Monday, April 6, 2020

Gone viral: part II

Welcome to part II of my lockdown diaries. Part I is available hereTo set the tone, let us conjugate the expression être confiné (to be on lockdown):

Je suis confiné(e) : I am on lockdown 

Tu es confiné(e) : You are on lockdown
Il/Elle est confiné(e) : He/She is on lockdown
Nous sommes confiné(e)s : We are on lockdown
Vous êtes confiné(e)s : You are on lockdown
Ils/Elles sont confiné(e)s : They are on lockdown


March 30

With the entire country being ordered to #RestezChezVous, work has been a tad slooow for the past few weeks. But that does not stop me from ordering 250 euros worth of clothing from stores that are naturally closed due to the epidemic and won’t be able to deliver a damn thing until June. My husband, who loves statistics, really loves the one about how men still do most of the earning while women still do most of the spending, but what he doesn’t realize is that in my world, e-shopping is a highly effective form of self-medication with calming powers akin to those of Hatha yoga or, say, hiding in the garage with a shot glass and a bottle of triple sec. Buying stuff has always done great good to my nerves, and this is ESPECIALLY true when they have been frayed into oblivion by these very loud, very needy little creatures we live with who, the way things are going, may never go back to school again, ever.

March 31

One of the very first cultural lessons I was taught about the French, even before I first arrived in Paris waaaay back in 1999, was that direct eye contact with total strangers is a big no-no. Smiling while engaging in wanton eye contact is even worse. Far too forward. Far too direct. Far too intimate. But over time this has, at least in my experience, relaxed somewhat. A smile and a bonjour, when directed at the right passer-by, may be returned—without the recipient taking you for a wacko, a nympho, or a tourist. And as lockdown drags on, I find myself searching the face of everyone with whom I cross paths, hoping to find a kindred sparkle in their eye and perhaps even a little smile of solidarity. Alas, people are so freaked out by the risk of contagion that not only do they avoid eye contact at all costs, but they CROSS THE STREET when I come within 10 meters of them. I know it isn’t personal, but it still feels undeservedly cruel.

April 1

I’m out on another mind-clearing run, feeling more unnerved than ever by the deserted park avenues and grassy esplanades that in a parallel universe would have been brimming with families, teenagers playing soccer, and sweet elderly couples out for an evening stroll. But the voices and laughter are gone now, and in their place is an eerie silence that hangs heavy in the air, making it somehow harder to breathe. I think of an article a friend of mine recently posted on Facebook entitled “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief,” and  before I can stop myself, tears are sliding down my cheeks.

I want to sit down and weep. Weep for this town, for this country, for this world. To surrender just for a moment to the fear I feel for my brother, working on the front lines of this horror show in the emergency room of a New York City hospital, or for my siblings-in-law who are both physicians just south of Paris, or for my parents and so many other people I love who are “over 65” and live halfway around the world. For ourselves, too, and the uncertainty that has replaced the familiar and the safe. But I can’t allow myself to fall apart; not now, not ever. So instead I run faster, wondering how many people are hanging by a thread, doing their best to smile when what they really want to do is scream.

April 2

It’s Thursday. Thursday is D-Day for food shopping. We’ve been told again and again to avoid the grocery store, but we gotta eat, especially with all four of us here all day, every day. So online shopping it is—along with the entire Paris region, bien sûr. Result: in addition to the physical lines on the streets, there are now virtual lines just to access the largest online grocery stores. Plus, no sooner do you manage to enter these websites than you realize with dismay that the earliest you can be delivered (if you can be delivered at all) is in 10 days. Hmm. Pigeons are edible; shall we pursue that?

Never being one to give up, I ultimately find a trick that works: go to, open a browser window, and leave it open for 48 hours, at which point some algorithm or other must take pity on you because around 3:30 p.m., a magical free spot appears for pick-up the following day. Dude, I’ll take it. Actually, virtual grocery shopping in itself is kind of fun. What is not fun is when you choose a time slot, only to be informed that half your cart is now out of stock. Each week has its own “out of stock” theme. After the Great Toilet Paper Famine of mid-March, now the country is out of flour. No flour anywhere. Not in the stores. Not on the internet. Nowhere. No yeast, either. What in God’s name are people doing? Trying to bake themselves a time machine? IT WON’T WORK.

April 3

My son’s teacher sends a group email wishing us all good luck for the upcoming holidays. What? Oh riiiiight, tomorrow is the start of spring vacation! Two weeks of enjoying an all-inclusive resort in Majorca hanging out right here in the living room. She adds that she’s planning to put together a children’s Coronavirus recipe book filled with the delicious cakes and whatnot that her little students have surely been concocting with their newly-unemployed parents during lockdown. Two thoughts come immediately to my mind: 1. As a communication professional, believe me when I say that “The Children’s Coronavirus Cookbook” is not a well-thought-out title. 2. “The Flour-Free, Yeast-Free Children’s Coronavirus Cookbook” is infinitely worse.

April 4

Since the only thing I seem to have any control over these days is the cleanliness of our home, I have taken to somewhat obsessive-compulsive vacuuming. In a moment of stupendous foresight, we invested in a handheld Dyson a few months back and it has since become, perhaps not my best friendthat title is reserved for the corkscrewbut at the very least my close friend. However, today I am temporarily out of things to clean, so I decide to tidy up my travel laptop, which my husband says is woefully low on available disk space. I can’t even install the latest upgrade, Windows 10 version “1903” (because nothing makes sense anymore).

April 5

Seeking to free up my hard drive, I delete a bunch of stuff. I get a little overzealous and end up uninstalling Microsoft Office 2010, which is surprisingly easy to do, actually. Only now I can’t reinstall it because the license belongs to my husband’s former boss. All the little blue and white Word document file icons on my desktop transform into “blank page” icons.


April 6

I find Office 2016 selling for €20 on Amazon. Sounds shady, but the reviews look legit. I download it, install it, and it works. The little blank pages become comforting “W” icons once more.


To be continued!

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