During a pandemic, it seems that tedium and terror go hand in hand. Going stir-crazy after just three days spent mostly indoors, today I left the sanctuary of my flat to drive all the way to Malaga airport to return my rental car and collect a new one for the coming month. Normally, I really enjoy taking the bends of the winding mountain road leading down to the coast, but today, the leaden sky matches a heavy sense of foreboding.
There is a lot more traffic on the road than I expected, given that we are only supposed to leave our homes for essential reasons - to go to work, to go food shopping, to visit the pharmacy. But there are certain changes in place. The petrol station near Algarrobo is operating only as a drive-thru business; you man not enter the premises, and have to pay at the window.
The woman behind the window is wearing a mask and rubber gloves. That's not the case at all petrol stations (and I visit three, because my gas meter is faulty and showing that I haven't filled the car up properly even though it's filled to the brim). At the last petrol station, the attendant hands me one of those little hand freshener serviettes, the kind you get given if you order chilli crab or sticky ribs at a restaurant. It will not protect me from Covid-19, but at least my hands will smell lemony fresh.
Malaga Airport is a largely empty, dark labyrinth. Hardly anyone around. The car rental office is manned by a solitary woman (also in mask and gloves). I'm the only customer. Not allowed beyond the threshold, I tap my details into the machine outside the office, and the woman tosses me the keys to make sure I don't come any closer.
The digital boards above the motorway display the following: CORONAVIRUS ESTADO DE ALARMA. PROHIBIDO VIAJAR SIN JUSTIFICACION. (Coronavirus State of Emergency. Travel Forbidden Without a Good Reason). It completely boggles the mind that I can stop at the large supermarket since it's on my way from the airport, mingle with other shoppers...
...most of whom are also wearing masks (not that it makes much of a difference, apparently), visit the pharmacy (because my village pharmacy ran out of my meds), mingle with the people at the pharmacy, and then drive back to my village like some potential Typhoid Mary, and yet I'm not allowed to go hiking on the trails above the village where I run absolutely no risk of running into anyone. It varies from village to village, but apparently the police in Competa have been particularly keen and a number of people have already had run-ins with them for such offences as walking the dog for too long, or too far from their abode.
Now I have a scratchy throat and will spend the next couple of weeks wondering whether I'm succumbing to the virus.