Ahhh, New Zealand. The now infamous team of 5 million, the birthplace of the greatest rugby team of all time, and the land of DIY in our DNA. And ever since Covid hit our shores, the land of the Covid Karen.
"That's not me," I hear you mutter, as the hairs rise on the back of your neck, anticipating the offence you are about to take. And jolly good, it might not be. But you're bound to have come across a Covid Karen, and I'll get to how you spot one very shortly.
Before you ask, no, a Covid Karen doesn't have to be female, Karen can also be a male. A Karen isn't actually identified by gender at all, it's more a way of life.
Covid Karens are a group of people who abuse and judge retail staff and take to social media to complain about their less-than-delightful click and collect or Covid-safe shopping experience. This breed of Kiwi also takes a particular dislike to courier companies who are, of course, intentionally withholding their packages because they are "lazy".
These people believe they are entitled to a complete and utter perfect experience of everything they do in life, every single time. No underpaid retail worker is ever allowed to be less than 100 per cent delightful toward them. In fact, that worker should be grateful that they, the customer, have even graced them with their presence, as they are such a busy and important person.
"Whatever happened to 'the customer is always right'?" they mutter to their long-suffering spouse as they walk back to their Rav4. You happened Karen. It was literally you.
But it's bad news for these Covid Karens - the rest of us are actually on the side of the poor retail worker you are rolling your eyes at. We only smile back at you because it's so incredibly awkward and we hope you will just go away. In fact, if it wasn't for the 2-metre-distancing rule, we members of the team of 5 million, would probably have helped chuck you out of the store, while you poorly filmed the experience on your Galaxy S10.
For me, my breaking point came when I recently saw three different people take to social media, some with substantial followings, to complain about retail staff in a cool and modern Covid Karen kind of way.
To paint a picture, two of these people are in particularly privileged situations that become even more fortunate in a pandemic-induced lockdown: they don't have jobs they have to worry about.
"I just think it's funny that ..." began one, who went on to describe how a woman wasn't really friendly and asked them to obey the store policy of social distancing.
"You will not believe ..." began another hard-done-byer. Continuing with a dreadful tale about her click and collect order coming incomplete and so she had to go to another store to get her child a new summer hat. The ones she had been sent for free as part of her influencer PR were much too big, you see. She also complained about that and tagged the company. I am yet to find out how she remedied the situation, but she and her child's noggin are in my thoughts.
The penultimate read-the-room moment came when I witnessed one man complaining that staff got his order wrong at the KFC drive-through on their first day of level 3.
"Someones gonna get it eh," he began his rampage. And I can assure you that "it" was not a three-piece quarter pack. No sir.
Sure, that might be annoying - if I had a Zinger burger in my mind and you delivered me a coleslaw, I would be upset too. But he went on to suggest the person responsible should be fired because they were "useless". As if his meal order being spot on was more important than someone's livelihood. A livelihood they have no doubt been stressed about since the second lockdown began.
But with the bad also comes the good. There are lots of good people out there too. After posting an absolute rant to my social media, calling these people out in an attempt to counterbalance the Karens, the good stories flew into my inbox. People told me about their experiences standing up for store employees, thanking angel nurses, and bosses putting it on the line for their staff. But that should be how we behave, right?
We should come into these unique situations factoring in how that person we encounter might be feeling. The kind of crippling debt that person might be facing after a long time without an income. The worry they might be facing over having to send their kids to school, too young to be vaccinated, in order to get to that job. Or the fact that they are tired too, and they also want their life to go back to normal. After all, they signed up to stock shelves and scan barcodes, not become a Covid superstar in full PPE who just wants to get to the end of their day and have a bloody good cry in the car on the way home.
But I see you, 18-year-old working at Mitre 10, hurling bags of compost and chicken wire into the boots of ungrateful sods. You wanted to spend this year on your OE in Europe, not dodging Covid in Henderson. I see you nurses triaging patients and honestly just hoping you don't miss that one symptom that might be more urgent. I see you supermarket workers trying to explain why that man's sausages he has bought each week for the last 15-years aren't there this week.
But I also see you Covid Karens treating people like they owe you something. Like your needs or problems are somehow bigger than everyone else's, usually ignoring your privilege in the process.
At a time when kindness should be flourishing, I have found myself instead witnessing acts of great selfishness that deserve to be called out as much as kindness does. That's how we change perceptions, create understanding and move forward.
If any of the above makes you feel a bit uncomfortable as you draft that angry email to Courier Post HQ, or maybe to me, chances are you might need to do better.
So when you go get that click and collect, or visit the supermarket, petrol station, hospital or café, take a second while you scan that QR code to pause and put yourself in the shoes of the person you are about to encounter. Imagine the fear, the frustration and the worry that another human being might be facing, and put on a mask covered smile, say please, say thank you, show gratitude and most of all, actually mean it.