It’s Music Monday! (See track at bottom of post.)
Coucou! as they say in France—or as we’d say, “Yoo-hoo!” I’m checking in with my regulars today, who seem to have disappeared since lockdown ended in France. I’m still here, everyone. Coucou! Drop me a comment on this post so I know you’re okay.
And “coucou” to you, too, my new followers. Welcome! So happy to have you aboard this crazy train. If you’re just joining me, you can catch up on my diary here. If you’re totally new to my blog, well, curl up with your iPad and start here.
We’re one week into “déconfinement” here in France, and there is definitely a profound shift in attitude. Maybe too much of a shift, and too fast. There is a sense among the populace that the virus is over, and social distancing seems to have been thrown to the wind.
A graffiti message popped up in my neighborhood that is fairly apt for post-lockdown Paris: Reveillez-vous!—Wake up!—it shouted. Scrawled underneath: Bordel de merde! That’s one of those colorful expressions only the French could cook up, like “putain!”, which means prostitute but is used as an expletive: “Putain! It’s raining again.” “My putain of a car won’t start.” (There is a whole series of swears around prostitutes.) Bordel de merde literally means “whorehouse of sh*t,” but its meaning is the rough equivalent of a “sh*t show.”
Wake up, people! We are in the sh*t!
“Warning. Don’t shop at Auchan Velizy,” someone posted in an expat Facebook group. “It’s out of control.” There were photos of huge crowds of shoppers milling about in the superstore, similar to Costco. “I can confirm this,” someone commented, noting that while the store had been previously controlling the flow of people going in, he was “surprised today when it was a free-for-all.”
“Free-for-all” is not exactly what you want to hear when you’re dealing with controlling the spread of a deadly disease. Auchan is a major chain; if they’re not going to ensure the safety of their customers and their employees, it leaves one bereft of hope, and quite frankly, enraged. But where is government oversight?
Another friend posted photos of the Marais, of mask-less people ganged up outside an ice cream shop. She was equally anxiety-riddled since the streets in that neighborhood are very narrow. France has relaxed confinement, opened shops, and soon beaches—yet it seems a ball has been dropped in terms of regulation. We’re ending lockdown, folks. Good luck with that. In a country were the pervasive attitude toward law and civic order is “don’t tread on me,” a hands-off approach is a risky game.
We’re all sitting around, tight-shouldered, waiting for that other shoe to drop. That shoe, of course, could mean more lives.
Or maybe not? Does any of this make any difference? We all locked down way too late compared to some countries in Asia. Is this thing going to run its course, no matter what? And if so, do we just slap on a mask and go about our lives?
Are we being cautious or paranoid?
I want to be in the carefree head of those people in the Marais who were crowding on line at the ice cream shop. I’m touched by the humanity of wanting to enjoy ice cream on a beautiful Sunday, to feel normal again, if for only a moment. And maybe they will be fine, waiting outside in the fresh air where the wind moves microbes up and away.
I want to believe that, because I’m among those having a hard time reconciling “normal” life with an active pandemic—the boom overhead. How and when do you re-enter the world at large? I don’t want to become a paranoid hermit, but it’s hard to go out with confidence when others seem to be oblivious to the realities of the day, shirking even the simplest civic responsibility of wearing a mask or keeping their distance.
I am not oblivious to the realities. I have a friend who is a nurse here in Paris, dealing with those realities on a daily basis—still. Yet, people have even stopped applauding the healthcare workers at 8 p.m. There are just a few of us diehards leaning out our windows, clapping.
Coucou? We’re still very much in this thing. We must learn to live with the virus in a responsible way. Read the graffiti on the wall: “Wake up!” The only way through this is to start seeing ourselves as part of the solution, and part of the greater world. If not now, when?
Music Monday is here!
This song has nothing to do with the post I just wrote. So, think of it as a pick-me-up after the heavy message. You can’t have dark without light, right? This song is a staple in my arsenal.
The Man that Got Away. Music: Harold Arlen; words: Ira Gershwin; vocals and arrangement: Lisa Anselmo
On the bookshelf