Pandemic Insomnia // 18. March 2020

The sound of heavy boots outside was what woke me. At 0:30 A.M. I lay frozen by shock as they carried our neighbor out on a stretcher and put them into the RTW. The driver revved the truck's Diesel engine, the sliding door beeped as it closed and then they were gone. The on-call doctor on night shift followed a moment later in a separate car.

This was the night after our other neighbor was admitted to the hospital with pulmonary embolism. She is a surrogate grandmother to our two kids and due to her prior respiratory issues, we had established “visits from a distance” via the balcony one floor up as we stay locked in at home after the closure of all schools and Kindergartens to slow the spread of the Corona virus.

As I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, I tried to regain a sense of control by thinking about things to be done in case of emergencies: had we written a living will and patient’s provision? Were our passports still valid? That’s when it hit me: our top-grade German passports, which until now had allowed us unrestricted travel across the globe (ESTA and Russian visa aside), are suddenly useless. All borders are shut. No country permits entry to Germans, especially not from one of the Corona virus hotzones like North-Rhine-Westphalia.

Feeling trapped, I recalled evacuation and lockdown procedures recently executed by local police and fire brigades when a WWII bomb was dug up at a nearby construction site. I found myself pondering where they might cordon off streets and how we might still make it out of town. As irrational as the desire to escape is in times in which we are trying to slow the spread of a pandemic, it is terrifying to me, a believer in the European idea, that freedom of movement was eradicated over night.

The next day, trying to come to terms with the prospect of several weeks of house arrest, I tried to order some groceries online to not endanger the friendly folks at our local supermarket. This, too, was a terrifying experience because I couldn’t buy flour nor sugar for any reasonable price. Amazon - operating with depleted stores and displaying a large warning banner about delays for deliveries - listed 1kg of Type 405 Wheat Flour for 45,-€ and 3kg of sugar for 14,-€ in a brutal display of late-stage capitalism.

I feel stunned by the rate and depth of change in these past few days. It has me reeling. It is what keeps me up at night, writing a blog article about it.

Pandemic Insomnia