By Ayden Dugmore
It was the 23rd of March, at approximately 2pm when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that New Zealand would be going into Alert Level 4 Lockdown at midnight on the 25th of March, just two days later. As an avid movie lover, I felt this was surreal. The scenario seemed to have been plucked right out of a Hollywood studio, only there was no Will Smith, and this wasn’t a movie.
Thoughts raced through my mind as I went to pick my son up from school for the last time in a while. I had some silver-lining thoughts like Maybe I won’t get behind on my homework for once, and Maybe I can catch up on all the movies I’ve wanted to see. But mostly I worried—not necessarily for myself but for my son and my at-risk nan and aunty.
My son got in the car and like most eleven-year-olds he seemed to not have a worry in the world. I figured he probably wouldn’t know what was going on, so I told him everything.
“I know,” he replied ever so nonchalantly.
I was taken aback. “Okay. Well let’s go home.” As I started to drive off, I received the inevitable text message.
We need some things from the supermarket.
I sighed heavily and changed course. On the way, I remember hoping that maybe people were already home, bracing for this new experience we would all be going through as a country.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. The supermarket was jam-packed, and people were acting as though COVID-19 wouldn’t affect them until lockdown was in effect. There was no social distancing to be seen. You might even call what was happening “social narrowing”. To be fair, this would be the most excitement any of us would see for the next month.
In the days that followed I took in all the news I could, whether by way of Jacinda’s daily press conferences or the internet. This Lockdown was unexplored ground for me—and nearly everybody else—so I wanted to be as informed as possible. But after a week it had become this juxtaposition of being both overwhelming and too much of the same. For something that was so different, it didn’t take long for it to feel a bit like Groundhog Day.
Around this time that I stopped taking daily notes too. There were only so many ways I could write, “Slept in. Went for a walk. Ate. Ate some more. Ate too much. Went to bed,” although I would spice up the odd day with a trip to the supermarket. In fact, I probably went to the supermarket more than the average person in Lockdown because we had a large bubble. For the first week there were eight of us, one being my twenty-year-old cousin who consumes the same amount of a food as a panda, except instead of eating bamboo, he eats everything in sight.
One interesting thing I did note from my frequent supermarket trips was the activity of other shoppers. The first couple of times I went there were very few gloves being worn and even fewer facemasks. After the first week though, you’d have been hard-pressed to find somebody not wearing them. Then just within the last week, with the end of Level-4 in sight, people seemed to be lowering their guard as I once again saw very few gloves and facemasks. Yet as the Lockdown rules changed with each different level, the one thing that didn’t change was people’s behaviour while shopping. Much like what I witnessed on the day the Lockdown was announced, shoppers inside the supermarket acted as though they were invincible. Social distancing? Gone. Common courtesy? Also gone. I witnessed a gloveless person handle a plethora of loose apples before deciding to buy pears instead. Needless to say, I did not buy any apples.
With no work obligations or school runs, the opportunity to complete plenty of writing was ripe … or so I thought. I hadn’t factored in the eleven-year-old boy. It turns out trying to normalise an unprecedented event like being on Lockdown due to a worldwide pandemic is time-consuming. Due to the lack of work I was getting done, I ended up getting pretty down in the dumps. But then I kept hearing people like parenting guru Nigel Latta and world-famous author Neil Gaiman say that our only obligation over this time was to get through it intact. Gaiman often talks about “walking towards your mountain”, meaning that your life journey should always be heading towards your main goal aka the “mountain”. In most situations, my mountain is becoming a full-time writer, but if I am to go by the words of Gaiman, Latta and other such experts then my “Lockdown mountain” would be making it to the other side. I made it to that mountain and I hope you did too.