We went out for a night walk on Friday and Saturday. Mark wanted to “see stuff,” I like to wander around after dark, my mom wanted to get some fresh air.
It was just your usual summer weekend in Nantes with thousands of people eating out, hanging out, walking around, meeting up and having drinks.
Yes, just a typical weekend but for a tiny detail—this pandemic situation thingy you may have heard about.
Coming from Canada where some still people apply COVID sidewalk etiquette and cross the street to avoid walking past a stranger, Nantes’ nightlife was a bit of a shock.
Oh, rest assured that COVID restrictions are respected. Servers wear face masks, tables are one metre apart and customers tend to eat and drink outside rather than sit inside (although in all fairness, it could be because it’s easier to smoke outside…).
Still, that’s a shitload of people in one place. In fact, this summer, I see more table of six, eight, ten or more than usual as if a point was being made to hang out in large groups. I mean, how often do you eat out with ten of your friends? Most of my friends don’t know each other and just scheduling a hypothetical night out together sound like a logistical nightmare!
That said, I’m not writing this to shame anyone or start an endless virtue signalling competition like the ones you see on Twitter—yes, Karen, I’m happy to hear you haven’t stepped foot outside your house in five months and you find it outrageous your husband doesn’t wear a face mask when you’re having sex.
I’m just observing, wandering around and wondering.
Are we selfish, ignorant, arrogant, dumb or just realistic, practical and hedonistic human beings trying to handle the situation the best we can?
By now, I assume most of the world is relatively knowledgeable about COVID-19. We know how easily it spreads, we use terms like “asymptomatic” in normal conversations, we understand it can go terribly wrong, and we realize it’s everywhere. I mean, absolutely no French citizen missed the fact that just three months ago, hospitals were packed with people dying from COVID.
People I saw eating out and hanging out in large groups seemed a bit too old to feel invincible—all ages and social groups were represented.
Yet they gather and party like it’s 2019.
Why? Why do we do that?
Social butterflies or introverts, I think we all missed people in general during the toughest lockdown phases, whatever they were for you. We also realized that no matter how hard we try, few of us can be self-sufficient—we need goods, services, money, interactions, whatever.
I don’t believe in “pandemic shaming.” At this stage, we’re all trying to deal with the new normal and a virus that scientists don’t fully understand yet. Compromises have to be made—what else are you going to do when the WHO anticipate a lengthy duration of the pandemic?
We all have different priorities. Hanging out in groups isn’t usually my kind of fun so I probably won’t start during this pandemic. However, I did travel to Toronto and now I’m in France, so I’m part of the problem as well—it’s safer to stay put. I also have to accept a certain level of risk because, well, life. For instance, Mark started to go to playgrounds again in June. What’s the point of keeping him away from kids now since school is apparently resuming in September? The same logic probably applies to restaurants and bars customers—if you’ve been told to come back to the office and started commuting again, well, avoiding your friends makes little sense.
Ideally, we would still be self-isolating at home.
Unfortunately, we’re not robots.