LESLIE MCBRIDE WILE
12 March 2020
I’m wondering whether to go to my regular massage appointment this afternoon, whether to cancel having my teeth cleaned tomorrow morning. I can easily print the proper permit to show the carabinieri when I leave Mondovì for Villanova, but do I want to expose myself to anyone at all, even in a healthcare setting? As of today non-essential shops, bars and restaurants, salons (bye-bye, pedicure!), and most places people might gather are closed. Community organizations like Red Cross are offering to do grocery shopping for anyone who can’t leave home, and a couple of newspapers are giving free access to online editions because people can’t go to the giornalaio. There’s even a link circulating that will take you to virtual tours of several of the world’s finest art museums.
No more wondering. The dentist called to cancel my Friday appointment; he’s seeing only emergency cases. That tipped my worry meter over the edge and I cancelled my massage. I’m pretty unhappy about that as I know it would have made me feel better, but today being in close proximity with anyone seems dangerous. Probably that’s for the best. If social distancing is the tactic that will slow the spread of the virus, we should all feel more than a little reluctant to leave home.
Fortunately I started a landscaping project last week, before the national lockdown, and the men continue coming to work even though they must present travel permits to the police at checkpoints between municipalities. It’s nice to have activity and company around; we chat a bit when I bring coffee to them at mid-morning and afternoon. And our neighbors up the road took a walk yesterday with their 18-month-old daughter, so we had a short visit, standing well apart in the road until little Anna blew a kiss and took off at a run with her parents close behind. It’s good to laugh and much of what’s circulating on social media is humor: a girl dressed to go out applies a squirt of cologne. Her mother’s voice asks where she’s going; she replies she’s going to take a walk around the kitchen. This is a nice culture to live in.
People are keeping busy, as one does at times like this—yesterday our neighbor rode his tractor into his hazelnut groves on the far side of our little valley to cultivate the trees. His wife will be closer to home, tending their beehives. I spoke by telephone with the man who helps me keep up with our gardens; he can’t come to work on my vegetable patch but is already planting potatoes in his own. From our neighbor’s place I hear the sound of a chainsaw. We’re lucky to be outside of town, on the shoulder of a small valley below the old ramparts of the medieval part of Mondovì. We can leave our homes and still be on our own property instead of on a public street or sidewalk. Just outdoors is sweet mountain air.
This morning I drove to the mall where the big hypermarket contains a pharmacy, and prices at the gas station are always lower than anywhere else (1.51 euros/liter today). I was almost disappointed not to encounter a checkpoint; I had my permit and carta d’identità ready but no one stopped me to ask for my papers. The mall is shuttered and locked except for Ipercoop, and the few shoppers gave each other a wide berth. Most were solitary; I only saw one couple—two women who might have been mother and daughter. One man wore latex gloves and a bandana masking his face. In the checkout line we kept our distance, which did not prevent some casual small talk. Italians are so social and so accustomed to shopping for groceries in famiglia, they have to chat to someone while they wait, even a stranger.
Back at home, I put away groceries, made a salad for lunch, tried to act as if everything were normal. Which for the present, it is.