COMMUNITY LIFE IN SPAIN
This morning I went into town. I took a shopping list, because if you get stopped you need to be able to prove that you have a valid reason to be on the road. There’s a €601 to €30.000 fine if you have no excuse. If you are then caught a second time, you go to jail for three months to a year.
Bread, butter, yeast, flour, soap. Bananas. Tahini. Most things I can get in the local eco-shop. It’s a little more expensive than the market though. I mean, organic butter, 180 grams for €3,75? No way.
I still walk around the shop like it’s three days ago. New is that now, whenever I pick an item up and put it back, I feel uncomfortable. Also, me and the two other customers are keenly aware of each other. Not alarmed, but aware of our count, approximate age and gender, location in the shop, trajectory. I take my basket full of groceries to the counter and am greeted by the shopkeeper as always. Only now she’s wearing blue rubber gloves. I hover my back-card over her card-reader and my money flies across Europe to her account. After, she offers me some self-made hand sanitizer. She sprays the inside of my hands, then the outside. “Great stuff,” she says. “It has alcohol, aloë vera, tomillo, oregano.” The price tag on the small bottle reads €9. I smell my hands. “Very nice.”
In front of the pharmacy, a woman with a dog looks flustered. The dog has vomited. A pharmacist wearing gloves and a mask comes out with a bucket of soapy water to flush the pavement.
There’s a sign on the pharmacy's door: “no more than three people at one time”. The woman ties her dog to a post and raises her voice to ask if she can come in. “Yes,” they say, and when she goes in, I can see only one other person. So I ask if I can also come in. A bored pharmacist nods, but the dog owner tells me “no, maximum three!” and points at someone I can’t see from where I’m standing. So I wait a little longer to find out that they have run out of both hand sanitizer and alcohol. Maybe next week. And no, we don’t sell empty atomizers.
The canals in Venice have become so clear that you can see loads of fishes swimming in them. Satellite images mapping air pollution show a dramatic improvement of air quality over the whole of Europe.
Last stop is the small shop where I’d managed to buy 250 grams of organic butter for €2,75 last Saturday. They’re open, but this shop is much smaller, and there are more people here. Most of them have their mouth covered. I check, but see they have run out of the organic butter. There’s only non-organic butter left. I consider making an exception and take two bars of non-organic butter out of the fridge. Immediately afterwards, I decide not to use the crises as an excuse to change Anna’s principles. I put the butter back in the fridge when no-one is looking, and buy some turmeric instead. Organic, obviously.
Last Saturday I liked the place. Now I like being outside of it better. Outside it’s quiet, and there is just so much more space around. The atmosphere is not at all the same. My thoughts are clearer. I can breathe.
Police cars slowly drive through town, showing that they are there. They are not doing anything though. Not yet. There’s an ambulance too, blocking a side street. No sirens or lights. Just two paramedics in front, filling out paperwork. A tow-truck passes by. The mechanic behind the wheel is wearing the same paper mask as the paramedics, the pharmacist, the shopkeeper.
Before driving back, I quickly pop into the first shop again to buy the expensive butter. And the €9 hand-sanitizer.