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I usually get up an hour or more before E and Y do. When Y wakes up she assumes I’m in my office, comes in and climbs on my lap. While I’m typing she sometimes asks to edit her website together, or grabs a post-it and draws something. This one she attached to one of my screens as a gift yesterday morning.

The pandemic causes a variety of social ‘firsts’ for me, to take place online. Today it was a farewell party for a colleague at Frysklab who is retiring. On the plus side doing it remote means it’s easier to attend, but it is also harder for everyone to ‘mingle’.

Mijn Open State Foundation collega Wilma Haan wordt per 1 september adjunct-hoofdredacteur bij de NOS. Het is een prachtige stap in haar staat van dienst in de journalistiek. Helaas is de consequentie wel dat Wilma daarmee haar huidige rol opgeeft als directeur van de Open State Foundation (waar ik bestuursvoorzitter ben sinds Wilma’s aantreden). Dat vind ik heel jammer, want we waren eigenlijk net lekker op dreef met elkaar. Zoals ze zelf zei kun je de timing van unieke kansen die voorbij komen zelf niet plannen. Vanuit de Open State Foundation zullen we snel een vacature openstellen voor een nieuwe directeur om de belangrijke missie van Open State Foundation voort te zetten met ons toffe team. Tot september werken Wilma, het bestuur en het team nauw samen om te zorgen dat een nieuwe directeur een vliegende start kan maken.

Last weekend I suspended my FB account. During the months of the pandemic I increasingly felt the irritation with FB build up again. Two years ago I deleted my previous Facebook account, after having stopped using it half a year before it. I did it then foremost to delete the existing history, and created a new account. I told myself it was the only way to connect to some people in my personal and professional network. That isn’t false, but it’s also not true in the sense that this is an overwhelming effect. FB is not without use, I’ve been able to keep up with the lives of various people I care about, and have been able to respond to their life events because it’s easy to share for them, and easy for me to respond on my own terms. That is a valuable human connection. Yet, when you’re having fun in a toxic swamp, you might be having fun, but you’re also still in a toxic swamp. I cherish the interaction with people around me, but rather do that in a pleasant environment which FB is most definitely not.

My original intention this weekend was to leave the account suspended for a few weeks to see how that felt and to maybe get back in later. I realised that that is basically to let the skin irritation of the toxic swamp fade away for a few days and then expose myself to a next batch of irritants.

Then today two things happened.

Om Malik wrote about FB’s toxicity as a company, and to vote with your feet. One vote in itself isn’t much. Yet “If you don’t make good use of your vote, you enable those who would … destroy what we value. Facebook is no different. You might be one person with just one account, but you are not powerless. Being a part of Mark Zuckerberg’s algorithmic empire is a choice. If you believe that Facebook is causing long-term damage to our society, and you don’t agree with their values or their approach to doing business, you can choose to leave.” He left FB half a year after me, but still maintained his Instagram and Whatsapp account. He’s ditching that now too, because of FB the company. He’s right. If you think you’re in a toxic swamp, why stay at all within its vicinity?

The second thing was that the mail man came. Bringing a lovely hand written note from Peter. With kind words about our friendship and how our blog writing and adjacent interaction crosses the ocean between us. His card was a great example of having fun outside of the toxic swamp. Not that I think that I should return to sending postcards only, it just points to the spectrum of other channels we have at our fingertips that aren’t FB.

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So, like two years ago I deleted my FB account again today, and in 30 days it will be gone. FB is betting I will try to log in within that time. I know I won’t. Because unlike two years ago I have no hold-out reason left to go back into the toxic swamp. On top of that, if I did then I’d have to return here and eat my words 😉

When I made a visit to East Berlin a few years before the wall came down, my teenage eyes wondered about shopping and customer service.

To visit a bookstore near Alexanderplatz I had to stand in line. There were only a handful of shopping baskets available, and they were mandatory, so you stood in line until someone left the shop and returned the basket. I stood there for a while, and then with a basket could browse the shelves. There were less than ten people in the shop. While many more stood outside waiting.

Visiting a cafe with two others, the tables were all the same size, only the number of chairs at each table differed. We were three. A table with two chairs was free. Next to it was a man on his own, I remember he wore a leather jacket sipping coffee and reading a paper, at a table with three chairs. We asked if we could have a chair, and pull it up to our table. “Na klar”, he said. We looked at the menu. No service came. We waited. No service came. I went up to the waitress and asked if she could take our order. No, she said, “you’re with three people on a table for two so you’re not getting served.” I was stunned. I tried logic, “look the tables are all the same size!”, but failed. In the end we returned a chair to the table with the guy in the leather jacket and asked him to trade tables. He picked up his coffee and newspaper (it was the 80’s remember), and sat at our original table, while we moved to his. Within seconds the waitress was with us to take our lunch orders.

For years I shared these anecdotes as examples of how odd it all was during that visit to East Germany.

Fast forward 33 years, to our pandemic times.

In our neighbhourhood most shops have introduced a system of mandatory baskets. They use it to cap the number of clients in the store to the maximum they can accomodate within the 1.5m distancing guidelines. Outside others wait their turn.

From next week cafes and restaurants can open again, and I see and read how those here in town are arranging same sized tables out on the market square, varying the number of chairs to make it all work, and setting tables inside for specific numbers of people to stay within max allowed capacity.

After 33 years I need to retire my anecdotes from 1980’s East Berlin it seems. It wasn’t odd, it was avant garde!

East Berlin 1987
Walking down Friedrichstrasse in East Berlin, in 1987

Favorited Twintig jaar geleden, nooit vergeten. (IN FULL FLOW)
'Hee, vuurwerk daar. Zie je dat?' Ik wijs Ton vanuit onze woonkamer op de vuurpijlen die in de verte te zien, richting de binnenstad. Ton en ik wonen op dat moment in Twekkelerveld, in een bovenwoning met dunne muren. 's Ochtends om zes uur worden we vaak gewekt door de wekker van de

Elmine beschrijft in detail hoe ze de vuurwerkramp twintig jaar geleden heeft beleefd en het zich herinnerd. Het geeft de verhalen achter de indrukken die ik gisteren deelde.