A Mental State

The woman who stopped us on the sidewalk said something about documentacion but between her mask and my sub-optimal grasp of Spanish, I couldn’t understand anything else. She had her phone out, which usually indicates a person is looking for an address; without being consciously aware I was doing so, I created a narrative in the split second before I stopped to help her: she’s looking for directions someplace where she has to take all her papers. Her documentación.

No, no, she said impatiently. ¡La policía! They’re checking documentación.

True enough, two police officers were up ahead, but they seemed to only be pulling over cars, not the oblivious pedestrians streaming up and down the sidewalk.

Back in September the Community of Madrid and the larger government were wrangling over the number of COVID cases and Madrid said it had a perfect, surgical plan. They’d work with scalpels and tweezers, of course, not the blunt axe the government had wielded when it forced all of Spain home for ten weeks last March. Madrid would only isolate areas that had worryingly high cases. At first “worryingly high” meant over 1000 case per 100K people in the previous two weeks, and then it meant over 500, and then it meant over 250, and then it meant over 500, and then nobody knew what it meant, when or where, but who cared, anyway? The perimetral confinements weren’t being enforced, anyway, especially if you were on foot.

Last week, six months after the selective confinements started, the Community of Madrid announced they’d just allotted 218 officers for their enforcement, along with drones. Has anyone, out when they shouldn’t be, been spotted by a drone? We don’t know, because these days all we do is take walks, eat, and watch TV.

Today, the zone above ours is confined and ours is not. I’m betting this will change tomorrow, when they hold the weekly press conference where they announce new lockdowns. Our health zone had 700 cases on Monday; today it has over 1100, the highest number of cases of any neighborhood in the city of Madrid.

But for the moment, we are free, and we are walking. We’re also, without consciously thinking about it, passing through the confined zone. It’s easy to do so, because confined and unconfined zones look exactly the same.

An epidemiologist was quoted in the paper today. The jury’s still out on whether selective confinements lower cases. As he says, llegamos a la conclusión de que los confinamientos han sido un estado mental.*

*We come to the conclusion that the confinements have been a mental state.