Traffic And Dogs
Okay, we’ve only been confined to our home since last Friday morning, but already I’m feeling the effects of this abnormal situation which in turn makes me question the very idea of normal. Where we live, the road outside the living room window is normally very busy with cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, joggers and pedestrians. It also has a timetable — rush hour, the school run, etc — and you could almost set your watch to the rise and fall of the din outside. But not since Friday, because all that has changed completely and now I turn my head when a vehicle passes by on the road, which is in fact as close to me as the man in the picture above.
We’ve lived in this house since 2011 and it wasn’t long before I realised that we should have checked the traffic flow before we signed and ever since then when the traffic does calm down, it comes as a blessed relief. Here’s a shot from this morning of how I always wished our street would look:
But what a paradox. Now, any movement outside my window is a novelty and I rubber-neck to see who it is. But then, there are other benefits. For example, the neighbours have dogs, lots of them and they’re not very thoughtful dog owners, often leaving them to bark at the front gate which in turn produces a chain reaction when someone walks near them. But now, since nobody is out and about, the dogs have largely fallen silent. One toy dog in particular just across the street is one of those tiny white terriers with a yap so irritating that thoughts of poisoned chunks of meat and/or rocket launchers have certainly crossed my mind.
Yet, because the traffic noise had become normal, in a weird way my mind is telling me that I should be wishing for the traffic to return as an indication that the world is normal again.
Shopping And Supermarkets
I don’t enjoy shopping in Argentina because the supermarkets are generally crap, the prices are all over the place because of inflation (60%) and the staff hasn’t a clue about customer service. In fact, they redefine surly. However, now that a trip to the supermarket for essential goods has become one of life’s few luxury outdoor activities left to us, I no longer baulk at the idea of a meander down the road for a supply run. In fact, I volunteer with gay abandon, especially since our local supermarket has introduced an over 60s hour from 0700 every morning, with discounts, but no buxom cheerleaders– much to my disappointment.
And get this, the supermarket is packed with stock, there hasn’t been any panic buying to speak of and items are rationed, quite rightly, to two of each per household. Further, when I ventured in on Monday I was one of only about fifteen customers in the place, which was a massive change from the usual barging and shoving. I never thought I’d say this, but I might actually get to enjoy supermarket shopping in Argentina.
Since I’m now on a regimen of frenzied maintenance, once I’ve cleaned my paintbrushes off and after I’ve gunned down herds of zombies in Half-Life 2, I’ve taken up the beginning of Breaking Bad again, a series so good that it’s well worth a re-run. However, and this is where it gets really weird, when I see people in the series standing close together, shaking hands, kissing in public or simply doing normal things that normal people do (or used to do), I’m reacting to it as if they’re committing some heinous crime. I actually find myself muttering, ‘you shouldn’t be doing that, you know.’ That’s not right for one single moment, yet it is a harbinger of things to come, where we will begin to define what will be the new normal.
Ours is a corner house, so we don’t suffer as much as if it were a terrace (duplex?) and fortunately we haven’t heard any of the neighbours enjoying noisy sex, which actually might be quite entertaining after a few drinks when you think about it. However, the family across the road has some of the most violent screaming matches I’ve ever heard. These have been going on for years, occurring at least once a week at maximum volume and so nasty that we’ve often been tempted to call the police out of fear that someone might die or there would be a horrible accident. The day after the curfew was announced, there was another horrendous screaming argument, where I seriously feared that a fatality may occur. But I didn’t call the police since they probably have more pressing matters to attend under the current circumstances. One has to wonder how that family is going to survive another week or two, all couped up in the same house.
Fortunately, the other neighbours are generally quiet, as are their dogs for the reasons mentioned earlier. Even our closest neighbour hasn’t ramped up his massive sound system, which he normally does every Thursday at five PM. Actually, I think he may have decided to stay elsewhere, which is perhaps no bad thing, all things considered.
My Mind Fights The New Normal
In the end though, perhaps my mind really is fighting against this new normality, with no one in the streets, the freedom to roam being curtailed and the ever-pressing silence outside my window. On the other hand, I’m a solitary type and have zero problems with peace, quiet and working alone. However, that is usually tempered by the knowledge that the world is still turning and jumping in its inimitable fashion beyond my sphere of existence and that I could rejoin it at a stroke. For the moment, that avenue of pleasure has been cut off to me and millions of others around the world, as their minds probably play the very same games.