[Today I have another guest post. Rick Scott is an American who has lived in France for many years. In response to Joyce’s virus story, Rick provided his update on leaving the US to get back to Paris before he was stranded away from home, and what it has been like since his return.]
What a subject we suddenly have! Never thought I would see what we long-protected boomers are seeing now. Here are a few high points of the last few days —
I was just in the U.S. for 6 weeks (New York, Philadelphia, Washington) and was getting ready to go to Richmond/Charlotte/Charleston/Florida, but started to get uneasy about all the talk about travel disruptions in the Far East and how that may spread. So I bought a ticket on Feb. 23 from Washington to Paris – and back to familiar local cafes and familiar health insurance until this virus thing sorts itself out.
3 days ago, Thursday, March 12 (two days before french lockdown)–
Life in Paris seemed totally normal. Hardly any masks on the street. I stopped in for awhile at the local library and was thinking about going to a movie. All cinemas were open. Also would have been a good time to visit uncrowded museums.
That night, a reading of online international press made me realize that a lot of the world was already in lockdown mentality if not fact, and with good reason. You can be healthy as a horse but not even know – or never know – that you are/were a carrier and be endangering other people. We’re all going to be walking in the dark for awhile with this virus.
What would Dr. Spock do?
So I decided – with the luxury of a retired person living alone – to then and there start self-quarantining or semi-self-quarantining. No handshakes, no extended dinners with people, avoiding crowds, and spending a lot of time at home doing homework/research/errands online. I don’t have tv, but I have lots to do with a piano and the internet – and last month I spent a day at the Library of Congress in Washington getting instruction on how to access their online collection.
Yesterday, Saturday March 14 (the day of the french lockdown)–
My new rules still allowed me to take the metro and to have coffee on terraces outside. It was sunny and the terraces in my neighborhood were doing a booming business at 5 p.m. – every single seat taken, but that night I heard from a niece in faraway Nebraska that she had just heard that France had declared a lockdown.
I went to the French papers online, and sure enough, Edouard Philippe [Prime Minister of France] had spoken and the police were making rounds to kick people out of bars and restaurants at midnight. (That didn’t even happen with the imminent German invasion in 1940, did it? Humphrey Bogart was still schmoozing well after midnight by the piano with Ingrid Bergman – and they seemed to have plenty of time to make further plans).
Today – Sunday March 15 (the day after lockdown)–
Out of curiosity, i went to the local supermarket this morning. Quite a few people were doing bulk shopping, but all the shelves were well stocked except for rice, pasta – and peanut butter (perhaps other things that I don’t notice – since I don’t know how to cook). There seemed to be plenty of everything else, even toilet paper.
[The 19th and 20th arrondissements of Paris include the Parc Buttes Chaumont, the Pere Lachaise cemetery and lots of residential buildings.]
Then I took a walk through the 19th and 20th arrondissements – a total of 14,095 steps according to my iphone. Restaurants and brasseries indeed dead as a doornail. But – and this is a lifesaver – all the bakeries are open, even on Sunday. Fresh bread, sandwiches, quiche, patisserie … and takeout COFFEE! So I’ll be buying the newspapers, getting takeout coffee and reading on park benches for awhile. Not quite a terrace but not bad with proper social distancing. Then some power walking or biking in the park for exercise.
Takeout places are operating as well. Domino’s pizza outlets were all open. McDonald’s was closed but functioning – via internet orders delivered by Ubereats, Deliveroo, etc. One enterprising brasserie was closed for food but had an outdoor takeaway stand for wine, beer, coffee. All takeaway, and socially distant.
In that walk of several miles, I saw only about a dozen people wearing masks.
[Thanks, Rick, for giving us a snapshot of Paris at the start of the French response to the global pandemic. If you would like to contribute a Virus Story, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org–Winifred]