Melbourne’s lockdown 6.0 is over, and the world is once again our oyster – provided you’re checked in, masked up, with proof of vaccination ready. People are back on the streets, the trams, and most importantly, filling up the hospitality venues. But what I want to know is, now that we have many more options for eating, drinking and making merry; are we?
A lot of people – myself included – have leaned into the self medication route over the course of these lockdowns, be it with UberEats (I’m a hero for supporting businesses!), a heavier elbow on the cheeky whisky of an evening, a relaxation of standards (meh, I’ll buy the 12 cheap beers rather than the 4-pack of fancy ones) or something else (Imma green out every day after work to get me through). People have vigorously exercised their livers, sometimes gaining a few lockdown kilos as a result, perhaps picked up a few bad habits or cementing some other vices. Are these going away now that smashing a sixer of Furphy alone in front of the laptop is once again slightly sad rather than a norm in a world with no point of reference? Or, having lived in a Groundhog Day for the past year or so, are we going to peek our heads out of our holes, decide it’s not worth it and head back inside for another period of the hibernation to which we’ve become accustomed?
Among those people who are back amongst it, you can see that social mores have certainly suffered. Since the end of lockdown, I haven’t been on public transport without seeing (or more irritatingly, hearing) people Facetiming, chatting on speaker, listening to music or watching videos, all without headphones. I’m seeing a lot of venues having to subtly exhort their patrons into dressing appropriately (‘dress like Melbournians’ whatever that might mean) to discourage the now ubiquitous comfy pants/sloppy t-shirt combo people have quite literally lived in for months.
And of course those venues themselves are facing some severe staff shortages, with no migrant workers to exploit in the kitchens, no backpackers to underpay cash to tend bar, fewer students with the international borders closed and a growing number of people who have drifted off to find ‘real’ jobs in greener pastures since instability and unpredictability have made it more difficult to eke out a living in hospitality over the past year and change.
So are people heading back out? I must confess, I am an ambivert. I draw my energy both from solitude and from company. Of course, the drawback to this is that both scenarios also drain me of energy. It’s not good to be in your own head too long, and yet, it can be a bit much out in the noise and the tumult. Basically, what I’m getting at is that ambiversion is an inefficient energy exchange process. Yet, I am blessed with good friends and community, a partner who gets the ball rolling on and schedules a thousand events, friends who reach out for a coffee, a lunch, or a proper session. With a pub meal here, a few pints there, a movie or a long macchiato along the way, I am coaxed out of my hibernatory rodent hole and encouraged to re-engage with society. And yet, the pull remains strong to stay in with a bottle of something or a six pack of something, and a fluffy little cat who encourages me to stay on the couch for hours at a time so she can sleep at her leisure, draped over a blanketed lap. It’s a good excuse to finally watch The Wire.
Who knows? With this new Omicron* variant hitting our shores, we may find ourselves locked down again while we try to starve this strain out too. So, I don’t know. Maybe try to get back out there, try to breathe life back into your good habits and try to shake the bad ones. If you’re after a drink, hit up your old watering hole, re-organise your trivia team, set up a picnic. And perhaps most importantly, call your weird shut-in friends and drag them along too. They may hate it, but they’ll ultimately be grateful for it. May be your last chance for a while too, so make hay while the sun shines.
* cue Futurama memes