Live from Beijing: It’s spring and we’re all restless

About three weeks ago, they stopped letting delivery people into the neighborhood where I live, a nearly one-square-kilometer block carved up by small alleys. Checkpoints were set up, manned mostly by middle-aged volunteers or raggedy old guards whose only responsibility is to check the temperature and residence permits of those who enter. (Those permits are obtained by forking over some personal details to the neighborhood committee.)

Please note that these aren’t barricades, and we’re not under quarantine. I’ve had nice exchanges with several of the decent and hardworking people at these stations, always coming away thinking their positive vibes are being wasted out in the cold. These people also happen to be easy to get around, as the friends I’ve entertained can attest. I won’t get into details, except to say that pleasantries and white lies will get you far in Beijing.

It’s fine, is what I’m saying. Spring is here, and none of us really have the stamina anymore to care.

But delivery people still aren’t allowed in. So earlier today, when I went to pick up my food, I took the opportunity to ask the person on duty how long these checkpoints are going to stay up.

The woman, who looked anywhere from age 30 to 50 behind her mask, didn’t know.

“No one’s told you how long you’ll be needed?”

“No one.” She grew alarmed. “Why do you ask, are you quarantined?”

“Uh, no,” I replied. “It’s just been long enough, I feel.”

She laughed. “This isn’t something that’s up to you to feel.”

My sigh conveyed that she was right: It’s not up to me, or her. I told her to take care, which is all any of us can do.

At least the weather’s nice. On Saturday, it hit 60 degrees for the first time all season.

I’ll be writing an Update from Beijing every Monday. Follow along in this space, or by subscribing to our newsletter.