Living in Europe and with the winter approaching - discussions have resurfaced about covid-19 and there are heated discussions at the European Parliament and local levels. We are still hopeful that measures and restrictions are a thing of the past. However, with many already testing positive for covid or testing at the first signs of a cold or cough - it is clear that the virus and the fear is still present. The recent past seems to be raising its head again.
The current situation triggered the idea to share this fact and fiction story - "faction". As my blog also documents moments in my life, this feels like an appropriate and timely faction. It is a throwback - written with my son - from his perspective and voice.
Empty city street - Amsterdam - July 2020
It is June 2020. My name is Otto and I attend school 3 times a week but not everyone does. Online learning became the norm. I was not focused enough at home so my parents, my school and finally I agreed that being at school would be the best thing for me. Now I like going to school because I can leave the house. The school building is almost empty. Very few children attend school but luckily I have a few friends there. Are you wondering what is happening? Well, there is a pandemic virus affecting the entire world - it causes covid-19. Here in the Netherlands, we started online learning on March 16. The country is in lockdown. We were told that this is the new normal. It is definitely new but it feels totally abnormal.
Everything seemed strange at first. Not only because we were using our computers for all our lessons but because of all the new rules. Now I am on the computer all the time. There are no concerns about my eyes anymore. It was fun at first but being on the computer for so long became tiresome. I took many breaks. Even adults had to work from home and are on the computer and phone all the time. No one was at my father's office so he continued to go there - so that remained normal for him.
We were told by the government that the virus was very infectious and that it passed very easily from person to person and it’s possibly airborne. We were even told by the government to wash our hands frequently and to avoid touching our faces and mouths. Many people bought hand sanitizers. Stores ran out of the product. My siblings and I were already accustomed to washing our hands when we returned home with soap and warm water. We were told by my parents to continue that habit. The government told us lots of things. They even told adults what they should do in the privacy of their bedrooms. I wonder whether everyone listened. I wonder what everyone did.
Many people started to hoard food and supermarkets became empty. My parents ordered groceries to be delivered weekly. I was surprised to see that in countries like the United States, people were fighting over toilet paper. I still do not understand why toilet paper and not food was the issue. If one does not have food, there is less need for toilet paper.
Some people who became infected began to die. The majority of the people who died were older than 50 - therefore old people needed to be careful. We knew someone who died on March 30. It was very sad and scary. My parents comforted us. They did not want us to worry. My mom said,
“Worrying does not solve problems.”
They wanted our lives to be as “normal” as possible. However, it was not normal because we could not go anywhere - we could not meet with friends. The city streets were empty. The city was eerily silent. People could only go out for food and medical needs. People couldn’t travel either - flights were cancelled. Nothing - was - normal.
The rules changed frequently because the pandemic was a new situation. At first, I could not see my friends but then permission was given for a few sporting activities. I could play football again. There are still many rules as we need to “social distance”; that means staying 1 ½ metres away from anyone that is not family. Sometimes when I was with friends - we forgot. It took some time to get used to the rules. Some people wore a face mask but they were mostly older people. Some people wore face masks but under their noses. That was not logical but nothing was logical or normal anyway.
Occasionally, my parents allowed my sisters and me to go to the supermarket to buy items that we ran out of. It was a way for us to do something outside. A chance to stretch our legs. We were happy to run all outdoor errands. Visiting the supermarket was also a new experience. We stood silently in a line outside, waiting our turn to enter. While standing in line we must also be 1 ½ metres apart. Everyone was serious - some people looked scared. If someone sneezed or coughed - everyone turned and looked angrily at that person. Then swiftly the social distance became more than the requirement. The trolley handles were cleaned by a supermarket worker. They used a spray which smelled of alcohol but the same cloth was used repeatedly. That did not make sense to me. While in the supermarket an old man said to me,
“Young man, it would be wise to wear gloves. The trolleys are not clean enough.”
It felt as though he read my mind. I looked at him and smiled. He smiled back and left immediately. He wore a bright red mask with matching gloves.
When I went home, I told my family about the old man. My mom said,
“We will do the best we can without becoming paranoid. Good hygiene and our immune systems are our focus. Do not worry too much.”
She is always practical.
A few days later, my family and I were watching the 8 o’ clock news and there were a lot of stories about the pandemic. This is now normal. We watched to hear the latest status. The presenter spoke about a famous writer who died suddenly from covid-19. I could not believe my eyes! It’s the same old man that spoke to me in the supermarket.
These are indeed abnormal times.
The photo is my own and taken with an iPhone 6S