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Week two of the quarantine: an experience

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The second week is done and the government just extended the quarantine to April 11th. Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (ANO) requested an extension to April 30th. The quarantine/home office with the whole family continues. It is no longer a nice “slow-down” from our previously fast-paced hectic lives. It is isolation.

Friday was my big day. I had delayed the supermarket trip from Thursday in order to properly prepare. We agreed we would do this once as to limit our exposure and respect the rules. One big shopping trip, a huge list, cash, cards, mask, gloves, and a sports get-up so the pesky virus molecules can’t jump up and get a hold of my jacket as I walk by. I walked out the door at 18:00 sharp and felt like I was wandering in the unknown in one of those American Armageddon movies. I had four bags of trash, six bags of recycling and my blue Ikea bags for all the groceries. Off I went.

I made it to the garage and noticed that it was suspiciously full of cars considering the warm summer-like Friday night. Had all the others been eaten? I ditched the trash and approached my car, relieved that I had recently filled the fuel tank. Jumping in I felt a rush of adrenaline as I ignited the engine and cranked the radio; finally free!! We decided I would go to a large format supermarket, so I even got to jump on the highway and crank up the speed. The roads were near empty and I felt the summer air rush through the interior. How was I to actually find everything on that enormous shopping list?

The store was no busier than usual as I pulled into the parking lot. Seeing everyone in masks and gloves brought me back to the reality of the situation. I grabbed a trolley and went for it. I was surprised at how naturally I kept my distance from people. If I came up close, people instantly backed off and gave me space, in a pleasant polite way. As I made my way through the store, I found it different. There were no kids running around crying as usual. No cute couples planning romantic wine and cheese nights. The staff seemed overworked as they were almost resting on the pallets of materials needing to be stocked on shelves. Then came the announcement: “Due to the situation we are closing at 20:00.” It was already 19:00 and they were asking everyone to go check-out. I had three hundred items to find! The mad rush began. I no longer cared about what was on sale, if I should but the bigger or smaller packaging, which brand, how fresh, what the ingredients are or where it was from. I grabbed what I could and moved on. As my heart rate tripled and my trolley became full, I was still only half way through the list. The announcements kept coming, every five minutes: “People, get to the registers, we are closing.” It was 19:40 and I had to keep going. The scene was hilarious. All of us desperados, mostly young family men I presume by the overfilled trolleys, running around, panting for breath, grabbing anything we can find from our lists. I even managed to find a second trolley and filled that too. Diapers, soaps, cleaning detergents, dried goods, breads, flours, sugars, the list was never ending. At 19:50 I gave up, I wasn’t making it. I took my two trolleys to the register and started piling up the items on the conveyor belt. One of the store staff walked by and commented “The world is ending and yet you people run to do shopping.” I responded “easy for you to say, you work in a food store!”

The trip was not as enjoyable as usual. I had no idea what I bought, but it cost CZK8000. I didn’t even manage to get one fresh fruit or vegetable. There was no time. I would have to go back to the store on Saturday.

Everyone was excited on Saturday morning as we cleaned the purchase and the cooking began. The weather was great, the food was top notch and things were looking on the up-and-up! Foods long thought to have gone extinct were back in the fridge and on the cupboard shelves. Nothing like a greasy bacon, egg and toast breakfast. The right condiments for the meal, the choice of which side dish to prepare, everything in the pantry for chocolate chip cookies. A jump to the veggie stand and the shopping trip for the next two weeks was complete.

Although the food boosted morale, Saturday came with a somber mood. We have lived in our apartment for about three years. During that time we have heard the neighbors argue a couple of times on each side. Saturday it was everywhere. We had all the windows open but it seemed that at some point in the day, every one of our neighbors, at some time, had an argument with one of their cohabitants. Then it happened to us. Over something that would normally be unnoticed, we decided to tell each other off and challenge each other’s efforts with the children. Voices were raised, doors were abruptly closed, and silence soon prevailed. Lucky soon everyone became hungry and we had a chance to apologize at a table full of food. The tensions I wrote about on Friday were coming out.

As Sunday brought a festive mood – two weeks on lock-down, my wife made sushi. After a day spent cleaning the house, doing laundry, fixing some things and breaking others we made our way to watch a comedy on the television and eat our special dinner. Then it dawned on me, I had forgotten to buy wine. This is going to be a long two weeks!

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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