less. It’s actually better for the planet, and for our bank accounts, too.