“Unprecedented events create new experiences. What fun, misadventure, or positive discoveries have you encountered while locked down?”
This is a thought experiment proposed by SavingNinja. The one thing asked of participants is for a stream of consciousness outpouring of thoughts rather than a carefully polished article. Here goes…
I’m sitting at the dining table staring at a blank page. Feeling uninspired. Flat. Restless.
Background noise drifts out of an abandoned iPad on the couch. The Muppets singing some catchy anti-bullying anthem. Why have I never noticed before that Miss Piggy and Beaker sound the same?
In the foreground, a pitched battle is underway.
Transformers holed up inside an old Imaginext castle, rescued from its long-forgotten hidey-hole in the back of a cupboard. Some bizarrely improvised Lego vehicles attack. Creations that would make the set designers on the next Mad Max movie proud.
The ensuing carnage creates a minefield of Lego pieces scattered across hardwood floors.
The power of imagination transmogrifying into real-life injuries.
That thought struck a chord with me. An elegant summary of the whole lockdown experience.
The power of imagination
Sitting inside my comfortable home, passively observing as unprecedented events unfold elsewhere.
I find myself feeling increasingly detached from the whole thing. Like watching two neutral teams playing an unfamiliar sport at the Olympics. A spectacle, but not one I feel particularly invested in.
If the news and social media are to be believed then the sky is falling. The end of the world is nigh. A Great Depression. Dystopian fantasy writ large. Ultimate doom!
Except that it isn’t.
A large number, yet a small proportion, of people will die from the virus itself.
A whole bunch more will die indirectly as a result of overloaded health care systems.
Tragedies all. Yet for those who remain, like it or not, life will go on. It has ever been thus.
Not everything will remain the same. A generational transfer of wealth. The “boomer remover”, as my elderly mother’s quarantined travel companions have taken to calling it, may address a demographic bulge that has long given wrinklies with short time horizons a disproportionate say at the ballot box.
Some of my disinterest stems from my inability to verify what I read or am told.
Propaganda and ill-informed rumours feeding upon themselves.
Disconcertingly inconsistent with the hope and optimism heralded by the arrival of Spring. Busy bees. Broody birds. Backyard barbecues.
What we believed just a fortnight ago is vastly different from “conventional” wisdom of today.
Wash your hands. Herd immunity. Open for business by Easter. Locked down until the end of June. Herd immunity again.
Masks don’t work. Masks magically work for medical staff only. Don’t buy masks. Masks do work. Everyone should wear a mask. Masks are mandatory.
Singapore has things under control. “Flatten the curve”. “Track and trace”. Be like Singapore… oh shit! Where did this second wave of infections that track and trace can’t explain come from? How is it spreading? What do you mean poor people don’t carry smartphones everywhere they go?
Shut the schools.
Close the businesses.
Social distance like everyone else.
This is a learning experience for everyone, something few of us have been through before.
Our leaders are being forced to improvise. Make up their responses as they go.
Applying the best information they have available. Tempered by their own political instincts of what their electorates will bear.
An impromptu leadership test, broadcast live in real-time. The ultimate high stakes reality television.
New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo both seem to be “having a good war”. How long before the latter becomes the unbackable favourite to succeed Trump in 2024?
Others have been found wanting.
Scott Morrison beating his “foreigners go home” drum, telling the half-million fee-paying overseas university students in the country on study visas to bugger off back to wherever they came from.
Donald Trump and his crew of Keystone Cops living down to expectation.
When will it end? Nobody knows. Anyone pretending certainty is an idiot or a liar. Possibly both.
China was locked down for a couple of months, now people are starting to resume their daily lives.
Denmark appears to be approaching a similar point.
There are no guarantees of course, as the recent Singapore setback painfully highlighted.
How will it end?
That is a trickier question.
The Hollywood ending sees a mild-mannered lab technician swiftly stumble across a long-lasting vaccine, free from major side effects. They win a Nobel prize for their efforts, then retire to a lucrative life on celebrity public speaking circuit.
The reality is likely somewhat bleaker.
To my simple mind, it appears that the pandemic can only end once the population has reached sufficient levels of immunity that the virus is starved of potential hosts. That immunity can only be gained via some combination of infection and vaccination.
The former is morally bruising.
Waiting for the latter economically so.
However, concluding this is a simple binary choice would be a false dichotomy.
Global travel, legal or otherwise, will inevitably reintroduce the virus to those populations who are applying social distancing style delaying tactics.
Therefore the moral choices of others will directly impact the success of efforts made by local leaders.
A tricky puzzle.
A systemic problem.
Yet at the macro level, it is one with a relatively certain outcome. The big unknown is timing.
Something intuitively understood, yet seldom talked about. An inconvenient truth.
Immunity from the virus becomes a competitive advantage.
At some point, the equation inverts.
Self-isolation becomes the problem of those who have not yet experienced the disease. Their lack of antibodies becomes a disability. There is an analogy to allergy sufferers there somewhere.
Meanwhile, the rest of the population restart their lives. Reopen their businesses. Return to their jobs. Recommence their studies. Resume their once normal day-to-day existence.
Which brings me back to the blank page, now slowly filling up with words.
Usually, my stories flow. Telling themselves, as words effortlessly pour out of my brain and onto the keyboard.
Not so much lately.
A malaise has interrupted that flow.
It seems to be contagious. Afflicting many bloggers the world over. SavingNinja’s thought experiment is providing a convenient vehicle for a brain dump.
Lockdown has been an interesting experience, one I have been maintaining a daily microblog throughout.
Challenging in some ways. Rewarding in others.
Indefinitely confined with those nearest and dearest to us, without the possibility of escape.
Homeschooling is hard.
Homeschooling while working full time sets the difficultly level to extreme.
Yet we have stumbled into a routine that seems to be working.
The cancellation of GCSE and A-Level exams has, in turn, led my elder son’s school to cancel the remainder of the school year. Their current thinking is that the new school year will commence towards the end of April, providing additional time for students to accrue the course work credits that may be used in place of standardised testing, should the lockdown persist for an extended period.
Amidst the challenges, there has been much fun and laughter. In my house at least.
My kids have worked out that virtual assistants can be turned into unwitting accomplices in their escapades.
I was on a conference call earlier this week when Alexa suddenly started serenading the attendees with a rendition of Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart”.
Not to be outdone, a couple of days later Siri repeated the trick with “Rubber Biscuit” during an attritional and bruising Steering Committee call. That proved to be a work of genius, as all the iPhones within earshot of the call attempted to obey the command. Those linked to Apple Music subscriptions did so successfully!
Fear not, I had my revenge during my elder son’s nightly online Xbox tournament with his friends. “Baby Shark” and 1980s era Australian bogon rock. Alexa and Siri can be shouted into silence. Dads manually playing from dubious Spotify playlists are not so easily dismissed!
Video conferences are also perilous. Between meetings I had been playing dress-ups with my younger son. I then forgot to remove a brightly coloured jester hat, earning a few laughs amongst my offshore team during our weekly catchup.
Not as many laughs as the client C-suite had the time I was shot in the ear, live on camera, by a beautifully executed Nerf gun ambush.
I did deserve that one, having deployed a water gun to motivate my reluctant elder son out of bed earlier that morning.
My lady wife’s virtual social life exceeds the former heights of her real-life socialising, back in those halcyon pre-children days.
Birthday parties. Coffee dates. Happy hours. Even a tequila cocktail mixology class. All via video conference from her eyrie in the loft. Catching up with far-flung friends and former co-workers.
For many of us, social isolation is a lifestyle choice rather than a necessity. She has ably demonstrated that we are only as isolated as we chose to be. All that is required is a little effort to coordinate the virtual meet-ups.
Lockdown hasn’t been all unicorns and rainbows, but once I surrendered to it the stress began to dissipate. How long it will last is not worth worrying about, as it is entirely outside my control.
The important thing has been to make the best of it. Have fun where possible. Avoid taking things too seriously. Maintain a passing interest in the progress against the virus, but filter out the constant noise and demoralising angst.
This too shall pass. Normalcy will one day return. It always has in the past. It will again.
What fun, misadventure, or positive discoveries have you encountered while locked down?
To hear what others have been up to during lockdown, check out the other responses to SavingNinja’s thought experiment:
- Dr FIRE
- Firelite @ PathToLife2
- Mrs SavingNinja
- Nick @ Total Balance
- Sonia @ MoneyForTheModernGirl
- The FIRE Shrink
- The Squirreler
- Tony @ OneMillionJourney
- Weenie @ QuietlySaving
- BBC (2020), ‘Coronavirus: India’s PM Modi seeks ‘forgiveness’ over lockdown‘
- David, J., Dzwonek, J., Bishpoo, D., Sierota, S., Sierota, N., Sierota, G., Sierota, J. (2013), ‘Cool Kids’, Mike Tompkins featuring The Muppets
- Doherty, B. (2020), ‘The 90-day lockdown: NSW police to enforce home isolation until at least end of June’, The Guardian
- Johnson, C. (1956), ‘Rubber Biscuit’, The Blues Brothers
- Lazaro, R. E., Tupas, E., Cabrera, R., Villanueva, R.E. (2020), ‘Wearing masks now mandatory’, The Philippine Star
- McCauley, D. and Chung, L. (2020), ‘Go home, Morrison tells international visitors’, Sydney Morning Herald
- Palma, S. (2020), ‘Singapore tightens measures to fight new wave of coronavirus infections’, Financial Times
- Pettis, M. (2020), ‘… a lot of the gloom and dread will have worn off and we will all go back to talking about normal things…’, Twitter
- Pinkfong (2020), ‘Baby Shark Dance‘
- Smith-Spark, L. (2020), ‘Is an ‘immunity certificate’ the way to get out of coronavirus lockdown?’, CNN
- Von Tress, D. (1992), ‘Achy breaky heart’, Billy Ray Cyrus