Are We Sure the Air We Breathe is Safe?

We think we know ourselves — and the world we live in — but we don’t.

Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD
3 min readMay 12


Photo courtesy of author

Flea Market — Sunday, May 7

I noticed the simple billboard along the street close to our home over a month ago. A yellow background and black bold type letters.

“I have to tell Ingrid,” I remember thinking. It somehow felt important. My wife and I never visited a flea market before. I guess we were too busy — or, at least, we thought we were. And, perhaps, we were too spoilt. Whenever we needed something, we ordered it online. The convenience was worth the higher prices we had to pay.

But we, and the world around us, have changed, and a first visit to a flea market felt like the right thing to do. And not so much because recycling and reusing are currently in fashion. Admittedly, my wife and I have increasingly fallen in love with retro electronics and clothes recently. We have repaired — instead of replaced — most of our furniture. So, what’s the real reason for planning a first visit to a flea market? Well, the inflated prices of new items today have definitely sparked my interest in used and vintage stuff. It must be easier to find bargains at flea markets.

And then there was the picker’s dream. What if we find a hidden gem? Even if the item doesn’t match our interior, it can be a lucrative and welcome alternative investment.

All On a Sunday

We woke up early to be at the market at nine. “The earlier, the better. The bigger the chance of finding a gem,” I told my wife.

Luckily, I felt much better today. I had checked all the symptoms of influenza over the last ten days or so. I hoped that it was only a simple cold. But when my sore throat made swallowing impossible or, at least, very unpleasant, I feared it was more than just a cold. I couldn’t see anything without squinting my eyes. A runny nose, constant coughing, and headaches were the other symptoms. And then I don’t mention the complete loss of scent and taste. Being in bed, trying to sleep, was a living nightmare. I couldn’t breathe properly and woke up every hour bathing in sweat with a fever and my eyelids glued together.



Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD

Prof (Law) | Sci-fi | Sociological storytelling