Thoughts During a Pandemic
Disclaimer for the fellow readers who don’t know my style of writing:
I like to play with my punctuation.
I find question marks very disruptive while reading.
And exclamation marks very frightening and loud.
Also, if you see the word “like”, that means my ass has gone full on valley girl.
I’m very theatrical, so that’s how I want you, confined friend, to dive into this.
Hi. How are ya. How’s the confinement going.
When the novel Coronavirus broke out in Lombardy, I was merely days away from my flight to Rome. To be honest, I didn’t know what to do. Because, like, as far as I can remember, Lazio and Lombardy are like, basically two regions in Italy.
I consider myself a pretty strong and healthy person (physically), having eaten a lot of sand as a kid. And I did have salmonella as a teenager. I like to think that viruses see my internal organisms and just run for the hills. Also, keep in mind that the risk groups at the time were “the elderly”. Which, in retrospect, is stupid. We’re all in danger here. Don’t be a dick and stay at home as much as you possibly can. I digress.
I immediately bought travel insurance, just in case my flight would get canceled, which is very much unlike me. My parents begged me to stay home. My friends would joke about how I’d bring Corona home. My friend in Rome was like “sis, you’ll be fine”.
Deep down, I was just hoping that someone would make the decision for me. I’d show up at the airport, and they’d go: “flight’s canceled, go home baby.” And I’d go home, baby.
My parents were still pretty upset about my decision, but my Dad wanted me to buy him that one jacket from Spada, that he “couldn’t get anywhere else”.
He gave me a pack of masks and sent me on my merry way.
Worst case scenario, I’ll just be stuck in Rome.
My flight was scheduled for 6:40 AM.
I woke up at 3, took a shower, checked on Corona updates every ten minutes, and jumped into an Uber at 4:10.
“I normally tell people that I hope to see them again. But I honestly hope I never see you again. You’re putting everyone in danger by going there. That’s just super irresponsible. But hey, it’s your life. And don’t forget the 5-star rating!”
“Micòl, if you really want to do this, I can’t let you come home after your trip. I’ll pay for your hotel room, I don’t care, but I’m asking you to stay away from the family until we know for sure that you’re negative. Love you, bye!”
Off to a great start!
Vienna International Airport was pretty empty compared to the standard low budget commotions. I’d say a good 40% were wearing masks.
I felt slightly pressured to follow suit, so I went straight to one of the restrooms, washed my hands vigorously, and put on a mask. I should also mention that I was still recovering from a cold. And breathing your own, confined air when sick… Ah, it’s pretty gross.
Half of the passengers didn’t show up, so I had a whole row to myself — noice!
The flight was pretty uneventful. And short. With the occasional cough and lots of angry glares towards the cougher (me).
Once we landed, things looked and felt very different [duh, you’re in another country]. Everyone was wearing masks.
And the fancy, filtered ones, too. Their air must have been delightful.
People looked pretty calm, though: couples were sharing germs in form of handholding and saliva-swapping, which I found awfully romantic. Smokers were smoking shakily and gradually calming down as the nicotine would shoot into their organs. And the rest were basically just minding their own business 6 feet away from each other. I got on the train, wordlessly put on my third mask of the day, and called my Dad to tell him everything was fine.
My friend and I spent most of the weekend taking walks through empty streets, eating really good food, and watching a whole season of Rick & Morty at their place. I flew back, went straight to the hotel right down the street from where my parents live, and felt like the mass panic had died down. But that’s just the beauty of living in your own, me-centered, socially awkward bubble, isn’t it.
My boss demanded I bring a confirmed negative test to work. My dentist told me I couldn’t come in for another two weeks, and the person at the Corona call service just laughed into the phone when I told themI had gotten back from Rome (which wasn’t an affected/infected area at the time). I was forced to stay in that hotel room. Good thing I bought a ukulele! I spent two days practicing, coughing, and ordering in.
After the mass hysteria as the main course, some apocalyptic prognoses on the side, and a lot of “ah, we’ll be fine” for dessert, our collective governments snapped us back to reality: Europe is in lockdown. Trump thinks this virus is fake news. Boris Johnson contracted the virus. Harvey Weinstein supposedly contracted it too. He’s getting a lot of attention in that regard. Which is funny, because when he was sexually assaulting women for decades, no one seemed to care that much.
Schools and universities worldwide are closed. Companies are closing offices and telling employees to work from home. And so many people have died.
I won’t put any stats in here, because we all probably know them. I know them by heart by now, because my Dad has a live ticker on his phone. It’s very morbid. But everyone deals with this pandemic in the best way they can.
I think. Except for the dicks that don’t.
Despite the questionable coalition the Austrian government formed in 2019 (Green and Conservative Party), I’m positively surprised with how well the country is taking measures in these difficult times: on March 13th, the government announced that there would be a curfew.
We didn’t know what that would mean exactly, so my friend Stefano and I went for dinner at Zum Wohl.
Within 72 hours (and 18 hours after our dinner), all restaurants, coffeeshops, and bars were closed. On March 16th, we all started “staying home”.
Leaving our places of residence is allowed, under the condition we only go with the people we live with or alone.
I’m back with my family at the moment.
I never showed any symptoms — which doesn’t mean anything, as recent studies show… But we have all been cooped up for a little bit over two weeks now.
“I’m trying to have a meeting here, could you just stop talking?”
“Oh my God Dad, stop eating all of our food!”
“Kids, could someone help me clean this up, please?”
“Oh, my God, where am I supposed to do my Yoga!”
“How did I put on weight? HIIT WORKOUT, EVERYONE”
“When was the last time you washed your hands?”
“Don’t touch your face, Corona!”
“Did we stock up on enough meat?”
“WHO ATE ALL THE EGGS, THIS IS A CRISIS SITUATION”
“Did you know that Coronavirus was brought to us through eating animals?”
“Micòl, shut up!”
It’s been a roller coaster. And I bet that it’s been somewhat similar for you. As fucked as we all think we are… We’re all fucked together!
Isn’t that kinda beautiful?
In the beginning of the outbreak, arts and culture events (basically any type of gathering) got cancelled. Which means that freelancers, artists, and small businesses were basically out of a job. And at this point in time, companies have been laying off their employees left and right. And as scary as that was/is, the Coronavirus Bailout has reached 7 trillion dollars and is “still rising” . (Julia Horowitz, CNN Business, March 27th 2020.)
We’re in the middle of a pandemic crisis, and yet… We’re figuring it out.
I don’t want to sugarcoat this situation, but I cannot stress enough how lucky we are. How privileged we are.
There’s an outpour of collective support all around the world right now:
with people promoting local businesses, calling each other more than ever, practicing social distancing to protect each other, singing from their windows… Nurses, doctors, pharmacists, supermarket employees, who risk their health each day…
Also, here is one initiative that made my heart sing:
Humanity is serving us a full face of awesomeness right now.
Give love to everyone around you. Be that your pet, your family member[s], or just you, in front of the mirror. Kiss the mirror for me, will you?
And now, let’s collectively blast “We’re All in This Together” from High School Musical. Everybody now.