Well, that escalated quickly.
In some ways, it feels like only recently I was awkwardly elbow-bumping my way through dinner at our favourite local restaurant with friends (remember elbow-bumping? Remember favourite local restaurants?), chatting about how I’d taken my work computer home “just in case but really, I’ll be lugging it all back in on Monday”.
Cut to the next day, at the hairdresser, watching the press conference announcing New Zealand’s “Alert Level” system and just a few days later, news of Level 3 / going into Level 4.
And so it began: The Big Pause.
We’re over three weeks into Level 4 now and it has become the new norm in many ways. But take a step back and consider this from the perspective of someone looking on from three months ago. Weird, right?
So, just in case I stumble across the formula for that time travel machine (hey, they said to start a new project during lockdown), I’ve got some tips for that 3-month-younger me.
Lockdown Tips for a Covid Age
Listen, I know the words “Lockdown” and “Covid” mean nothing to you right now. But soon they’ll be a major part of your vocabulary, along with some other weird shit that’s going on right now….
Zoom is Your Frenemy
You’re working from home, and thus, like millions of others, have embraced Zoom as a platform for virtual meetings. You’re a little afraid of it now, but soon you’ll be running that thing like a boss. Only thing is, even though there’s nothing personal on your computer, you’re still too scared to screenshare just in case there is. You know that feeling when you see a policeman and you feel guilty even though you’ve done nothing wrong? Similar thing. Also, you need to learn to keep your video function off until you’ve checked your hair / up your nose/ that there’s nothing in your teeth.
Makeup Doesn’t Matter
Remember those actual nightmares you used to have about leaving your cosmetic bag at work and having to go into the office without makeup on? Turns out, it doesn’t matter. Everyone has a face underneath that makeup and they’re usually pretty nice. Even yours. Chill out.
Life’s a Lottery and You Did Pretty Great
On the world stage, New Zealand’s handling this thing comparatively well. When lockdown happens, it’s a no-nonsense process, going hard, going early. With a couple of exceptions (wait till you hear about the guy coughing in the supermarket), everyone does what they’re asked to do, making for more than a few moments of quiet national pride, which I know we’re not usually into, but these are exceptional times.
You’ll Fangirl over Jacinda
There’s no getting around this: she’s OWNING IT. Partly because a lot of other world leaders are making her look good but mostly because she’s got a plan, and she’s sticking to it. Soon you’ll be basing your lunchbreak around the daily press conference, which usually stars Cindy and a guy called Dr Ashley Bloomfield who is like some kind of Clark Kent character with floppy hair and glasses, and you’ll marvel at Jacinda’s ability to navigate questions fired at her by the press. Some of the questions are pretty stupid.
There will be a whole new swathe of advertising centred around this virus. And it will be very similar, usually involving sombre, slow piano music and long pieces of drone footage of empty spaces with an emotional voiceover by a Morgan Freeman type actor, followed by a quickening of said piano music and some kind of uplifting “Togetherness” message. In spite of the same-ness of all these ads, they’ll get you right where it hurts, every time. Just go with it.
Ignore the Pressure
Social media will be full of suggestions and opportunities to BETTER YOURSELF. Why not take this lockdown time to learn a new language / get that bikini body / build a time travel machine? (Well, maybe try the last one because it’s the only way this message is getting through).
You’ll Love Your Dog Even More
I know, you think this is impossible. But you guys will spend a lot of time together and you’ll bond even more. She’ll feature on your Zooms, provide a welcome distraction from the boredom, lie at your feet while you work and follow you around so much that you’re in danger of tripping over and falling. But you don’t care because she’s definitely The Best Dog Ever. And you tell her that at least every half an hour. You’re both getting a bit fat because of the increase in respective treats, but like I said earlier, exceptional times.
Move Over, Major Tom
There’s this 99 year old man in England called Captain Tom Moore, who’s literally walking around his garden with his zimmerframe to raise money for the NHS and he’s going to make a lot of money and make you cry. When the news comes on, you make your teenager come out of her room to watch it because we all need this kind of thing in our lives right now.
You’ll be Separate but More Together
Remember when Skype came out and we tried to videoconference family in the UK, and we did it for a while because of the novelty factor but then stopped? Well it’s back, baby! In Zoom form this time, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this before now. Calls will be scheduled regularly with the people you love, both in other countries and around the corner, and sometimes you’ll sit with your breakfast coffee in your dressing gown, while they sip their after dinner wine, slightly pissed, and you’ll laugh, share stories, talk about nothing much because there’s nothing much to talk about, and just be together. A strange and lovely irony that this thing, which necessitates being physically apart, is bringing so many of us together.
Getting Up Early Will Seem Like a Ridiculous Idea
You know how you get up at 5.15am to go to the gym?
Right now, you’re getting up in just enough time to have a shower and hit your desk, which is in the next room. You’re seriously considering the sense behind that early morning regime.
The Neighbourhood Tango
Every evening, when you’ve finished work, you go for a walk around your neighbourhood, which is much more civilized than a 6am spin class. And when you head towards someone coming in the opposite direction, so begins a balletic circular-swerve motion, sometimes necessitating walking into the road which is okay because there are no cars around. And with a shy, wry smile and nod of the head, you both acknowledge the barmy but necessary thing you just did.
We still don’t know how long this thing will run. Pace yourself. You’re fortunate enough to be in a bubble full of love and laughter but a lot of people don’t have that luxury, and you’ll think about that a lot, too. (Did I mention bubbles? Another phrase to add to your Covid-vocab, along with “lockdown”, “self-isolation”, “social distancing” and “PPE”).
One more thing. Buy some flour.