Tuesday, 24th March. My first visit to the supermarket since lockdown was imposed. My first time out of the house, except to take our dog, Gizmo, for a walk in the barranco behind us. My first contact with anybody except my wife, Nikki, for the past nine days (“contact” being a smile from a safe, two metre socially-isolated distance and a few words exchanged with the checkout lady).
The cosmopolitan, busy little town I call my home, is a ghost town. The streets are empty. The beach deserted. There’s an eerie stillness.
This quote (from the first chapter of my novel: TOO CLOSE TO THE WIND) describes the normal vibe:
“El Médano was a party town, an ‘Endless Summer’ kind of place, a town with no winter where everybody pursued sun, sex, surf, and fun—endlessly. Médanites wanted to let the good times roll …”
Driving through Ghost Town is weird, but hang on … Every cloud, silver linings, reasons to be cheerful … The eerie stillness is actually surprisingly relaxing. Now you can hear the sound of the surf, the breeze in the palm trees, the seagulls’ plaintive cries. The streets are empty: very few cars—which makes driving a pleasant experience (perhaps as it was fifty years ago).
I arrive at Mercadona and things get rather more stressful … The carpark is chock-a-block, with cars queuing to get in. Eventually someone leaves and I take their space. Then I notice the queue to get into the shop. It stretches right around the carpark and into the street. Around 30 – 50 people are waiting in line. I think about turning around and going home. But I don’t. And, again, it’s a lot less stressful than I’m expecting.
Okay, the queue is not what I’d call typically Spanish (let alone Canario). The mood is sombre, spooky even. Nobody speaks. We avoid eye contact. The person ahead of me puts on a pair of purple gloves and then washes them with sanitiser from a dispenser in his pocket. But hey, it is a typically glorious day (sunny, 22c, as normal) and nobody is too stressed.
We wait calmly, patiently, two metres apart, heads buried in our phones—all except me, that is. Unfortunately, my mobile isn’t smart enough to do anything interesting (it’s an eight-year-old, titchy little red clamshell that makes phone calls, but not much else). Now I’m regretting not bringing my Kindle with me … until I realised I have some paper (my shopping list) and a pen … So I spend the time writing some notes for a blog post about going to Mercadona.
Inside, things are again rather less stressful than usual. The shopping experience is actually relatively pleasant. The shelves are well-stocked (no panic buying here). My fellow customers treat each other with exaggerated politeness—none of the usual slaloming around with trolleys. And the staff are super friendly (PD: muchas gracias al personal super amable y servicial).
And to finish this post on a high … I invented a new word today: “Vexit” (Virus Exit Strategy) to cover the various stages we’ll have to go through before we get to the Light At The End Of The Tunnel: social distancing, herd immunity, antibody tests, a vaccine …
Maybe it’ll catch on (“Vexit”, that is). Perhaps it’ll go viral (LOL) like “Wooftastic” (which Nikki and I invented and is gradually becoming popular). One day “Vexit” and “Wooftastic” will join Brexit in the dictionary. You mark my words 🙂