the ‘new normal’ | M.A. CAÑELLAS

Small steps moving forward! After fifteen months or so of living alongside Covid, it seems we are independently and finally making progressive steps on a route back to some form of normality. But with so many opinions, ideas and arguments both for and against the safest and correct way forward, those steps vary immensely from gentle, tiny tippy-toes to giant canyon leaps into uncharted oblivion.

Illegal street parties and the infamous ‘botellòns’- mostly favoured by the local Mallorcan youth - have been branded by many as an insult to all citizens and workers who have sacrificed so much over the past months.

Last Saturday it was reported that between 7,000 to 10,000 people, including tourists, were out on the streets of Playa de Palma with no compliance whatsoever to ‘any’ type of health regulation, causing disrespectful havoc, which the police could only describe as ‘behaviour totally out of control’

Some people (myself included) are more than happy to quietly and timidly introduce themselves back into the ‘new normal’, moving forward at their own, slow and acceptable pace. Others seem to thrive, and receive a huge kick out of blatantly throwing caution to the wind while bulldozing their ‘fear free’ attitude through the concerns of the meeker majority, who are feeling very anxious about the future.

Yet, whatever your own personal take on the current situation, it’s quite obvious that we can’t possibly continue to live our lives in total, hibernated fear; and we must all make steps, no matter how small, towards getting things back to some kind of normal behaviour. But what exactly is normal? I seriously wonder! In my world, it’s certainly not standing cheek by jowl in a drunken crowd of 10,000 strangers!

When the pandemic struck, we sadly lost our family doctor GP (not to Covid I hasten to add. He simply upped sticks and moved to another practice) causing the surgery to virtually close its doors. Yet, like most health centres across the island, appointments with a doctor through Covid restrictions have been limited to phone consultations and zoom calls. Losing our GP was a bit of a wrench.

And frankly made us feel quite vulnerable.
Thankfully, we now have a permanently assigned family doctor back in the practice, and the surgery is back to normal in full swing. We went along to see the new doctor for the first time last week, and it felt like a huge step forward, back to normality. Now, to some, that might not sound like much progress. (not exactly a mind-blowing day out ), but when so many people have been putting their medical needs on hold, either through fear or lack of a medical professional in attendance, then a simple, scheduled, face to face visit to the doctor is an amazing step in the right direction. Almost as invigorating as turning the mattress or clearing out the china cabinet!

More and more people are also venturing out to the cafes, bars and restaurants. Small steps to some perhaps, but a cup of coffee on a terrace suddenly feels like first prize in a church raffle. And a meal out in a restaurant is like winning the lottery with all the bonus balls bouncing!

With more and more of the population receiving their vaccinations, life will hopefully continue moving forward, slowly and surely. So many small businesses along with hospitality and the circus of tourism are holding their breath, eager for people to once again start flashing the cash. And it seems the avalanche for some is already in full flow. But slowly does it is the personally preferred way forward, and not a massive onslaught before things have resumed to a ‘norm’ where everyone feels safe and secure in mixing with the Majorcan masses.

Living here on the beautiful island of Mallorca, it’s hard to fully understand the need and total desperation of others (off island) who’s personally driven ‘norm’ is simply to get away somewhere (anywhere as long as they’ll accept you) for a holiday, regardless of the government advise, new variant concerns, or the consequences to themselves and others at their chosen destination. Or indeed to all others at base camp on their imminent return.
Anyone who is willing to risk the ‘petri dish’ dilemma of four airport experiences (departure and arrival x 2) plus incarceration in a compact airline cabin, sitting in extremely close proximity to a complete stranger who may or may not employ any form of safe protocol, simply for a holiday, is probably worthy of a medal. But the jury is currently out on that one!

Tourists walking around in a village

I recently read online an emotive and very interesting viewpoint from someone who had great empathy for those who are obsessively fired with this driven desire to get away and resume travelling for pleasure again, at all costs. Literally!

‘You are seeking a sun kissed holiday?’ they began. ‘Yet around the world people have not been able to travel abroad or visit close family and loved ones for over a year. Many have missed funerals of dear friends and beloved family members. Grandparents have not seen anyone, including new family additions born since the pandemic lockdown began. Parents have been isolated from their children. I could go on. Travel restrictions aimed at keeping the virus contained, while keeping people safe, have in some cases proved to be heartbreaking.’

While some people fret constantly and complain about not knowing when their next holiday will be able to resume, others are worried about how they will survive and make ends meet on a day to day basis. How their businesses will survive? How will they feed their families? Pay their mortgages? Educate their children? Maintain their sanity? Perhaps it’s time to pause with compassion, and reconsider those things which are really important as we come out of this pandemic, other than a frantic race to a street party or the beach.

And getting back to normal, those who do feel this inexplicable impulse to get away, and translate ‘essential travel’ as a green light for a personal holiday should really adhere to safe protocol, and respect the regulations of the host countries they visit.

For example: the other day we came across two separate groups of tourists wandering idly through the cobbled streets of our village of Mancor de la Vall. Neither group were wearing face masks! We politely informed them that it was obligatory to wear face coverings when walking through the village and mixing with the local community. The first group shrugged, then nodded, and begrudgingly hunted through their bags and coat pockets searching for masks which should have been immediately to hand if they were being in the least, thoughtful or responsible!!!

The second group was a couple with a small child. The man stood firm and argued that they didn’t need to wear face masks as they were socially distancing and keeping two metres away from us. We corrected the argumentative and somewhat arrogant tourist, but again he insisted that we were wrong, as he had read online two weeks previously in Germany, that tourists didn’t need to wear face masks when wandering around Mallorca.

He also said we were rude for stopping them and pointing out the regulation, which incidentally, has applied to all Mallorcans, and which we have adhered to for the past fifteen months! Not exactly a good step in the right direction! But quite a normal reaction when you try to address a behavioural problem with an anti-social tourist - which brings me to unacceptable and outrageous behaviour on airlines even before any said visitors arrive anywhere!

Drunken behaviour, violence and abuse. All the normal in-flight entertainment we seem to have conveniently forgotten about while we’ve been grounded is again rearing its head as ‘normality’ resumes.

I recently read about a British female holidaymaker on a flight from the UK who became inexcusably drunk and abusive to a female cabin crew member, resulting in the passenger knocking two front teeth out of the crew member’s head. Normal? Or sadly, just typical behaviour from an anti-social numpty on a drunken jolly to a host country that is welcoming her visit!

Another inebriated incident on a plane bound from Ibiza to Milan saw a passenger dressed as a Las Vegas hooker attacking fellow passengers and cabin crew over a mask wearing issue. Apparently, the mask compromised her freedom, which is a lot more than the tight butt-cheek hotpants she was wearing did! No wonder she couldn’t breathe!

Drunken brawls, abuse and loutish behaviour are sadly what we had previously grown to expect from a certain class of tourist in holiday mode, whether airborne or on terra firma. Is this what we really have to look forward to again as life gets back to normal?

Over indulged and under the ‘influence’, all etiquette and any protocol obviously goes out of the window. It’s a complete tragedy that some people on holiday feel they can act as they please, merely because they are on vacation. They act without any mindful respect whatsoever for the feelings of those struggling to come to terms with a way forward, out of Covid. And if this is the new norm we have to re-adjust back to, then I’m all in favour of taking it nice and uber-steady.

You can’t really blame people for wanting their lives back. But why can’t we just all move forward with sensible caution? With more thought and consideration from a certain minority we might come out of this mess much sooner. If we move forward too recklessly and too fast we’ll soon be back to square one – and wondering why? As they say here in Mallorca – ‘Tranquilo y poc a poc!’