The life of an opinion writer in lockdown is a confusing mess of minor gripes and complaints that contrast poorly with the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in. It feels trivial to get narky at my neighbour’s insistence on putting a basketball hoop in the narrow shared driveway behind our townhouses when COVID is ripping through the community and lockdown seems endless.
But the slower pace does highlight the little things that can significantly improve or mar the day when there’s so little in life to look forward to aside from food and a daily walk.
For example, waiting for my drive-through coffee from The Knox in Watson a few days ago, I was appalled to see people sitting in the small courtyard, eating their pastries unmasked in the sunshine. The wowser in me wanted to sanctimoniously ask if it was ‘essential’ that they eat outside in public, instead of leaving with their baked goods and eating at their own homes.
But equally, I know how frustrating it is to be circling the same environment all day and night and couldn’t begrudge someone a moment of variety in an otherwise dull week. My desire to be a good citizen battled with my desire to not be a jerk to people just trying to get through lockdown. The latter won.
A relative took to our group chat recently to point out the various ways in which having more people walking on shared paths as a result of lockdown restrictions means everyone’s annoying and inconsiderate behaviour is more apparent. Like bike riders insisting on riding fast down footpaths instead of moving to the road, or the many people who are walking poorly behaved dogs off lead in busy areas, making it hard for my relative to keep his own anxious dogs (who were on lead) calm. It was enough to take the pleasure out of the walk, anyway.
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Dwelling on the minor annoyances like these is making me wonder if the fact that our ordinary lives are busier and often less locally focused (people exercising in gyms instead of outdoors, or during work hours in other locations, for example) actually shelters us from some of the regular interaction with strangers that we’re now forced into.
I’ve definitely noticed an increased stream of emails from my body corporate in the sterile townhouse complex I live in, with complaints from neighbours about absolutely everything – from people parking in visitor spots, to dogs barking, to cats prowling, to children being unsupervised on the driveway, the list goes on.
Usually we just ignore each other and most of us aren’t around during the day to notice the things that are now irritating us. With extra time on our hands, we’re realising that living this close to hundreds of strangers is less than ideal.
I’d like to think that lockdown presents a chance for us to take stock, go with the flow, and focus on the bigger picture. But instead, it seems like we’re getting more antagonistic. Perhaps it’s a natural reaction to feeling helpless about the major decisions that are changing the way we live our lives and gives us some control in the areas where it’s achievable.
I know that in that context, I’m being particularly brutal when it comes to demanding household cleaning outcomes from my partner, and have decided it’s a good time to try to retrain my adult dog out of territorial barking (which he’s finding somewhat confusing given we didn’t seem to care before when he howled at delivery people).
The fact is that psychologically, there are a lot of unknowns to process right now, and the monotony of lockdown life – despite clearly being a privilege, compared to those dealing with the chaos of homelessness or insecure employment as a result of the pandemic – is exacerbating many a miserly viewpoint.
What are the little things that are sparking your temper in lockdown? And are there others that you’ve just had to let go of?