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Paris in the time of Corona Virus
What is it like to ‘shelter in place’ in Paris? It is to be alone, but together all at the same time. You hear your neighbors’ movements and muted conversations through the walls, but rarely see or communicate with anyone. You can go out with your printed or handwritten note explaining where you are going and why, along with your ID to prove that you are within close proximity of your home. But you are not allowed to loiter and must return home immediately after you accomplish your purpose. Only food stores and pharmacies are open. Paris’ iconic cafés are shuttered. It is spring in Paris, so the skies are blue and the temperatures are warm enough to open windows in the afternoons, but you can only spend significant time outdoors if you have a balcony.
The markets are well stocked with produce. Lines mark the pavement so that if there is a waiting line, customers know how far apart they should stand to be safe. So far, I haven’t seen any lines. The days are long. I maintain a schedule of exercising to a video, planning and preparing my meals, cleaning up my apartment, entertaining myself on my laptop or binge-watching movies and TV shows, and imagining how to bring value to my clients during this confusing time. We worry that something will happen to our computers, that we’ll break our phones, or that we’ll accidentally lock ourselves out of our apartments. Any problem like that might be unsolvable during the lockdown.
Spontaneous interest groups have cropped up on various smartphone apps: exercise groups, Corona cocktail groups, and online book clubs. All in all, it’s like a stay-cation that everyone is on at the same time. We share the same hardships, the same fears, the same experience – worldwide. I suspect we’re all grateful for our health, our continued access to electricity and water, to shelter, and essential supplies. What we “need” is being redefined. Economies and communities are being re-localized after years of imagining we can get anything from anywhere at anytime. And we have time to contemplate how we would like to be spending our time and resources once we’re able to move freely again.
I can only imagine the common sigh of relief when people around the world are able to resume “normal” life again. Like those who have been given a second chance at life after a brush with danger, I wonder if we’ll all collectively make different choices? To live life fully, to spend quality time with loved ones, to slow down and make every moment count.