When is a grocery shopping trip worth thousands of dollars? When you walk from your isolation hotel to Countdown and risk up to six months in jail and a $4000 fine.
You wonder what was worth the risk. A craving for chocolate? Potato chips? Cigarettes? Apparently, a man who escaped isolation had been in a smoking area outside an Auckland hotel where new, high fences were being installed. But they weren't in place yet, so unlike a woman last weekend who climbed two 1.82m-high fences to escape isolation at the Pullman Hotel, the guy gapped it from the Stamford Plaza Hotel by staying on the ground.
He returned on his own 70 minutes after leaving. He spent 20 minutes in the store, mostly browsing the health and beauty aisle. He posed for selfies and used a self-service checkout to buy toothpaste, body wash and razors.
Authorities say the escapees will be charged. Also, the man has Covid-19. He arrived in New Zealand from India last week.
He was swabbed during routine testing around day three of his stay, but didn't know he had the virus when he spent 70 minutes strolling the central city on Wednesday night.
The man's positive test result came back the morning after his spree. Yet he told NZME he had been given "no evidence" of his Covid-19 finding.
When asked why he felt the could leave the hotel, he said several times: "No one told me anything".
He said he felt "totally healthy and fine".
And now, we may all pay the price for his transgressions. Eighteen store employees are self-isolating.
How long can we keep doing this? Footing the bill so Kiwis can return from overseas, bringing along the virus and occasionally busting out of quarantine? We've spent more than $80 million on isolating returnees so far. I feel for anyone stuck in a country where coronavirus cases are spiking, like the UK, India, the US, Brazil ... so much of the world is swirling in a cycle of lockdown-open-spike-lockdown-open-spike ... We don't want to become part of that cycle, so we isolate returning Kiwis before releasing them into the community.
If you get to travel from Covid-land back to Aotearoa, where taxpayers fund your hotel and three meals a day, consider yourself lucky.
According to the Stamford Plaza's website: "All guest rooms have a fresh colour scheme, brilliant lighting and wonderful marble bathrooms." Try finding that in jail. The walkabout can wait 14 days.
It seems manufacturers are screwing down jar lids tighter than ever. Lately, the teenagers and I have been playing a miserable game called "Who can open this fricken' jar?" If you want marmalade or salsa at ours, you work for it. Though advancing decrepitude could be weakening my grip (I turn 50 in September), I feel vindicated when even Mighty Miss 16 or Manly Master 14 fail to unscrew a lid the first six or seven tries. We tap the metal, then I bring the jar to the sink and wait two minutes for hot water to trickle over the intractable item. After that, it's back to the table with a tea towel, where the kids take turns saying the jar's too wet to manipulate. Finally, a faint "pop," sounds as one of them opens the jar. No one has burst a blood vessel yet, but we've come close.
Each time we do this I ask: "How do older people open jars?" I imagine an elderly man with arthritic hands passing out after attempting to unscrew the lid from an olive jar. Or a great-grandmother who enlists her younger neighbour for a session of lid removal. She lines up each new jar and watches as the man or woman next door frees her condiments from hermetically-sealed glass prisons.
To manufacturers, I beg you: stop with the crazy tight seals. We're exhausted. Can't we eat our raspberry jam without breaking a sweat first?
Leave it to the pros
When you've been driving more than three decades, you think you know what you're doing. Mostly, you do, except when trying to teach a new driver the New Zealand road code.
Miss 16 got her learner's licence in February. We thought lockdown would be the perfect time to practice, empty roads and all. Then we realised we weren't meant to be riding around except for trips to the pharmacy and supermarket. We used less than half a tank of fuel over seven weeks - great for safety and the environment but not for driving practice. We've eased back onto the roads. My daughter has improved - my heart no longer races from the passenger seat. But I wanted a professional to help her prepare for the restricted test, which about half of learners fail (results worsen with age).
Enter the professional instructor. I sat in the back seat for an hour this past week while he guided Miss 16 on a tour of Pāpāmoa. We circled the same block five times so she could practice at a stop sign. She did her first three-point turn and parallel parked, too. When you hear a good teacher explaining the mechanics and rules of something you do each day, you gain a new appreciation of the subject.
Hats off to driving instructors. Judging by what happens on the roads, most of us could use a refresher course.