You wouldn’t believe the clean air I’m breathing and the loud and lengthy birdsong I’m hearing (while stuck at home.) It’s like being deep in the countryside. Since the Tuesday lockdown, clean air and quietude is the new normal here. This is how it must have been a century ago. Mornings, I lie in bed and listen to the birds chirp, and I try to imagine urban sounds from days gone by: the clip-clop of horses’ hooves, the tolling of church bells, the rumbling of carriages and wagons, factory whistles, street cries.
When I first moved to this apartment building, I was awakened very early in the morning by a gentle gurgling and swishing sound. The gurgling was a stream of water running down the gutter of the road, and the swishing was the movement of a broom, an actual twig broom (hand-made by who?) held by a municipal worker as he walked down the sidewalk sweeping debris from the street and sidewalk into the flow of water. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a pleasanter sound to wake up to. All this was as late as the early 2000’s.
And then it stopped. No longer do I hear the gurgling of water nor the gentle swish-swish of twig brooms. These days, at least in my ‘hood, a small truck passes by with a high-powered hose to clean the streets, gutters and sidewalks.
Anyway, flash-forwarding to March 2020, we couldn’t be more in the thick of this pandemic as we are right now. There’s only one bit of good news: the spread of the virus has significantly slowed in China. That will be us one day. BUT WHEN? Three weeks? A month? Two to three months? Four to six months?
And here’s another thing: what will we learn from this ordeal? Or, more importantly, what will our governments learn? Will it be ‘business as usual’ and all forgotten? Or will they turn to experts, invest heavily in R&D, develop vaccines, and put in place a serious response system for the next epidemic?
This morning on the radio I heard three significant things: (i) The Minister of Economy and Finance has invited companies to pay a tax-free bonus of 1,000 euros to employees for whom telework is impossible and who have no other choice than to continue to go to their workplace to allow their business to continue its activity, (ii) the 15-day period of confinement is not long enough and will be prolonged, and (iii) many people are still not taking this epidemic seriously. They’re still going out, still socializing in groups, still shaking hands and touching things.
Towards the end of this short video, you’ll see an outdoor market where people gathered on Wednesday – a day after the lockdown was put in effect – to touch fruits and vegetables, chat with others and exchange money with the vendors. As if they were living in normal times.