Hotel Quarantine: A Dickensian Tale

IMG_6537

DAY 1: Wednesday 10 June 2020

Arrived last night around midnight. Rather bizarre flight; attendants dressed like artisan butchers. Milo and Jupes awake at 1100hrs, Kuepps and Monty at 1300hrs. In important news we have at least 3 Pokestops we can spin, 4 when the GPS is a little off.

Food is of prison grade, but might sustain us in the short term. We have already taken delivery of a substantial care package from Oma, including vacuum cleaner and Nespresso machine. Boys asleep at 2100hrs, awake at 0040hrs. Midnight snack consumed consisting of fried egg, ham and cheese on toast. Asleep at 0200hrs.

  • Total new Pokemon caught/ evolved: 2
  • Total pear count: 4
  • Total Creme Caramel count: 4

DAY 2: Thursday 11 June 2020

It is still raining. It would appear, from our voyeuristic peering out the window, that there is not in fact a zombie apocalypse in Australia. This morning I saw a man, normal looking fella, just carrying and drinking a takeaway coffee like it was nothing. Everybody up around 1000hrs, exciting toast breakfast.

Everybody very confused about time, its relativity, and apparent disinterest in us.

Gifts received from Ama and Aba delivered an excellent, and rather festive, unit of time. ‘Find-a-Pikachu’ book proving important in the early stages. Pikachu now being found with relative ease, but Monty still feigning surprise/ excitement; likely for our benefit.

2100hrs bedtime again did not stick. 0130hrs midnight snack, less ambitious than yesterday. Milo took the opportunity to quiz Monty on various aspects of the Pokemon Encyclopedia – this evening focusing on ‘types’.

  • Total new Pokemon caught/ evolved: 2
  • Total pear count: 8
  • Total Creme Caramel count: 8
  • Total food box count: 24

DAY 3: Friday 12 June 2020

So, the boys had a bit of biffo today. From what we can piece together it would seem Monty was irritating Milo during Pokemon Go, so Milo gave him a bit of a shove, so Monty went immediately to his secret weapon and nipped Milo on the arm, so Milo ratcheted things up a little and gave Monty a fair thump on his back – at least twice based on the tiny fist-sized bruises, so Monty made the most of his opportunity and executed a really pretty reasonable chomp on Milo’s thigh. By the time we arrived both were in pieces, shocked that they had wrought such horrors upon each other. We declared a gentlemen’s draw, but cancelled the next morning’s Pokemon Go session.

A heavy penalty indeed.

Separately, we have begun shooting juggling balls at an empty plastic bin, without joy. Milo, in an effort to add tension and intrigue, proposed he might try to block the shots; you know, to make a game of it. His technique, which was pretty well conceived, was to insert his entire head and shoulders into the bin. To be fair this made it pretty difficult to score a basket, so the game petered out nil/ nil. Still, it was a unit of time.

  • Total pear count: 12 (-1 eaten = 11)
  • Total Creme count: 12 (8 caramel, 2 Choco, 2 panacotta)
  • Total new Pokemon caught/ evolved: 4

DAY 4: Saturday 13 June 2020

Today we wrote a Haiku.

Hotel Quarantine.

What is it, this thing called time?

Why does it mock me?

Without sunshine, jetlag is proving very persistent. Ghosts drift past each other at all hours of the night, in the gloom, to or from the bathroom, or kitchen… or somewhere else. Faces take on an ethereal quality, a soft green, illuminated by the ‘Mad Mex’ across the road.

Today we have abandoned the utilitarian, ‘survival first’ fare we have been receiving at our front door three times a day with a knock, followed by the sound of hastened scuttling back to the lift. The societal instincts imprinted on our human DNA quickly established for us the optimum quantum of time between ‘knock’ and ‘open’. As fun as it would be to lurk behind the door, quietly listening, in order to spring it open upon the first knock, with a smile; “good morning, how are you? Thanks for the sustenance, got anything planned today?”… it simply wouldn’t do. We are of course modern day lepers, exiled to Kalaupapa Island, unworthy of human contact – until our glorious redemption in 9 days time.

At bedtime we changed the boys from their day-time pyjamas into their night-time pyjamas, which in turn became their day-time pyjamas. It is a wild, relentless cycle.

Also, today we ate pizza; which was like being reborn.

  • Food counting stats will now be discontinued.
  • The box count has also stagnated at 36.

DAY 5: Sunday 14 June 2020

When they have nothing there is nothing left to take away. We have zero leverage. Pokemon Go; is it played? Is it not? For how long? This is all we have. We give it. We retract it. We dangle it. It hovers like the Sword of Damocles.

But if the four of us were to be honest with each other, the lustre of this virtual world has faded. How can one walk 10km with one’s Eevee in order to evolve it into an Umbreon at night when your world is a hotel room? This is not a jaunty thought experiment to stimulate conversation. This is reality. Today our hunt yielded zero new Pokemon, not even a Poliwag from the mountainous region of Kaloa – often referred to as the ‘rat of Kalos’ by residents of the regional capital Lumiose City.

Where have all the Pokemon gone? I ask again, where have all the Pokemon gone?

Today I did a small dance to entertain the boys. Monty, unamused, said; “I hate your bloody hips. I hate your bloody butt. I hate your bloody dance.” A stinging review.

The remnants of Saturday night’s pizza buoyed spirits as we enter the second week.

DAY 7: Monday 15 June 2020

We had developed a sensation that time was not obeying its normal rules, and this morning this has been confirmed. We have learned that the day we arrived was actually Day 1, so today is actually Day 7, not Day 6. Ordinarily losing a day of your life would be cause for some consternation, but under the current circumstances it is a delight.

Further, we have learned that on Day 14 we can leave at 0001hrs. We’re not sure that during a Global Pandemic there would be suitable entertainment venues to cater for a family of four open at that hour; but it is nice to have the option. We celebrated by splitting a KitKat.

We have a bluetooth speaker here with us in Hotel Quarantine; it offers some respite, and reminds us of the life we once had. However, we are forever vigilant to ensure “Crazy Frog – Axel F” never gets a chance to play; one eye is always on the Spotify shuffle. The chance is far from zero. Here are our Spotify playlists that currently feature “Crazy Frog – Axel F”:

  • On Repeat – The songs you can’t get enough of right now
  • Repeat Rewind – Past songs that you couldn’t get enough of
  • Your Top Songs – 2019
  • Your Top Songs – 2018

Should one rendition slip through our net we fear disaster; that Crazy Frog has such an immediate and visceral impact on our children that the ensuing hysteria may well drag them and us into a tornado of chaos from whence we would not return intact.

In our view this song should be banned from all Quarantine Hotels, nationwide.

DAY 8: Tuesday 16 June 2020

Despite requesting a discontinuation to the food deliveries they still continue to arrive at our door from time-to-time, like a stray cat we fed once.

Sometimes we let them into our house, and regret it. Most times we quickly re-shut the door and remain quiet for 5 minutes. One time we left a note before bed “no more food please”. The next morning it had been replaced by food.

Our pile of pears, plain crisps and single-serve UHT milk is now so vast it appears we are preparing to make a food drop to a group of stranded hikers.

We are now very used to the rhythm of door knocks, and we can usually deduce their purpose before opening the door. An out-of-sync doorknock is therefore cause for some stimulation and excitement within our small dwelling; one’s imagination is quickly unleashed; fire drill? mis-addressed Uber Eats? Census volunteer? Mormon? Today we received such a knock and scampered to the door. Was it somebody notifying us we had been deemed safe to return to society? Nope, fresh linen.

Just before he fell asleep tonight Monty said to me; “daddy, why is it night time?” Of course that sentence makes no sense at all, except for the fact it is probably the most poignant thing he has ever said. Why is it night time?

DAY 9: Wednesday 17 June 2020

The nurse rang this morning to advise our big test will be tomorrow; sometime between “9 and 5”. I said; “anytime, we’ll be here”. I was quite pleased with my quip, but the nurse really gave me very little response, which I though was unfair.

I found Monty switching the light on and off by himself this afternoon, absentmindedly saying “on… off…”. Otherwise, everything is fine.

In the evening we decided to Uber some burritos from the Mad Mex that has been throwing its ghoulish green glow into our apartment for the last week. We rather liked the idea of controlling something in the real world and watching it unfold before our eyes.

The boys and I gathered by a window with a fine view of the entrance and waited with giddy excitement for the Uber cyclist to arrive. Alas, somehow we missed Tomas both arriving and departing, but we did not miss his maniacal cycle path around the city which looked like somebody playing Snake 1 on a NOKIA 3310, badly.

If Tomas had a reasonable arm, which we assessed he did from his photo, he probably could have lobbed our burritos up through our window (if they opened of course), but instead they took 31 minutes to arrive; shiny, and a bit distended.

Monty took 3 successful bites and then the bottom gave way in his lap. Milo took a nibble, claimed it was too spicy and ate corn chips. Kuepps’ ‘gluten free bowl’ was wrapped in a tortilla whose principle ingredient was gluten. So I ate an unsafe number of lukewarm burritos whilst trying unsuccessfully to keep the mood festive.

Still, Burrito Night was probably in the top 3 Hotel Quarantine events so far… top 2, actually.

DAY 10: Thursday 18 June 2020

In the 1990 Sci-Fi classic Total Recall Douglas Quaid (played by ‘peak Arnie’) is pursued by Cohaagen’s goons who seek to eliminate him. Having evaded the first wave of attackers Quaid discovers a suitcase which contains, among other things, a video recording of himself (as Hauser). Hauser gets Quaid (and the audience) up to speed on the plot background and then instructs Quaid to remove a tracking device that has been lodged in his skull.

Quaid discovers a rather ominous looking rod in the suitcase, which looks a bit like a tool that might be useful for a lobotomy. At Hauser’s prompting Quaid pushes the rod up his nose – offering helpfully, “just shove real hard”. “When you hear the crunch, you’re there” he adds reassuringly. What follows is a classic early 90s CGI scene as Quaid ever-so-slowly drags an audaciously large glowing red sphere out of his improbably stretched nostril.

I am convinced whomever devised the COVID-19 swab test was watching Total Recall at the same time… or at least the night before.

Today was testing day.

DAY 11: Friday 19 June 2020

We are rather detached from the weather. Our world oscillates wildly between 23.4C and 22.8C. We put jumpers on. We take them off. But we don’t know why.

When grass, ground and fire Pokemon yield weather bonuses we know it is sunny. Normal and rock type? We know it is partly cloudy. Otherwise we peer out of our reverse fishbowl at the humans and try to deduce climatic conditions from their wrappings and behaviour.

We haven’t yet completely ironed out the difference between ‘cafe’ activewear and ‘fitness’ activewear, nor the difference between hipster and utilitarian flannies – but in general we can make a pretty good assessment.

Meanwhile we had delivery gelato tonight; which, alongside 3D printing and Segways, must be in the running for best invention of the 21st Century.

DAY 12: Saturday 20 June 2020

We fear the outside world may have become for our children something of a memory, an apparition.

This morning Monty, with his beautiful round little face propped up on the palm of his hand, and his curly golden mullet streaming out behind him, like 100 yellow Slinkies have been fastened to a fan, in no particular order, and the fan turned onto a setting of 4, and he says “father (actually he said daddy, but father fits the image far better, more Jane Austen) father, please take me to the sea”. I asked him what he would like to see, at the sea. He looked wistfully out the window, the morning light playing in his bobbing Slinkies, and said with a flourish “I would like to see a dolphin”.

We need to get out of here.

DAY 13: Sunday 21 June 2020

So the cavalry arrived this morning. Around 1000hrs we received a knock. Due to the aforementioned ‘knock-delay etiquette’ we ignored it. Shortly thereafter followed a second, more insistent, knock. So Kuepps and I hustled and stumbled to the door, suddenly stimulated by the possibility of an ‘out-of-routine’ encounter.

We were greeted by a veritable posse of official looking Australians; army, police, medical professionals. “Milo, come look”, I shouted “humans”. None of the posse really offered a giggle, clearly not new material.

Our children emerged from the darkened bedroom where they had been playing; Monty carrying his blanket, both with their mullets still frizzy from the previous night’s sleep, both squinting and looking generally confused. Of the 4 of us Milo was the first to gather himself; stepping forward to say hello. Milo then fielded all questions on behalf of the family; names, DOB, ages. He then presented his forehead for the obligatory temperature check, and scored a very solid 36.4.

He was proud of himself. We all were.

As a family we nailed it; 36.4, 36.4, 36.4 36.2. We made subtle eye contact with each other and enjoyed a mental family fist-bump.

One of the army chaps then stepped forward, cleared his throat, and made the formal presentations – certificates of societal worthiness all around, for our CVs or LinkedIn profiles. We were then told we would be free to depart between midnight and 1000hrs tomorrow morning, and then as a parting gift we were all awarded a blue wrist band which simply says “MONDAY – COVID19 NSW”, identical to a band that might ordinarily give us limitless rides at Luna Park, or access to the ‘premium drinks package’ on the Ruby Princess; but this is something altogether more surreal.

So I sit here eating the last Choco Creme, which I found hidden at the back of the fridge – a remnant of the early days when single-serve desserts rained upon us like hand sanitizer – and reflect on the truly historic, and discombobulated times we (and I mean all of us) find ourselves in.

Over the Christmas ham last year who could have possibly conceived that just 6 months down the road we would need to lock all returning Australians in hotels for 2 weeks to protect the community from a not yet fully understood virus that is as yet far from under control. And thank goodness we live in a country that has the resources, and the poise to implement something like this.

These 14 days will eventually fade for us, as this year (and what lies ahead) will fade for us all… but what we won’t forget, and I suspect few of us will, is the centrality of family and community – they are keeping the world stumbling forward right now. For us, our tight little crew of four has moved peacefully through this very strange experience thanks to family and friends who have waved at the window, sent us food and coffee, and endless Pokemon paraphernalia, and those who have kept us entertained with memes, banter and promises of walks in the sun…

The world is much smaller than it was 6 months ago, but family is still family and community is still community. We are all re-learning what matters, pondering what tomorrow might look like, when we get there… and maybe nudging our priorities around just a little bit.

So that’s it; we will depart at 0730hrs tomorrow morning. To quote Antarctic explorer Captain Lawrence Oates; “I am just going outside and may be some time”.

 

IMG_6535

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s