They let genie out of the bottle yesterday. And, wow, did genie go crazy. Genie was like, “Woohoo!” and ran all over the place. In droves.
Or maybe Pandora is a better reference? Because, damn. We are back with a vengeance.
France has been “de-confined” and some people seem to think that means the virus is over. The police had to evacuate the quays of Canal Saint-Martin, because there were hordes of people drinking and hanging out “shoulder-to-shoulder,” and sitting “knee-to-knee,” said France 24. Now, Mayor Hidalgo has proposed making masks mandatory, and authorities have reluctantly banned drinking along the canals, and on the banks of the Seine, as a response.
“This is why we can’t have nice things,” a friend texted me this morning, attaching the article.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Freedom?
Public transport was reportedly also dangerously packed yesterday, and our avenues once again congested with cars, as people returned to work. At least I think they’re all returning to their jobs. Maybe they’re just out and about because they can be. A friend who works at a large gardening chain, Truffaut, said they had 700 customers yesterday. That’s 700 people who decided that the first and most important thing to do after confinement was…shop for plants.
In an effort to ensure Parisians had protection for déconfinement, the city launched an initiative to give each of us a free washable mask. Starting yesterday, we were able to reserve our mask online using a form that would assign us a time window (un créneau) and a unique barcode, which we could use at any participating pharmacy around town. “Most all of our over 900 pharmacies are participating.” My window was today after 1 p.m., so I ventured out into a Paris Unconfined.
What I didn’t find was a mask. Not one of the eight pharmacies I visited within three kilometers of my home had them. “It’s been really poorly planned,” one pharmacist complained, shaking his head. “It’s a shame.” He said maybe they’d have masks tomorrow, and would honor my request even though my window will have passed. But luckily, another pharmacy had masks for sale, so I decided to leave my free mask for someone who could not afford to buy one. But if Madame Mayor wants masks to be mandatory, she might want to fix the free mask program pronto.
Reentering Our Lives
While I did not find the mask I expected, I found something else: a neighborhood revived. Many of the local family businesses I rely on (minus my beloved cafés) were welcoming customers again. I waved broadly to the owners as I passed; they waved back just as enthusiastically. Hello again! Even a favorite café was open for takeout, and I stopped to chat with the team for several minutes. We couldn’t hug or faire la bise (do cheek kisses) but the warmth was palpable, even through our masks. It felt like La Rentrée, when we restart our lives after the summer vacations. We were back.
I thought I’d be paranoid walking among the un-contained masses, knowing what I do about the Canal Saint-Martin fiasco, but the joy and comfort of seeing these places open again overruled my fear. Sure, I miss the tranquility of lockdown, “having Paris all to myself,” as one friend said today. Clean air to breathe, especially. But today, I realized how much I missed what makes great cities great: the energy created by the activity of our shared daily lives.
The challenge going forward will be keeping our shared lives open while shutting down the Covidiots who might spoil our “nice things,” getting us locked down again. Here’s hoping.
Yes, We’re Open
Here are some highlights of my stroll through the neighborhood today.
Many shops have signs limiting customers in order to enforce social distancing. Here, at my fromager (cheese shop), only two people max are allowed. It’s much easier for small shops to regulate how many people can be inside at one time, which is why I prefer them. Below, it looks like any other day, pre-Covid, minus the masks.
Yay! My favorite restaurant started doing takeout today. The idea of takeout/delivery is new to cafés and bistros in France, but Coronavirus is forcing these places to get creative in order to pay the rent. I’m happy to help. A “routier” is a truck stop, hence the “drive-in” concept for their call-in/pick-up menu.
Chocolate again! And you can shop for a new outfit while you’re at it.
The funky bazaar is back. Love this guy. And—yippie!—Las Vegas Shoes is open again. Ah, the overwhelming smell of leather returns to Rue de Charonne.
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On today’s bookshelf