11 May 2020

You can come out now


France's first-phase déconfinement goes into effect today, but with new rules....

Above: art naif painting from a group exhibition at Halle Saint-Pierre
(artist unknown)

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They say that for an action to become a habit it has to be repeated at least seven times. When you think about it, the pandemic has managed to alter behaviors in a very short time.

Before leaving home there would be certain items I'd make sure I had on me - keys, cellphone, wallet, navigo (travel) card, sunglasses, small umbrella, lip gloss. Check. With the lockdown the list stayed the same except added to it was mask, hand gel, filled-out attestation (an app on phones made that one simple) stating acceptable reasons for being outside and with it, I.D. to prove I was who I said I was - small adjustments that didn't take that much longer, but adjustments nevertheless. Now new habits.

Many became used to télétravail (working from home), discovering it suits them, with some opting to continue. Whittling life down to essentials was easier than thought, not to mention budget friendly. We don't know anyone who got into the un-French habit of hanging around in a bathrobe all day and, if anything, it seemed people were creating schedules so that their days would be maximized. When it came to food shopping, many Parisians changed their behaviors to take best advantage of their sorties, resorting to bringing along a list - something one usually doesn't see. Food shops and chain markets remained open, yet most roving markets were forced to close: competing for that last slab of monkfish or bunch or radishes entails elbowing up to the front of a stall, the antithesis of social distancing.

Shopping carts, caddies and baskets were heaped higher than usual - and not with toilet paper, as pointed out in a previous post - another French food shopping habit that was altered. We're used to picking up whatever we need for two, maybe three days at most at a time, and everything we need is within a block or two, which simplifies life. But since the start of the lockdown in March we'd stock up for extra days - en plus some shops had changed their hours and sadly, some had become collateral casualties on the heels of a two-month grève that had already weakened the economy.

Now that this first step of déconfinement has cautiously been set in motion, with it comes a mixed sense of dread and optimism. For the past week, beneath the masks more chatting could be heard in what had been eerily silent lines. Or perhaps that was simply a result of being confined a bit too long. BPJ

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