Laugavegur, in Reykjavik, has always been the people’s street. It started as a public work project, a cobbled road to make the work of washerwomen more efficient. They could take their laundry down to the hot pools by the Old Harbour in a cart rather than in baskets while stomping through mud, rendering the act of washing moot. This project increased general Icelandic productivity many times over, and, what’s more, was done primarily for women. During the economic crisis, the storefronts abandoned when Iceland moved into its suburban mall were snatched up with people selling whatever they could, to make whatever money they could. It was a kind of flea market to attract tourists. Well that worked, even if now they’re full of chain souvenir shops and none any different than the rest. Even the kitchen shop has moved to the mall now, yet even though Icelanders no longer cruise the street in their Old Timer cars, and young Icelandic women don’t pass down the street so much in their party clothes, and old Icelandic men don’t hang around their drinking holes (those are for tourists now) construction continued, even last summer. In a country desperate for housing for the poor or even lower middle class, more hotels was the solution private money found.
Now it’s Covid Times. Tourists aren’t rushing in. The old idea does seem best again. Not so much cobbles, maybe, for women to lug their laundry along, but a roof over their heads, so they don’t have to commute long distances in the dark and somehow care for their kids. I’m guessing, only the government can pull it off, but in a country in which men …
They’re asking for our vote. And, like, more than a bus shelter.