Beep, beep, beep.
There is a persistent noise I keep hearing wherever I walk. It follows me to the corner shop and back home. It greets me at the tram stop. My trained ears can even detect it from my work-from-home window, timidly open the few centimeters the building has allowed its residents-slash-home workers in the name of safety.
The first time I heard it, I was puzzled. I was walking on a pavement with nothing much to see, except some shrub at the side of the road. The noise drew me to the bush like a magnet, or like a dog seeking a bone. What on earth was it?
It turned out, the beeping sound was the miserable cry of an abandoned electric scooter, left all on its own with a drained battery and no friends. Eventually, a large van would come rescue it, no doubt, and the driver man (I imagined him zen-like and bearded) would safely deposit the abandoned electric device amongst its peers, and ride on to the next bush. I could only imagine the amount of beeping inside the van.
At some point, I started taking photos. I didn’t plan to document the story of discarded scooters in my town, the phenomenon just drew me to it and I started clicking.
Lonesome scooter abandoned in a green bush, with only its red handles peeking out, like a clue.
Scooter left by the seaside at sunset, looking instagram-esque.
Another one chucked, resting haphazardly on grey pavement.
By the looks of it, the rider must have disappeared in haste, and you wondered where they went and how they left the scene. Did a boat come pick them up, or a spaceship? It was like finding one shoe in a park – you wondered if the owner never noticed it go missing.
Then I deleted the photos, growing tired of the project. In the photo illustrating this post, what now draws my attention is the sign reflecting in the window.
Stockmann used to be my favorite department store and deli. Now, it’s struggling with the threat of bankruptcy, and has outsourced its departments and delis. The entity itself is gone, it is a mere shell. This happened before the virus hit real-life businesses and one of its problems was that it never managed to adapt to online business very well.
If the virus goes on for years and years, what will happen to all the spaces downtown that used to house shops and businesses?
If everything moves online and people work from home, will we even have city centers anymore, or will the concept disappear with abandonment? Maybe neighbourhoods will take over (which I don’t mind).
The Stockmann sign in the window is looking more and more like a ghost.