Post-Coronavirus Wave 1

This week began the lifting of restrictions to businesses in Switzerland. Starting this past Monday, select businesses such as garden stores and coiffeurs could open, but still must account for the social distancing rules.

Today, Jessica and I biked down to our neighboring village, Langnau am Albis, to go to the garden store. The bike ride there is downhill and along residential streets, ending with a nice path along the river. The weather today was cloudy, the sun occasionally breaking through, and cool. One there, we parked our bikes at the bike parking right next to the entrance. Inside the entrance was a young staffer with a touchpad counting every individual entering and leaving the store. Next to her was freely-available hand sanitizer. Since the store hadn’t hit the capacity limit yet, we scrubbed our hands and walked in.

Once inside, not many people respected social distancing rules. The store hadn’t changed their layout, so it was hard to do so in the tight aisles. Also, there were very few people with masks, maybe 1 in 10. The Swiss government has, thus far, not mandated wearing masks in public due to their severe concern about putting an undue economic burden on the people. By “economic burden” I don’t mean just pure dollar amount. I also mean in terms of the people transporting themselves to stores, and the logistics of shipping out enough masks to stores, and the health cost of causing a public rush to buy masks.

We wanted to do a mini project of planting the following seeds in pots (Pflanzentöpfe): blue pansies (blauen Stiefmütterchen), white silk poppies (weiss Seidenmohn), French marigold (Tagetes Honeycomb), basil (Basilikum), and peppermint (Pfefferminze).

Since the water in Adliswil is hard, thanks to the calcium, I managed to trip over myself during an all-German conversation with a worker there. Entschuldigung, mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut. Das Wasser in Adliswil is hart. Was sollen wir machen? “Sorry, my German isn’t very good. The water in Adliswil is hard. What should we do?” We were pointed to a concentrated chemical to dilute in our water to make it soft water (weiches wasser), and of course it is seeded with other nutrients. which means it is an inorganic solution to our problem. A bit of a bummer since we’ve been doing things 100% organically up to this point, but my patience has limits and I’m not about to spend the time and energy to freeze a bunch of ice and then distill my own water for watering the pots.

I know hard water isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the plants. However, based on last years’ potted plants dying off – the lucky ones that I remembered to water, at least – showed signs of mineral burn. Since we’ve cleaned our bathroom’s calcium buildup enough to know there’s excessive calcium, and all water quality reports point to “hard water” here, I have a sneaking suspicion that our water has high levels of other minerals.

Anyway, we also picked up some additional pots, sand, and drainage clay. We already had 4x big bags of loamy soil delivered, and the sand on hand will let me adjust the “loamy” nature of our soil. I didn’t wind up using it for these seeds, but I like to be prepared.

Standing in line, people still followed the social distancing rules, mainly due to the tape on the ground indicating where to stand: 2 meters apart. Since Jess and I took our time, by the time we got to the line it was very long. The Swiss take gardening seriously, and everyone was stocking up on as much as they could carry. Literally. We overheard someone saying to his parter “Challenge Akzept!” as he loaded himself up to carry a 30 liter bag of soil, quoting a well-known joke from How I Met Your Mother. This being the first weekend garden stores are open for months, everyone in line was buying months worth of plants and materials.

As we meandered through our line, we could see out the front of the store, where another line was. About twenty people were lined up outside waiting for us to leave, so that they could enter the store. It was people of all ages, young and old, mask-wearers and free-breathers.

At checkout, a giant plexiglass screen had been erected on the counter with a low opening along the counter, like the openings at banks. This protected both the worker and us from each other. The counter was longer than the screen so the cashier could scan the items. However, there was a taped line on the ground to keep us at the section of counter with plexiglass, so we didn’t put the cashier at-risk. Once we paid, she waited patiently for us to pack up our goods into our bags. We were in the non-protected counterspace area, while she was waiting at the register behind the plexiglass, reversing our roles from before. But still protecting each other.

Once we packed our goods and left the area, could the person behind us begin the checkout process. Now we understood why it was so slow: people take the precautions seriously. Even if they disagree with the recommendations (for example, our neighbor thinks most coronavirus reactions have been blown way out of proportion), people still respect the guidance. Including our neighbor.

The bike ride home was uphill with an elevation difference of one or two hundred meters, but our electric bikes did most of the work. On the way home, another cyclist pointed to our back tires zu wenig Luft, “too little air”! I always carry an extra inner tube and hand-sized bike pump with me so we fixed that quickly. The lack of air in the tires being yet another symptom of the 7 weeks of staying at home. It was nice of him to, on his exercise bike ride, pay attention to a stranger’s tires, and let us know. It wasn’t apparent to us prior to loading up our bikes with the heavier soils and pots.

The ride was nice, cool, cloudy. Once home, we put the clay drainage rocks in the bottom of the pots, then the soil, poked some holes in the soil for the seeds, lined the holes with a little bit of soil specifically made for germination, plopped in some seeds, added a little bit more soil, watered them (plainly, no chemicals yet), set them out on our balcony. Then, the rain finally swept through today.

We told some friends we planted flowers today and one wanted a picture, so we sent them a nice close-up picture of some loamy dirt.

Why “Wave 1” in the title?

I don’t want to be a downer. But reading up on historical pandemics, it does seem like they occur in waves. For example, the “Spanish Flu” was known for the second wave of the flu, not the first (which had been censored during WW1). The neutral Spanish government, having no censorship, openly published articles about how awful this flu was during the second wave, which is how it came to bypass the censors and be known as the “Spanish Flu”.

I don’t want there to be a second wave. But if people who disagree with the guidelines also disrespect them, then they are building the transportation system by which they can deliver the virus to other communities via themselves. At least in the US, it should be noted how dangerous this disease is: over 65,000 American lives have died in a 2-month period. Compare that with the US’s 17 years long participation in the Vietnam War and the 58,000 American lives lost. For those that care about “the economy” more than human life, consider that the Vietnam War cost roughly 2.3% of the USA’s GDP whereas coronavirus has caused a 4.8% GDP 1-quarter shrinkage. Reopening “the economy” to make the GDP number get smaller wouldn’t actually work, considering that there would be more mass death of healthy individuals who would have contributed to the GDP, and now are not on account of being dead, so the GDP would still shrink. Plus more dead people.

It is an ugly disease and people that want to reopen are being absolutely callous.


Created: May 02, 2020 17:18:02 EDT
Last Updated: May 02, 2020 17:32:47 EDT
By: Cory Slep

Fediverse Comments

@cjslep In this post I go over a trip today to the local gardening store -- it is the first weekend that the Swiss have opened a limited amount of stores.

I do complain a bit about the state of the US at the end. It's because I really don't want to see more people die, and while living abroad I've seen a lot of uglier Farquaad (from the movie Shrek) -like thinking "Many of you will die but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make" sentiments come from the news. No bueno.


Commented on: May 02, 2020 21:43:49 UTC
By: https://mastodon.technology/users/cj