It wasn't a particularly unusual Friday evening.
I was running late, and by 5pm well into an end-of-the week trawling session aimed at minimising weekend hours at my desk.
Last-minute queries, emails, requests for more information, requests for anything and everything that could be jammed in before the weekend. The Friday flurry which sees my typing get progressively louder, as if volume and keyboard-aggressiveness are directly related to efficiency.
Lockdown or no lockdown, it's an annoying habit which remains unchanged. Along with my uncouth time-keeping skills, reluctance to do gardening and enthusiasm for buying biscuits from the supermarket. This, despite constant suggestions from a range of reliable online sources that extra time during lockdown means room for all at-home activities overlooked in normal time. Like baking, weeding, and cleaning. Things still in development in my household.
After nine weeks in lockdown, and what seems like three life cycles since Covid descended, it's still an exercise I like to do. That is theorising whether I've managed to make the most of the forced lifestyle shift. Because, as it's been put a million different ways in the last year or so, an offshoot of this pandemic has been the opportunity to disrupt the broken ways of old and move towards a more wholesome and fairer existence.
I'll admit, for a while, I lapped up this theme. Particularly during our first run at lockdown. The dubious weekly tally of takeaway and restaurant meals. Gone. Money dedicated to coffee. Also gone. Time spent in tedious Auckland traffic. Eliminated.
Pretty basic pat-yourself-on-the-back stuff.
Perhaps more significant was how easily it came back. Because, while it was okay to forgo a lot of our regular activities for a bit, resuming them in May last year was important. As dire as it sounds, being back in traffic was a clear signal we'd returned to normal.
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A familiar kind of rhythm to the ins-and-outs of what we knew life to be.
It's also why, once I'd finished unnecessarily smashing at my keyboard last Friday, the once well-practised rush to get ready for dinner stumped me.
"What do I wear? And what do you bring to a picnic for Friday night?"
These aren't particularly sophisticated or challenging questions. In fact, they took all of 30 seconds to answer. But like a lot of other Covid-related musings, they represent a more pertinent point. That is, as we troop further into a national safety blanket of vaccination, what exactly are we expecting to get back to? Second, how prepared are we for that reality?
They're not easy answers to pin down. Because for so long, we've lived with a false sense of security that Covid doesn't really get into the community. And when it does, we simply shut it down.
However, as things stand, this is no longer an option. Covid-19 is entrenched, and for those of us in Auckland and directly north and south of the city, we're well and truly living with it.
Right now, in combination with navigating the vaccine response, that means looking at what life will be like after the Government deems our rates acceptable enough for travel – domestic and international. It means thinking beyond the next two weeks and having a sensible discussion about how we operate in a Covid middle ground.
Here, it's about facing up to what needs to happen. With three-quarters of the country at level 2 and those in level 3 clearly tiring, a concerted PR campaign drilling us on the importance of safety measures like mask-wearing in a variety of settings is necessary now.
Ongoing messaging on how this keeps hospital and death rates manageable needs to be part of that.
At the same time, it also means acknowledging the inequity in the vaccine rollout and current outbreak, and how authorities must stop repeating the same obvious, systemic mistakes. Linked to that is the need to properly equip the health system for what is to come in the next 12 months.
Fundamentally, it means moving beyond the restrictive understanding we're currently hovering towards around the vaccine being an all-encompassing solution.
Because even after we reach the magic number, we've got to understand that – unlike last year – life isn't returning to what it used to be. And, while that might not seem like a popular message, I suspect it's one a lot of us have been mulling over for a while.
Accepting it, and the changes we need to make, will help make things like Friday night dinner, or commuting to work, slightly more ordinary again.