It’s a pretty hollow boast, but I consider myself one of Australia’s early adopters of coronavirus anxiety. Having family in Italy is what dialed me in early to the looming crisis and from the start of March, I’d wake unusually early and check this site, a habit that shows no sign of going away. Back then conversations about the virus were rare, and the stereotypical Aussie attitude of ‘she’ll be right’ prevailed. Normally, I share that easy-going nonchalance, and was really disoriented by how pessimistic I felt.
Do you remember the opening scene of Castaway, when Tom Hanks heads to the loo on the plane to tend to a small cut? Within seconds, the plane crashes and Hanks’ cut is the least of his worries. My disorientation was the last worry-that’s-not-really-a-worry I’d have the luxury of giving mental airtime to, as my very own plane was about to fall out of the sky.
In less space of less than a week, Johnno and I both lost our jobs and our kids could no longer go to school. Two major tent poles collapsed, and we were scrabbling around under the canvas. Work and school? It’s just what you do! What do you do when you’re not doing that? Existential crises collided with financial anxiety…. I was in freefall, along with my colleagues. My community. My country. The world.
It is mid March and by now, coronavirus is getting blanket coverage across the media. At the time of writing, it still is. Everyone became aware of the insane amount of times per day they touched their faces and discovered they weren’t washing their hands properly. Social-distancing, self-isolation, Zoom and flattening the curve became everyday language. Meanwhile, the cold tang of hand sanitiser is 2020’s signature scent, one that anyone alive today will be able to smell in years to come and recollect this shitful year.
It is all anyone talks about. I was so shocked by how quickly everyone jumped to the same page that I forgot to be smug about it. But that smugness would have been shortlived, because it turns out I wasn’t even slightly braced for the dissolution of normality and confronted it with a total absence of grace and foresight.
The word that best articulates the feeling of the last month is “grief”. I know a thing or two about that bastard! So I will write about that next.
But finally, a word from my prescient, pessimistic side: The worst is yet to come. Anyone who thinks this will blow over quickly are the equivalent of the folks in 1914 who said ‘the boys will be home by Christmas.’
No-one alive likes to be right more than me. And I really, really, really hope I’m wrong.