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Living During Historical Times

If this COVID-19 situation has taught me anything, it is that if the end ever does come, we’re all just going to keep memeing about it until it takes us.

Epidemic! Pandemic! We’re all going to die! – The beginning of 2020 was very… intense. Every device was screaming about the end of the world, but we were just laughing. “It’s not going to affect us. Where is China and where is Europe?” And then Italy suddenly closed its borders. Completely. “OK, locked, so what? ” – I said to myself and recklessly bought tickets to Vienna for the end of March. My friends and I decided to have an “antirehab” trip through Austrian and Slovak beer houses, and then to fall into the healing thermal waters in Budapest. However, suddenly Slovakia closed up, and then Austria and Hungary followed… “Our antirehab went down the drain”, – we resumed sadly during our next call, – “Now the only way to drink some beer together is through a videocall”.

Meanwhile, France has begun to actively prepare for the coming Apocalypse. All the social networks, as usual, were posting and reposting all sorts of “joys” associated with the pandemic: statistics of deaths, the scale of infection, photos with coffins and other horrors. All this along with the craziest conspiracy theories and revelations. People divided into two camps: “we are all gonna die” and “coronavirus does not exist”. They kept fighting and quarreling on the Internet; putting each other on blacklists and simply went crazy. Even I couldn’t resist and blocked a couple of particularly inadequate ones.

On March 16, 2020, all schools and kindergartens, restaurants, museums and other non-strategic enterprises officially closed in France. Even my gym – the only bulwark of stability in this world, which kept its doors opened event on the New Year Eve and the 1st of May – that day closed its doors “jusqu’à nouvel ordre” (“until further instructions” – Fr).

While the entire French-speaking Internet gossiped about possible quarantine, lockdown and maybe even curfew, people rushed to buy the essential supplies. Judging by the stuff sticking out of all shopping carts in supermarkets, the most necessary were pasta and, for some reason, toilet paper. Okay, pasta, buckwheat and canned food – they’re on any survivalist’s list. But why people needed that much of toilet paper is still a mystery to me. Although, I’ve got a couple of guesses: either the people shit themselves with fear of such a dangerous virus, or Pornhub put its hand to it, by giving the free access to all users from the countries with the quarantine measures. So to speak, sit tight and jackoff, but do not leave the house! In any case, this mass purchase of toilet paper in 2020 will be included in the annals of world history. It is worth noting that I too succumbed to this mass hysteria and bought a couple of packages of paracetamol, cat tray filler and two bottles of wine. That’s when I considered my preparation for the Apocalypse complete.

Frankly speaking, this is not the kind of apocalypse I was expecting. No zombies, no special services in protective suits with biohazard badges, no army on every corner. Not even the slightest worldwide connection bust. Though, the last one almost happened. At the beginning all the people, who put themselves voluntarily under the lockdown, rushed to Netflix and different social networks at the same time and slightly overloaded Internet. As for me, I made two lists: a long “watch list” of films on pandemics, apocalypses, zombie invasions and environmental disasters, and a “to do list” of the stuff I could learn in the case of the official lockdown.It did not take long, and the same evening, the French president selflessly thundering “we are at war, bros!” officially declared the state of emergency and lockdown. And we all locked ourselves in our houses. It became illegal to wander the streets without a valid reason. Wandering could even involve fines and public blame. However, everyone could live his house if he had a special permission. This permission could be downloaded and edited on the government website by anyone. Basically, the valid reasons to leave the house were going to a grocery store or a pharmacy, seeing a doctor or going to work. The last one only worked with a note from the job, saying that the distant work was not possible. Also, anyone could go take care of the elderly relatives or kids, walk the pet or going for outdoor sports. Going for a walk to get some air was also allowed. So, it is still a mystery for me, how, with so many legal reasons to leave home, people managed to get fines.

The social experiment in treating internet addiction by overdose has begun. I ran around the apartment imagining how, in a couple of days, getting fed off staying in four walls, I will break through the police and military checkpoints to meet with friends. Looking forward to my imaginary adventured I wasn’t able to do anything from my to-do list. Parisians, at least half of them, seemed to had decided to train for some marathon, since the quantity of occasional runners grew in geometric progression. The weather was just marvelous, and, to my greatest disappointment, the population saw that quarantine as a mass vacation and went out the quays and parks, obviously refusing staying indoors. As for me, I did not have any need to leave, so I finally sat still to study, trying to combine my studies with all those projects that had been put aside for years and now I finally could get around to them. I also dyed my hair green…

Just a week after we got an official ban on walks in parks and embankments. Access to the latter was visually closed with red-and-white scotch tape. With an announcement of punishment that would fall on the heads of violators. Sports activities and, in fact, the walks themselves got limited to a radius of 1 km from the house and an hour a day. A new line appeared in the permission paper: the exit time, so that this hour, when checking, could be tracked. The number of people on the streets has noticeably thinned out, while the stocks of wine in the shops have drastically decreased. The crowd clearly began to swell. Speaking about me, I, in my thoughts about the end of the world, started seriously considering spending some time on watching the videos on how to plant and grow vegetables properly. Or at least call my mom, since she knows a lot about gardening. Then I thought, if I really got a garden with vegetables, and the Apocalyptic movie situation did come, I probably would have to buy a rifle… And then I calmed down. Come on! I won’t succeed at any gardening, because I have the gift to kill any plant with just a touch. Although… If we are attacked by monster plants, it is here that I come in handy for humanity!

My social life, meanwhile, became even more active than before quarantine. Our chatroom transformed into a meeting of partisans, where we all shared our experiences on getting “outside”. My friends made it a habit to call in the morning, figuring out if I was alive. Online parties at Zoom became common. We were spending all our time in constant video conferences, online games, or just online bars. However, no one had a wish to check social networks, because they became a place of some kind of mass hysteria. Some people openly declared non-compliance with the quarantine, posting provocative pictures from outdoor walks, others, hammering down the first and screaming “murderers!”, locked themselves even more, not even going out on the balcony. Social Networks got exploded by the most ridiculous headers ever: “The worldwide internet connection will fall down in half an hour!” “The population will be forced to get the electronic chip and will be tracked day and night!” “You can get fined if you buy stuff like Coca-Cola, because it is not a first necessity product!” – and a lot of other nonsense.

On the 21st day, my sociopathy blossomed violently, and I completely lost all desire to leave the house and, moreover, to contact with the outside world in any way. I kept running in the morning and sometimes, but very rare, took a bicycle to visit friends. Meanwhile, the Mayor of Paris imposed restrictions on sports activity, because too many people depicted athletes. The outdoor sports were forbidden from 10am to 7pm. Personally, it did not change anything for me as I run early in the morning, but this law increased the density of runners per square meter in the morning hours. Apparently, in the evening it was impossible to circulate, because of the running crowds of “sports enthusiasts.” I cannot say anything about it, in the evenings I was lying with my cat in a hammock, enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower, sipping wine, and watching movies, or playing a console. Meanwhile, Russia got quarantined…

At one point, it felt like everyone was living in Las Vegas. Almost nobody works, people lose money, everybody drinks, no matter of the time of day, and nobody knows what day of the week it is today. Personally, I’ve got the feeling that time was flying by at the speed of sound. Either it’s about disorganization, or exceptional employment, but my days have steadily started to mystically disappear. Like it was a Tuesday yesterday and now it’s already a Friday! How come? – Mystery!

On day 29, the French president announced an approximate date for the end of this quarantine situation, officially extending it for one more month. Days, meanwhile, turned into one day of groundhog: jogging in the morning, working in the afternoon, drinking with friends online in Zoom in the evening. The space around the computer started to look like a professional studio, with tagged microphones, proper lighting and various backgrounds. The only noteworthy event at that time was a birthday party of a friend that we have thrown illegally, by gathering during that lockdown. I should say that this quarantine situation began to depopulate our ranks even faster that coronavirus! Even non-drinking friends started to appear in the video-call windows with glasses of wine. On the 37th day of the lockdown I personally won the online competition in “liter-ball and alco-golf”, received a severe fatal injury (mental one) and gave up on wine forever.

A week before the official end of the quarantine, people began to go out, ignoring the fines. Now and then, you could hear the party sounds from the neighbors. The weather has now set fair and it became impossible to stay locked indoors.

On May 11, 2020, France announced the end of quarantine, which lasted 55 days. During this time, I virtually talked with more people than I did in real life last year! Life started to come back to normal. Schools have organized classes for small groups, but the work remained remote if possible. The written permits were cancelled, except for one for public transport during rush hour. Reasons are the same: work (if certified), going to the doctor or move for family reasons. During the whole day (except for the rush hours), you could take the transport freely. But masks remained an obligation. Some owners of the shops and pharmacies forbade entering their stores without the mask. Hairdressers and beauty salons were finally opened and got immediately overcrowded by the clients. I suspect that if the quarantine lasted a bit longer, we could see more scary things than this coronavirus. All mass events are limited to 10 persons. Restaurants are still closed but offering a take-away service. Gyms, swimming pools, museums and, for some reasons, parks remained closed.

Starting from the 2nd of July 2020, the life is gradually coming back to its usual course. No more restrictions on gathering people, the parks are opened, restaurants occupied all the sidewalks with tables, but people are happy to finally be able to get a cup of coffee in a public place. Soon the borders will open, and the world will be the same again. Personally, I hope on maintaining the social distance between people forever.

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