These days, sitting on the balcony is as close as I can get to going outside. My days are limited to eating at home, sitting on the balcony at home, working at home and distracting myself at home, just like many others in Greece living in self-isolation in order to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Only in my case, it’s even more crucial that I stay home: somebody at my office tested positive for the virus, and so I too have been tested, and must patiently await the results while staying at home. Luckily enough, my roommate, based on the assumption that whatever illness I have, she has, decided to share the quarantine with me.
Our favorite activity in these times of isolation is to play backgammon on the balcony while observing and commenting on everyone and everything passing by the street below, like two old ladies spying on their neighborhood. “They are standing way too close to each other”, we say. “How can he cough without putting his elbow over his mouth?”. “Ιs she actually carrying 9 large bags full of groceries?”
On Sunday afternoon, we were quietly engaged in our second-favorite activity (reading about COVID-19 online while sitting on the couch) when we heard voices coming from the street: in a flash, we were practically hanging over the balcony trying to understand what was happening. Standing on the opposite side of the quiet road was an elderly lady; she was looking up and speaking to two small boys leaning out of their window in the building next to ours.
One of the boys said: “We miss you grandma! We’re so bored without you. When will you come back?”
“Soon,” she answered, and sent kisses their way. They spoke for a few minutes before she walked away, under the watch of her grandchildren: before she disappeared around the corner, they shouted out, “We love you Grandma!” in unison, and drew their heads back inside. My roommate turned to me and said: “Things may not be that bad after all. At least we get to witness scenes like this. That’s what we have to focus on now. Humanity.”
After this heartwarming interlude, we silently went back inside. A minute later, my roommate blurted out, angry: “Actually, that grandma, she was nuts. She really put herself at risk by being outside. Old people should be more careful than this.” She then called her own grandmother, warning her to stay inside and giving her the example of “a crazy lady who got out of her house to go speak to her grandchildren for no apparent reason rather than simply video calling them.”
This got me wondering: are we now forced to become apparently less humane, precisely for the greater good of humanity? I expressed my thought to my roommate. We never got to a conclusion, but it was a hell of a debate. And we killed at least an hour of our day.
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