I’ve been commuting back and forth to my office for over a month now, occasionally eating in restaurants and generally going on with my life as before. Or am I?
Remember those strange times a few weeks ago when everyone was looking at each other with suspicion, changing side of the road to keep distances (or not), the stress associated with shopping, hoping to find some bread, flour or toilet paper? Not to mention masks or disinfectant. We quickly forget.
It’s like time froze for a brief moment. For instance, I was struck by the number of clocks that were still on Winter time in May, including my car.
Switzerland slowly eased out of semi confinement on April 27th, stretched out on May 11th, and it was downhill from there. On June 22nd, only the gatherings of more than 1000 people were forbidden.
Early July, the EU borders opened, flights resumed and easyJet flash sale ads flooded our inboxes. Community trends are back to normal, except for transit which is still 20% lower than the pre-confinement average. Driving in town is way over average, as a slice of people riding public transport was transferred to personal cars.
It was bad driving in town before. It’s worse now, and people still can’t imagine moving around differently. Wider bike lanes were created in May, taking away parking spaces and car lanes, increasing the frustration of the solo drivers and leading them to protest loudly in favour of burning rubber over the softer and gentler means of transportation that have arisen lately.
Granted, a number of cyclists ride with a vengeance, disregarding the basic principles, solidarity and respect that united the cyclist community. As if they were post car drivers reclaiming the hours spent fuming in their SUVs blocked in traffic, by terrorising the bike lanes, riding over 40 Km/h on their electric powered cycles.
I’m witnessing daily some of the same behaviours between cyclists now than what we see between drivers. We all need to learn to live together, not against each other. The pedestrians feel threatened by scooters and cyclists riding on pavements, while cyclists are ignored by motorbikes and car drivers who don’t respect bike lanes or priorities. It’s slowly becoming a mess. people tend to forget we’re all in this together.
Masks are compulsory in public transports throughout Switzerland since yesterday, but I haven’t seen much change in the behaviours glancing in the buses and trams on my way to work. This might change, as most people don’t want to be seen as “that guy”. It feels as weird to be the only one wearing a mask, as is it to be the only one without one.
There’s a feeling of defiance, not wanting to stick out, that prevails in all walks of life. You often hear “we all need to learn to live with the disease” waving a hand up in the air and laughing with a shrug. We certainly need to. In an inclusive way, not forgetting anyone on the way, and respecting each and everyone’s choices.
Wearing a mask in public should be perceived as an altruist behaviour on the part of the bearer, a sign of respect and humility. Not as a stigma to laugh or scoff at. We still have a long way to go.
I wonder if wearing a mask will change the way we interact with each other. I certainly concentrate more on the eyes, trying to decipher emotions and smile or the like. Do I hold my gaze longer? Maybe. We might refine our senses and sensitivity. There is also a part of curiosity in imagining what the hidden part of the face looks like.
I’ve been running the SwissCovid app since mid May, and it’s been heavily criticised on multiple fronts for multiple reasons (and agendas). The bottom line is that understanding what it does and how it works, supposes a solid understanding of how today’s mainstream technologies work. It’s a huge communication challenge.
The Decentralised Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP-3T) project is an open protocol for COVID-19 proximity tracing using Bluetooth Low Energy functionality on mobile devices that ensures personal data and computation stays entirely on an individual’s phone.
SwissCovid privacy concerns are irrelevant if you use Facebook, Google services or other social network apps. Nobody has taken the time of effort to explain in layman terms what these apps and companies are up to, what their business models are and how they make their money.
On the positive side, it raises consciousness on these topics. I have never been given as many opportunities to clarify and explain the challenges linked to using these technologies than over the past few weeks. It’s always good to talk about it.
I’m not sure the number of activations of SwissCovid app will ever reach the levels it requires to become effective, but it’s the first time we engage in such technology on such a scale.
All this to say, there’s still a lot of uncertainty. Stay safe, stay healthy.