To borrow the words of William Shakespeare: ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends’. These words were attributed Henry the Fifth, who was attempting to inspire his soldiers prior to them storming Harfleur to get the last available rolls of toilet paper and beef mince. Or, to put it as Yogi Berra once so memorably did, ‘It’s de ja vu all over again’. Here we are, once more, in lockdown. It’s a little deflating, I know, but temporary. By now, though, we’re all kind of experts.
Traditions have developed. Firstly, everyone sees the announcement coming a mile off. Despite this, nothing seems to prevent the customary panic buying the instant it becomes official. It seems that people drop whatever they’re doing the moment the news breaks before throwing the green bags in the back seat and hightailing it down to Coles, Woolies and Dan Murphys. Possibly not in that order. It’s as though we demand the right to lose our minds before lockdown kicks off.
To be honest, I’m not sure who these people are. Surely they can’t be the same people who stuffed their trolleys with every spare bit of two-ply they could get their hands on in the first lockdown? They must still have mountains of the stuff from last time. Perhaps those who kept their nerve in previous lockdowns have decided to get the full pandemic experience and discover what it’s like to fight someone for a packet pasta swirls and half a kilo of mince meat.
The second part of the routine is that we have to dig out our masks again. For me, I like to pick a different theme for my masks each time we have a lockdown. Last time, I went with ‘the Ned Kelly’. Whilst fully Covid-compliant, I’ll admit now that it was a little uncomfortable, both for me and for everyone who saw me wearing it. Something about seeing someone walking down the street with a metal bucket on their head makes other people nervous. Apparently. In addition to chaffing, it also drastically reduced my field of vision. Trying to buy fruit with a Ned Kelly helmet on is an absolute nightmare; believe me.
This time, I’m steering clear of bushrangers altogether. Instead, for this lockdown I’ve decided to make a mask that I like to refer to as ‘the Tuckerbag’. Based on the world’s most manifestly inadequate puppet and spokesperson for the supermarket chain ‘Tuckerbag’, my mask will both be a nostalgic celebration and a reminder that, once upon a time, shopping bags were made of truly recyclable paper rather than some kind of heavy duty plastic that probably has a half life that would rival plutonium.
There’s a slight problem with the eyes. I’m pretty sure the original ‘Tucker’ had eyes that were stuck on. Stuck on eyes are no good for navigating the fruit and vegie section of the supermarket. It’s bound to lead to trouble. Worse still, in the event that I am actually able to find the supermarket whilst wearing ‘the Tuckerbag’ mask, there’s a very good chance I won’t be able to find my way back out again.
The third part of the lockdown routine is the regular evaluation of exposure sites. This serves two purposes: to see how close the nearest exposure site is to where you live and, secondly, to look with awe and quiet admiration at the busy social lives of others. I do want to say that those who supply these details are performing an immeasurable public service. But when I look at the list, I am struck by the fact that I really don’t get out enough.
If I’m being honest, it’s hard not to be a tiny bit, well, judgmental. In previous outbreaks, who amongst us didn’t read the list of exposure sites and see both ‘Dan Murphys’ and ‘Off Ya Tree’ and lift and knowing eyebrow? Or wonder at the kind of person who visits multiple K-Marts in a day instead of using the internet like the rest of us do? Yesterday, I saw that a shopping centre comfort station was listed as an exposure site for a ten-hour period. My thoughts immediately went to the person concerned, hoping that there were multiple trips involved as opposed to a single, catastrophic visit.
My own lockdown traditions tend towards the idiosyncratic. I have taken to getting changed after work just so that it feels different. In old movies, they’d often talk about getting ‘changed for dinner’. It sounds kind of civilized. Last Tuesday, I ditched a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt to put on a tuxedo before mealtime. It was rissoles. In retrospect, I may have overdone it. I choose to look at the positives.
I am now a certified black belt in ‘Microsoft Teams’. I also feel I know what to do when a lockdown is announced. I’m disappointed – but who isn’t? Nobody wants to be here and everybody wants things to get back to something like normal. Which they will. But I marvel at the ability of people to adapt, to look out for each other and to do what needs to be done. If the horror-show that is the last twelve months has taught us something, it’s that we can do anything when push comes to pandemic shove. Soon, lockdown will be a thing of the past and I can finally burn my Tuckerbag mask. The day can’t come soon enough.