Every person has a different Corona story to tell. I talked to some of them to gain some understanding. To imagine myself in someone else’s shoes. Maybe you’d like to imagine yourself in their shoes too.
‘Not a single one of us signed up for this. It is what it is. We’ve got to make the best of it’.
Alison and her fourteen-year-old son, Ben, have been at home since March 5th. No walks; no trips to the supermarket. She leaves her apartment to put out the rubbish, check the mail, and collect parcels from downstairs. That’s it. She is petrified of catching Corona. She suffers from asthma and allergies, and wonders what would happen to Ben if she had to go into hospital.
I spoke to her on a Saturday. Cleaning day. ‘We have a good routine now. I do the kitchen and bathroom, and Ben does the hoovering and dusting. We both do laundry. We used to have a cleaner come in once every couple of weeks. She’d like to return but I’m worried about letting her back in. Her husband thinks Corona is a hoax’.
‘We’ve stayed home and stayed put. I sometimes see my neighbour at her front door. Other than that, the only contact I have is with the supermarket delivery-person. I have a nice, long balcony, so I walk out there. I do 8,000 – 12,000 steps a day’.
Ben studies on-line. He keeps to his normal school schedule and is ‘pretty busy’. ‘He has a regular school day – in my bedroom’, Alison tells me. Communication at his International School has always been on-line. Video-conferencing took a little getting used to, but he works on projects with class-mates via the school’s Google account system. Only his language classes are suffering a little, other than that it’s been a ‘smooth transition’. ‘He’s conscientious and just does his work. I haven’t had to get involved at all’. Ben is supposed to return to school on June 2nd, but ‘He’s worried about it’. According to government guidelines, classes will be split in half and each will go to school twice a week. On the remaining day, everyone will continue to learn on-line. Kids will not be allowed to use the halls, or their lockers. Each child will be assigned a seat in a class and will stay there all day with teachers rotating between class-rooms. But Alison says she will keep Ben home. She wants him to go back to school and knows he needs to go back, and to socialise, but she thinks the timing is wrong; too much disruption for only a month before the summer break. There’ll be no penalty for parents who decide to keep their children at home and she thinks the school would prefer it if some parents did. ‘It’s a nightmare for them – they have 1,200 pupils’.
In general, Alison thinks the rules are being relaxed too much, too fast. She lives on the edge of the city. ‘We don’t see anything here. There are no shops or city stuff. It’s been nice and quiet. I see the same people walking their dog or cycling past. Our neighbourhood is very enclosed. I feel like I’m living in a village, not Amsterdam.
I ask if she plans on doing anything different. ‘I have a hair appointment in June. I’m worried that it’s an unnecessary risk. I’ve been so careful for so long, am I just being vain? I will be the first appointment of the day, and my hairdresser will wear a mask and clean after every client. Only one person can go in at once, so Ben and I can’t go together, but when he has an appointment, I’ll go with him and stand outside. I don’t know, I can’t decide. I’m nervous. We’re not going to have much of a social life. I need to be cautious but I know I’ve got to live life’.
‘But I don’t feel like I’ve been stuck inside. Ben and I don’t fight. I don’t feel like I’m with someone I need to take a break from. We’re both introverts. Ben is happy doing his art and creating stories. We don’t get bored’. And there are things she’s learned from, and things she likes about being in lock-down. ‘I’m more organised. We’re eating healthily now. Before, I’d be running around, and I spent a lot of money eating out, just grabbing something to go – crappy food and bad service. All that time on running small errands – now we sit down together, decide what we need, order on-line, and I don’t have to think about it for another month. I feel more at peace’.
‘I really want to fix up the balcony. We never spent time out there before. Now I appreciate having it and want to use it as part of our house. Before when we were home, we were exhausted – from the week, or having just come back from holiday. Now home is a more productive place, we’ve got a routine, eat better, feel healthier and I’m much happier’.
‘It’s been an eye-opener. I feel that what I’ve done is what needs to be done in this situation. I think it’s shown up a huge divide amongst people who care, who are socially responsible, and those who just do what they want. I wouldn’t mind if we had to do this for another month or two, if there was a chance that we could all live our lives more safely afterwards’.