"The pandemic means different things for different people."
Another compact but super-loaded tagline which describes what we're all living through.
In keeping with other single-sentence Covid phrases, depending on the day, it can be reassuring or just plain infuriating.
When I don't want to look too closely at things, particularly the more bizarre and disappointing events we've seen, I roll it out as a cheap and easy explanation. For example, digesting Saturday's anti-lockdown protest at Auckland's Domain.
"Ugh, can't they wait another few weeks. There are still random cases around. Clearly, the pandemic means different things for different people."
It also fits the woman from St Helier's who held garage drinks and couldn't connect it to rule breaking. And don't forget the various people who decided it was sweet to leave Auckland and were caught out.
"Ugh, can't they just wait another few weeks. There are still random cases around. Ah well, the pandemic clearly means different things for different people."
In some aspects, it's a convenient way to dismiss all manner of questionable behaviour.
Particularly things I like to be self-righteous and point fingers about. Things which, so often, are labelled stupid or entitled, or both.
Only that reductive interpretation of the pandemic, and by extension understanding of how we're all coping, is really wearing thin.
Given the choice and freedom, would I leave Auckland right now if I had somewhere else to live and it was a practical option? Absolutely. If the option to hang out with my family and friends all in one place was offered up today, would I do it? Absolutely. I'd probably be one of the main organisers.
Unfortunately, these imaginary ideas are just that. They're also a personal wish list I've made based on things I'm missing the most.
Dig a little further, and you'll be able to decipher what's a priority for me, and likely what I'm struggling with the most in lockdown.
It's not a point I make lightly. Because, at this stage in our pandemic response, it's one which seems to be getting lost amongst some of the loud demands and rhetoric which fail to acknowledge that while we're all living this together, we are certainly not facing it in the same way.
To give you a bit of insight, I'll break down my situation and wish list.
First, I'm in a stable and secure bubble. I haven't had my work or income interrupted by Covid.
There's plenty of space in the house and like a lot of other middle-class workers, I've been able to transition to a risk-averse, work-from-home setup pretty seamlessly. Sure, there's been ups and downs but they don't revolve around all-encompassing issues like whether I'll make rent or have enough for groceries.
Second, I'm fully vaccinated, and so are quite a few members of my family. Others are getting there, and for the most part, we're not being confronted with hard anti-vaccination rhetoric — which I count as a major blessing. My friends are a bit slower, but the last month has certainly brought action along.
Third, for the most part, I understand the advice coming from public health experts. I may not agree with everything they say, or certain actions they've taken, but when I hear the numbers and check out the trends, I am able to make sense of what is going on.
These three things may seem like basics to Covid life. Like what we all should have so level 4, then 3, then 3 phase 1 and so on is bearable. They're why when I think about what I want in "freedom time", I reach for my family and a place to live away from the confines of bubbles. It's why in addition to much-lauded health benefits, I really want the restrictions and our vaccination rollout to work.
But for many, it just isn't that straightforward. The path to freedom and a return to so-called normality is paved with real obstacles linked to the disproportionate impacts of Covid.
That, in turn, covers a range of things such as health inequities, health illiteracy, poor wage rates, systemic marginalisation, language barriers, housing problems, and the list goes on.
These are things that after we hand out the vaccine "carrots" in the form of grocery vouchers, spot prizes and food boxes, we should really unpack. It's why a wish list like mine and the privileges it reflects needs to be interrogated alongside the pace and inequity of our vaccine rollout.
The key question being why, in the face of a global pandemic, a significant number of us are only turning up and interacting with a vaccine programme when there's basic needs such as food, petrol and cash involved. Just as important is understanding what's led us to the point that it's now a perfectly acceptable practice.
Questions which add a whole different dimension to the phrase: "The pandemic means different things for different people."