Spliffs down, scrubs up

Thursday.

Day seven of 21 days — perhaps — of life under lockdown.

Sun-up is just over an hour away. I’ve been up for a while.

I’ve been sleeping less and less every day since the lockdown kicked in last Friday. I’m finding it easy enough to fall asleep — the cannabis oil will do that — but sleeping beyond 3am is becoming increasingly difficult.

The combination of lack of physical activity and anxiety is also taking its toll on my appetite. I’m eating a lot less — which is not necessarily a bad thing — because my body needs a lot less food to sustain it.

Despite the fact that I’ve only made it as far as the garden downstairs since I woke up, I’ve already washed my hands at least 10 times. I’ve been like this since before the first Covid-19 cases in South Africa were confirmed, scrubbing madly and necking gallons of hot water with lemon juice and ginger to try and stay uninfected. The frequency of the handwashing has increased, and that of the attempts to disinfect my throat, since Friday, as if the start of the lockdown has somehow amplified the level of threat from the invisible killer lurking in the streets.

I managed to get the groceries in last Thursday before the lockdown started and have adhered to it pretty religiously since. No walks around the block for a spliff. No trips to the shop around the corner for the newspapers. Thankfully, there’s a parking lot and a small slither of garden downstairs, so I’ve been able to get some air. Sunshine.

I’ve left the complex four times since Friday. Two work runs to check on how the city is dealing with the thousands of homeless people on Durban’s streets during the lockdown. One swift mission to the corner to buy bread on Saturday. One to pay the rent at the ATM and buy a Coke — I’d been gagging for a Dark and Bubbly since last week — from the garage early on Wednesday morning.

The ATM mission was scary. 

ABSA hadn’t provided sanitiser or wipes for client safety.


Not cool.

I used a knuckle for the transaction, kept my hands in pockets till I got home and could conduct the survival ritual. Clothes in the wash. Me in the shower. Everything that left the house with me isolated on a small table until it could be sanitised. The 1.5 litre Coke I bought into the sink for a good wash in hot, soapy water.

This is not a time to take short cuts.

I could abuse my permit and head to the beach to “monitor lockdown compliance,” get my feet wet, feel the sand between my toes. Take advantage of the empty streets and take a wander around the city under the guise of doing work.

It’s tempting, but I won’t.

I don’t want to get this virus, or give it to anybody else, so I’m only leaving the house when absolutely necessary. 

It’s not just about the fear of being infected or infecting others. This isn’t the time to try and be clever, to try and beat the system. This is the time to think about the effect of your words and actions on other people. Time to shut up.

Listen.

Stay at home.

I’ve only seen the army during my work runs, not near home. Thus far, there’s been no SANDF armoured vehicles rolling down Alan Paton Road, no foot patrols to round up the homeless cats who haven’t ended up in the city’s tented camps and are still surviving off the bins in the street.

Apart from the inactivity, my first seven days under lockdown haven’t been too bad.

I’ve spent way more time than usual with my family. There’s still plenty of food, the bills are paid and I’m not being forced to risk my life — or a beating — to get my next meal, so I can’t see what there is to complain about.

I’ve consumed a single ingudu from the case of quarts I bought on Lockdown Eve. The Jameson Reserve I got along with it is still unopened. I have, however, made a rather large dent on my cannabis stash, so it may be time to slow down my consumption rate and start reading those online articles like “Five Ways to Stretch Your Stash” and “Microdosing: how to make little bud go a long, long way” to pick up some survival tips, especially if the head of state, Cyril Ramaphosa, is forced to extend the lockdown.

I’m expecting an extension, despite the apparent flattening of the Covid-19 infection rate and the announcement that we’re moving into the screening and testing phase. Poverty and overcrowded living conditions for the majority of South Africans mean physical distancing has been slow to take hold.

Factor in the refusal of the jogging and dog walking class to toe the line, and the backlog in test results, and we’re still a long way from out of the woods.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.
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