Coronavirus: we hebben de training gegeven, laten we nu uitgaan en dit ding winnenaugustus 14, 2020
OPINION: T minus one minute to lockdown, I told myself, remain calm, Johnson. (Does anyone else find themselves talking like Jason Statham in times of crisis?)
It was 11.59am on Wednesday, and I was rammed wheel to wheel with every Aucklander and their tiny, hyperventilating dogs trying to get out of the CBD gridlock.
There were cars jammed into every inch of road, hard shoulder, flush median, pedestrian crossing and, in one ballsy blue ute’s case, barrelling down the pavement. The honking started. Pedestrians began to point and stare. More cars tried to lever themselves into queues, backsides sticking out at 90 degrees into the oncoming traffic. And all the while, the sun hammered down on our heads, melting any remnants of self-resolve we had left.
Long queues were seen at supermarkets after new cases of Covid-19 from an unknown source were found in Auckland.
One pedestrian sprinted out of the door of Bunnings, dodging through the traffic with a bag of panic-bought DIY swag held aloft, and an enraged ute lurched murderously towards her. There was an eruption of swearing, squealing, and screaming. The pedestrian whirled the Bunnings bag overhead like a mace and chain, and car horns bellowed louder than hippos in labour.
* Covid-19: Scramble to find the source of coronavirus infections
* Coronavirus: Aucklanders following the rules on first night of level 3 lockdown
* Covid-19: What do the alert levels mean?
Welcome to Auckland in level 3.
It was two hours before I made it 10 kilometres down the road to the supermarket and collapsed into the line outside Countdown. When I opened my fridge on that morning I’d found two bananas and an onion I’d peeled months ago. I didn’t even have any clean socks to use as emergency masks. Clearly scores of other Aucklanders were either equally undomesticated, or suddenly overcome by an urge for 5kg of rice, because the queue was enormous.
And yet something strange happened in line: an eerily chatty calm settled in.
The longer I stood there, the more conversations I had. And from the pie shop crew next to the supermarket to the people in front and behind me, to the Countdown staff, to the Lotto counter lady, to the woman in the cat food aisle who leaned in conspiratorially to swap updates with me over Whiskas bags, everyone was surprisingly settled.
I wouldn’t say we were relaxed, but certainly far more open, friendly and focused in the way that Aucklanders never normally are. Absolutely everyone I spoke to said the same thing.
We’ve been here before, they’d nod, squinting off into the middle distance like Richie McCaw on a cereal ad, and we’ll win again. Just need to band together and play by the rules …
Shoulders were squared, deep sighs were heaved, but the collective mood was resilient, communal and stoic. Reassuring words were exchanged, firm smiles bestowed, and hand sanitiser flowed more exuberantly than the Lindauer at a hens night.
And that was when it hit me, in one of those strange flashes of revelation into national character that you get when you’re a naturalised Kiwi. This is what NZ does so well.
See, in the past few months, all my English friends could not work out how Kiwis came together so well in the first lockdown. “How did you all know what lockdown even meant?” cried my oldest, English friend. “It was like as soon as Jacinda jumped on TV you all knew the game plan like you’d been preparing your whole lives?”
In a sense we had. In comparison to England, where I grew up, NZ gets teamwork really, really well. And yes that’s because we’re small, quite friendly and like to get on with each other. But that’s also because every Kiwi grows up immersed in sport, either playing it or having it rammed down our throats so much by society that it’s impossible not to absorb the key points.
As such, sporting principles are deeply baked into our national character: work as a team, listen to the captain, play by the rules, and win against all odds. As seen in the statistics released after the first lockdown about how we tackled wave one – 80 per cent of us had rigorous handwashing, 90 per cent of us physically distanced, and almost 100 per cent of us trusted authority. We played by the rules and followed the captain.
And that’s what this new wave is, isn’t it? A giant rematch with an old enemy.
There’s the captain (Jacinda), the coach (Ashley Bloomfield), the players (all of us), and the game plan (successfully activate our resurgence plan). We knew reluctantly there would be a rematch, we knew deep down this was a long game, and we had a suspicion it would be in Auckland. But we’re still determined to win with the resilient spirit honed over thousands of weekends running through mud.
So it’s no surprise that, after a few hours of road rage and irrational panic, the city’s mood has settled into the calm determination found in the pre-match changing rooms.
We know what we need to do to win.