Does a Lady ‘Strolling’ Her Boyfriend on a Leash Sign Covid Ennui?
Last Saturday at 9pm, while Quebec residents were sitting inside to obey a new pandemic curfew, police patrolling the sleepy town of Sherbrooke observed a potentially unlikely crime: a woman “walked” on one with her boyfriend Leash as he ran along the sidewalk on all fours.
When the police asked why she was breaking the curfew, which requires residents to stay indoors between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., the woman replied that she was only walking her dog. After all, dog walking near home is one of several activities, along with trips to the pharmacy, that are exempt from curfew. Unconvinced, police beat the couple with a total fine of nearly $ 3,100.
This week I called the Sherbrooke Police to confirm the human canine story that reverberated around the world. A police spokesman, Martin Carrier, told me the couple were part of a small movement of protesters across the country who are scrambling under new coronavirus restrictions and putting their own lives and the lives of others at risk.
“It’s disheartening to see people fail to take the rules seriously at a time when hospitals are overwhelmed,” Carrier said.
Inevitably, the story of a friend walking also inspired some attempts at humor and some unfortunate puns. Some thought on Twitter that relationship problems should be respected. “Totally stunned and amazed that this happened in Canada and not here in the United States,” added one American.
The couple are apparently not alone in their revolt. Some people reportedly disregarded a lockdown in Spain over the past year by letting stuffed animals or pet turtles walk around.
The Quebec incident and others suggest that even in a compliant country like Canada, where we generally obey rules and submit to scientific authorities, some are losing patience or rebel against boredom, even as the pandemic worsens.
Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta in the past few weeks. There were multiple curfew protests in Quebec this past weekend – shortly after the curfew was first imposed – and police handed out 750 tickets across the province, which can be fined up to $ 6,000.
Although the protests so far have been scattered and relatively small, they nonetheless underscore the cognitive dissonance surrounding the pandemic. In some areas of Quebec, my fun-loving, extroverted home province and the epicenter of the pandemic, a state of denial seems particularly acute. As of Friday morning, the 8,878 people who died of Covid-19 in Quebec were responsible for more than half of the country’s 17,538 deaths.
Jan. 15, 2021, 1:42 p.m. ET
The health minister of Quebec, Christian Dubé, spoke on the television program “Tout le monde en parle” at the end of last year and blamed a party culture in the predominantly Francophone province for the resistance of Quebecers to pandemic measures. “I think we have a Latin American side,” he said. “We love to party.”
Epidemiologists have cited other factors, such as inadequate contact tracing, the Quebec government’s reluctance to shut down businesses, and an overly negligent attitude towards closing schools.
Quebec is hardly alone with a coronavirus surge. This week, Ontario, the country’s largest province, also tightened restrictions with a somewhat confusing home-stay order. For example, critics point out that Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford said people should only go out to buy essentials like groceries and exercise. However, the regulations allow all stores to remain open when they are picked up or delivered from the roadside.
Quebec’s curfew has turned Montreal, a normally boastful, cosmopolitan city, into a ghost town.
In my bourgeois-bohemian district of Plateau-Mont-Royal, which is full of hipster cafes and restaurants, the streets are largely deserted after 8 p.m., except for the sight of dog walkers (leading dogs of the furry breed).
Even before the curfew, the normally exuberant neighborhood was incredibly quiet during the holidays. At the state liquor store near my house, people were lining up at lunchtime to buy champagne on New Year’s Eve. But the mood was gloomy, and some people in line told me that they were planning to have a quiet night at home and play board games.
Some Canadians have found comfort pandemic in domestic animals, a dynamic observed around the world. Pet grooming requests exploded in New York last spring. In March, during a partial lockdown in Spain when dog walking was considered an essential excursion, a smart man repeatedly tried to rent his dogs out on Facebook so people could walk them before he was sanctioned by the police .
Many Montreal residents seem to be escaping the claustrophobia of imprisonment and curfew through winter sports. Dozens of families and friends sledged on the town’s scenic Beaver Lake on a recent Sunday. It was encouraging to see people having fun, but alarming that so many were not following the rules of social distancing.
I escaped my curfew by going on city photography safaris and taking photos of my neighborhood. I also do some high-octane kettle bell workouts and a cardio video routine that includes Irish dancing.
The pandemic has sparked some Hitchcockian voyeurism as we are all stuck at home. I shudder when I think of what my neighbors across the street think when they see a man of 40 through their third floor window, eye to eye with mine, jumping around wildly in his apartment.
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