Getting used to the ‘new normal’

During the press conferences of the Dutch prime minister and other government officials we keep hearing that we will have to get used to a completely different society. It won’t be like it used to be. Well, we’ll see.

In 1973 the then Dutch Prime Minister Joop den Uyl addressed the Dutch nation at the height of the so-called oil crisis. Because of political developments in the Middle East, the oil supply was partly cut off. This led, among other things, to the rationing of petrol and a ban on driving on Sundays. Den Uyl looked extremely serious when he said with considerable drama: ‘It will never again be like it was.’ Actually, things turned around rather quickly, and soon everything was again as it had been a few months earlier.

How will it go this time? Will we indeed have to get used to ‘the new normal’ that the bosses of our country keep talking about? Will the ‘six-feet-distance’ society’ become the established pattern for months or maybe even years to come? In any case, it seems that, for the time being, our lives will in all sorts of areas look rather different from what we were used to until some two months ago. However, the first steps towards easing the current restrictions have now been taken. Also by me.

Tuesday I could go to the barber again. I had to make an appointment, so that there would be no other people waiting. The barber wore a mask. I had to guess whether he had carefully cleaned his tools of the trade after servicing the previous client. Maybe he had, and that may have been the reason why he now asked four euros more than usual. The next day I had my first appointment again with my pedicure. Mrs. Natasha looked a bit strange behind her face mask and her protective clothing. Between her and me was a screen of transparent plastic. I was happy that the treatment could take place and accepted without any complaints that the rate had gone up a few euros.
Very carefully we will now start up our social life again. On Wednesday evening we had coffee at one of our neighbors – of course taking into account the six-feet-distance requirement! And then there were, during the week, some Zoom-meetings and on the sabbath the digital church service.

Today (Thursday) was Ascension Day. It is a national holiday, but only a small minority of the population realizes that today Christians remember that 40 days after Easter, the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead, the Lord ‘ascended’ to heaven. For most people it is simply a day off. When the weather is nice, the beaches and the terraces are full, and Ikea and the furniture boulevards are crowded. Today the weather was fantastic, but the restaurants and their terraces were still closed. Nonetheless, the Dutch people went out en masse and the six-feet-distance society of the ‘new-normal’ came under severe pressure.

My wife and I thought we needed a day out. We decided to take a ride through the Flevopolder and drove via the dike from Lelystad to Enkhuizen, and then went to explore some villages in the Kop van Noord-Holland (the rural area some 30 miles north of Amsterdam). Before we left Zeewolde we got a couple of bottles of water and some healthy crispbreads at one of three local petrol stations. Three quarters of an hour later, at the beginning of the Knardijk, we saw on a parking lot two stalls with food. Of course there were no tables and chairs -but at least we could get two cups of (rather poor quality) coffee. But, well, in the ‘new normal’ you cannot be too critical, can you? During our sightseeing in the villages in North Holland, we were looking for an establishment with sanitary facilities. At an exit to a motorway we struck luck: a petrol station had toilets that were open, and a shop that sold, among other things, raisin buns. And on our way back home we actually found a cafeteria where we could buy a bag of French fries, which of course we had to eat in the car.
This was what our day in the ‘new normal’ looked like. But we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Of course, we realize the seriousness of the current pandemic. And we are happy that thus far we have not become infected, and that we don’t live in a country where irresponsible and mentally derailed people like Trump and Bolsenaro pull the strings. In the meantime we hope that the situation in our country will develop in such a way that we will be able to use public transport again, provided we wear a mask. We are ready for it: a first pile of masks lies already on the table in our living room.

Also in the church the “new normal’ is developing. Someone from the Adventist church in The Hague called me yesterday and said that they hope to have their first physical church service on 3 July, and she reminded me that I a scheduled to speak on that day. Now, that’s what I call good news!