I didn’t have much planned for the 3rd weekend in October so when Tasmania’s snap lockdown was announced I wasn’t too bothered by the prospect of a few days of quiet isolation. What I did feel, and perhaps I’m not alone here, was the deflation of the smugness bubble: that sense that we Tasmanians somehow had one over those huddled, masked masses on the big island yearning to breathe free. But finally the picnic was over and it was déjà vu of deserted streets, empty supermarket shelves, takeaway only and all the fun places closed.
I don’t mean to make light of it. It was tough on those businesses that rely on weekend income, and possibly worse for anyone who had, say, a big Spring wedding planned. They might recover some of the thousands spent on venue hire, catering, flowers, entertainment and alcohol (which will always keep), but what about all the food waste?
Speaking of which, I pity the organisers of The Unconformity in Queenstown. Second year in a row it had to be cancelled, but this time at such short notice they had to throw away 100 kg of potato salad! Perhaps it could be used to put out the tyre fire?
The CWA ladies did better. They had to cancel the big afternoon tea planned to celebrate their 80th birthday on Saturday, but managed to pop a fair bit into the freezer for a future knees-up.
How did everyone know in advance that the lockdown was coming? I wouldn’t have had a clue except I got the drum a few hours ahead from a media-savvy friend who got it – get this – not from social media buzz but from his son who heard it at school! Another friend told me it had been posted on the Government website before the Premier’s announcement. Seriously, who’d think of looking there for an early tip-off?
In any event I thought I’d beat the rush and pop out to stock up for the long locked-down weekend.
When I got to my local deli there was already traffic ramping at the entrance and the place was jam-packed. What’s with the panic buying anyway? Essential suppliers like supermarkets, pharmacies and, ahem, bottle shops, always stay open. I can only think that at times like this a collective madness takes hold.
I admit it took hold of me. Having packed the car boot with bags of goodies I remembered I was out of bread, and not wanting to brave the deli throng again, drove off to see if I could score at Coles or Woolies. I kept telling myself I could always shop tomorrow, but some mad impulse drove me on until the sight of the traffic queues and the prospect of standing in line again for God knows how long eventually brought me to my senses and I went home, with more fresh produce than I could consume within three days.
To be fair, at the time there were no guarantees about when the lockdown would end, and we do remember those dark days of early 2020 when we might have been spared the worst of Covid-related disease and death but we didn’t escape the other adverse consequences such as the great toilet paper, rice and pasta shortages.
The panic-buying throws up an interesting ethical dilemma. Is it alright to shop while you’re in the checkout queue? Things got so bad at my deli that at one stage the queue went all the way round the shop and back as far as the checkout itself. Waiting in line I found myself adjacent to the smallgoods display fridge and wondered if my fellow shoppers would consider it cheating if I were to call out orders from the moving queue. I popped the question to the folks behind me. There being one nod, one smile and no audible objections, I got my ham, olives and pepperdews without having to leave the queue.
In the next episode, a Covid lingo update!