Lockdown day 75.
I’m still adjusting to life under level 3 of the Covid-19 regulations.
It’s taking a bit of getting used to: being able to move around more freely — along with everyone else — to buy beer and get a takeaway or to go fishing, but doing so with the knowledge that on a daily basis increasing numbers of people are getting sick and dying.
As the numbers rise, so does the chance of my family and me getting infected. It’s a horrible thing to have to live with. It’s essentially time to live and let die, to go about your business knowing that as you do so, the bodies are piling up and that you are just one exposure away from joining them.
Schools and churches are reopening, the universities and technikons look set to follow, so the only way forward is to live life, but cautiously, with regard for your own life, and those of others.
Despite this gloomy outlook, there’s a serious bounce in my step as I hit the queue outside the local photocopy shop. We’ve just got a notice that our applications for Ters (the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme) funding to make up for the Covid-19 salary cuts we’ve been hit with have been processed by the department of labour. The department has sent us the banking forms that need to be stamped and submitted, along with a certified ID copy, by Friday, so that we can get our first payout. It won’t cover all my losses, but the money will pay my 13-year-old’s school fees.
It’s not just the knowledge that all my years of contributing to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) are paying off and I’m getting something back from the state at a time when I need it.
It’s also a reminder that our government works, a reassurance, an antidote to the incessant online white-whining that’s accompanied the lockdown.
It’s not my first time collecting UIF. Journalism will do that. So will having a backbone. I’ve never had a problem with joining the UIF queue to sign for what’s mine from the state. I’m one of those citizens who renders unto Caesar with a smile.
My old man, Gerald, was a “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” kind of a cat. It rubbed off on me, so I cough up my UIF contributions, the deductions to the South African Revenue Service, willingly.
The photocopy shop is doing things properly.
Physical distance in the queue outside. Foot pump sanitiser at the door and a cap on the number of bodies allowed inside at a time. There are “No mask, no entry” signs at the door.
Everybody inside, customers and staff alike, knows what’s required for as many of us to make it through this pandemic as possible. Everybody’s playing the game. Respect.
All of a sudden, this white cat, about my age but a fair bit taller and heavier, storms into the shop, cutting the queue and ignoring everybody waiting their turn to enter and be served. The manager asks him to put his mask on and join the queue like the rest of us.
Our man gets all 1652. Refuses to mask up and get to the back of the queue. Starts talking shit about there being no virus, no deaths, no pandemic. I snap.
Perhaps it’s the pent up frustration over 75 days of lockdown; perhaps it’s all the racist drivel I’ve been forced to listen to about the cigarette and booze ban, but in an instant I’m enraged, engulfed with a crystal clear, deadly rage. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that privileged, denialist muppets like this have driven the pandemic in South Africa and that this particular idiot might as well be pointing a gun at me, holding a knife to my neck, but right now, I’m ready to kill this guy.
I tell him that if he doesn’t put his mask on, I’m gonna fuck him up. He opens his mouth to continue spewing his anti-science nonsense. In a millisecond, I’ve halved the distance between us. I’m the most nonviolent person I know, but I’m preparing to kick his ankles out from under him, smash his head into the counter as he goes down, finish him with a flurry of size 10s when he hits the deck, make sure he stays down.
Our man’s mouth shuts. He turns and runs out of the now silent photocopy shop without a word. Perhaps he saw the death in my eyes. Perhaps he’s realised that life isn’t Facebook and that it’s 2020, not 1948. Perhaps he’s gone home to get a mask. I don’t really care. He’s no longer posing a threat to my life. That’s all that matters right now.