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Day thirty six of the quarantine: an experience

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So I woke up feeling great on Monday. The sunshine was flowing through the curtains and every muscle in my body felt the two runs that I had put in on the weekend. I had to stretch out some muscles in order for them to work, but slowly I got moving. I had an exciting event planned for today and it was a meeting that I needed to attend in the centre. It would be the first time in thirty six days that I left my home for something to do with work. I would finally get a chance to see those empty streets, free of tourists in Old Town everyone was writing about.

I had shaved my head on Sunday so I felt nice and fresh for the meeting. A bit of a complex about how it really looked at close range, but I figured with all the masks and all nobody would notice. I was so excited I woke up first followed promptly by my youngest. That meant I needed to feed him his oatmeal, then eat mine, and then I could run off to get dressed! I put on something nice and “springy,” grabbed the papers I had prepared, and was darting down the stairs in no time.

With full mask, sanitizer and car keys I went down the stairs and looked forward to the drive. I figured there would be parking as everyone was at home. It was a great morning so I rolled down the windows, cranked some tunes and smashed on the accelerator, soon driving at speeds up to 30 km an hour! The feeling was so familiar it was as if there was some normalcy returning. In fact it was a little bit “goldilocks” because there was no traffic, no packed pedestrian crossings or bus stops, the normally overflowing trams were scarcely populated, and shops were largely closed. In short the city does look slightly deserted or in fact closer to how the city looked and felt in 1993, during my first visit.
The drive was too short and soon I was looking for parking around Old Town. I didn’t think that so many people lived in Old Town as it was not easy finding a spot. Finally I defaulted to my secret spot close to the Intercontinental on Parizska Street. The normally bustling shopping and tourist district was really quiet. It looked as if they banned anyone from coming close in order to do some construction touch-ups. There were little construction projects going on all over the place!

I walked to my meeting destination and had to go through security. It is great how everyone is carefully keeping distance, wearing masks, not touching and in general trying to be contactless. It is not this way in most of the world. I believe we are in one of the countries that is top-notch in our virus response: organization, speed and innovation. It helps when there is a population which seems to, in general, respect rules rather than start “the hell with lock-ups” protests.

The meeting went well. There were only four of us so each person sat at a separate table and we reviewed everything, using a wireless projector to augment anything that we all needed to see at the same time. It was really interesting getting a feel of the possible case scenario for when we return back to work. Will this be the norm? I think that for several months at least, yes. No hand shaking, no sitting close to each other in small conference rooms, no offering of gum or sharing chips. Things may be impersonal for a while.

After the meeting I was a little uneasy because I didn’t want to go home, but knew that I should (and nothing else was open). So I walked to my car and reluctantly returned. The cool breeze contrasted with the hot sun and it made for a perfect April afternoon. My family was happy to see me back as even short times away now seem long for them, especially the kids. They have gotten used to seeing me anytime they want. The exception, food shopping, is rather easy to forgive and understandable for them.

I returned back to my home-office work and called a friend who operates a great restaurant. He explained to me how horrendous the situation he and his competitors are in. There really seems to be no way out for many entrepreneurs. This whole global lock-down will be the nail-in-the-coffin for small businesses everywhere. There is just no way to help the masses who are self-employed and run “small” businesses. There are lots of government programs and such but as usual it is complicated to fit into the defined parameters, or it may be pointless to take on debt that one knows can never actually be repaid. It is really difficult for us to imagine the amount of money circulating through these enterprises, being collected for work, then being paid out in rents, taxes, wages, suppliers and investments. In a good business, there may be a little left for the owner at the end of the month, but often he needs to invest it back into the business in order to keep one step ahead of the competition or customer’s expectations.

So my next goal this week is to find one small business to help every day. Even if it is going out and picking up lunch for the whole family, visiting a fruit stand, or buying from one of the farmers market suppliers online. Just a little support for these hard working souls so they can see that the worst is behind, and the time for catching up is near.
Let’s do it!

Paul Lysek – The idea of writing a daily update came to me by seeing, hearing and trying to understand all the things that are happening around us at this time. This story is a combination of all those sources, including friends, relatives, and experiences with attempts to bring out the satire, emotion and changing environment of the situation. It is entirely fictional, with the exception of my sarcasm.

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