Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain: 6/26/2021

Madrid Late Pandemic

Madrid’s subway is now sometimes crowded. Not as crowded as before the pandemic, true; I haven’t wriggled aboard a stuffed-to-the-stanchions car since early 2020, never now see riders forced to disembark to allow others to get off, as described in my first pandemic post. Official stats claim only 61.2% of pre-pandemic ridership.

But, sometimes, crowded. Comfortably so, at least for a vaccinated old croaker like me, who now worries much less about infection. Lotsa standees, but without the necessity of checking the floor before daring to move my feet, or saying three perdóns just to get on and off.

In mid-April I splurged for a second ELISA Covid antibodies blood test. I didn’t know then that Madrid would soon vaccinate me, thought I could at least learn if I’d been exposed.

The result: another negative. Modern science insists that my body never had knowledge of Covid, although I do all my getting around in Madrid by transit or shoe sole.*

Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain: 6/26/2021
Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain: 6/26/2021

Spain no longer requires masks outdoors. News sites report that many still wear them anyway, and this was what I also noticed when the change went into effect yesterday. Maybe sixty percent with and forty percent without, in Retiro Park and the Justicia neighborhood. We’d have to put them on again anyway indoors or in the metro, so why not keep them on, as we have for months? We’re used to them.

The online language exchange is smaller. Zoom recorded more than 170 total log-ons for two of our dates in March; yesterday’s intercambio had ninety-nine. It’s summer now, at least for our Northern Hemisphere participants. More have been vaccinated. A few even have requested chat room changes to escape conversation about Covid.

“We’ll twiddle our thumbs indoors for a month, then get back to normal,” I occasionally thought, as the quarantine loomed in early 2020. But that wasn’t so, and I wonder now if even the relatively unscathed harbor a late-pandemic PTSD.

My habits have changed. I’m used to not going out, not meeting anyone at a café or restaurant, at least not indoors, waiting to watch a video of the whatever online after the fact, rather than seeing it in person. The mood at a recent in-person event occasionally felt forced, as if some hoped to simulate the unselfconscious good cheer that had come naturally pre-Covid. The crowd was smaller. Perhaps we should have filmed ourselves, so other past regulars could watch us on youtube.

Campo del Moro in Madrid, Spain
Campo del Moro in Madrid, Spain

A cautious friend in the U.S. thinks that may be for the best. News feeds tell of worrisome Covid variants, can’t guarantee that our vaccines will protect us from them. My crystal ball is silent. Today, Sunday, I know I can walk in the summer sun without my mask in Parque del Oeste or Campo del Moro, if I wish, and feel safe, vaccinated. I think I’ll be able to say the same next year. I hope so.

* One exception: I rode a taxi home from the hospital after a recent operation. I was afraid I might leak.

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