Send out for the nails

One week down, one to go. The end of my first week in quarantine.

It’s 7.40am; any moment now I’ll hear the rustle of my breakfast being delivered to the floor outside my room. In a bag, you understand. My favourite so far has been the bircher muesli. It must be due again soon.

I’m 15 floors up in the five-star Westin Hotel in Mary Street, Brisbane. The family sends text messages hoping I’m coping. 

Coping? I’m thinking of nailing the door shut. Despite being quarantined I can order stuff in; a hammer and nails should be no problem.  I’ll have to order a truckload of food, too, because the meals will probably stop. You should see the sunrises, and the sunsets up here! Better than television, which I haven’t watched. The TV is big as a bath and stares at me blankly from the end of the bed, like a portal to another world, but I like this one. I don’t have time for television.

I tried to sing this morning, but my voice came out like a blocked vacuum cleaner. That’s when I realised that the only words I’ve spoken since I’ve been here are ‘thank you’, yelled three times a day from my side of the door when my meals are delivered. I’m getting fat.  I don’t have time to exercise; there’s too much to do.

I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. From up here I can see activity out there: ferries on the Brisbane River (not much else), cars passing on Margaret Street and Edward Street… people walking, cyclists on the riverside path. Imagine if you were somewhere the only view was an empty office block. There are offices standing empty everywhere, I can see into them from here. If you were up against one of them, and you couldn’t see any human activity at all, you could be forgiven for thinking you were the last man standing. Except that if Corona Virus was responsible it’d probably be a woman.

I’m away from Australia most years (maybe no more, in the foreseeable future, unless we beat this thing), but I’m thinking of doing this every year. The usual drill is that I’m picked up from the airport by an assorted bunch of children and grandchildren, driven home to Beechmont, up near Lamington National Park, and subjected to several hours grilling about my time away, when all I want to do is fall over and let the jet lag take me.

Quarantine is the aviation equivalent of the pause a deep-sea diver makes, to prevent him rising to the surface too fast and getting the bends; quarantine is like an airlock, a pause between two different pressures: it’s heaven in the havoc of everyday life. 

There are some interruptions. The Red Cross has phoned me twice; charming people. Would I like to set up a daily phone call for a chat? No offence, but are they mad? I might be the far side of 70 but I have work to do, books to read (five so far), meals to eat — I don’t have time to sit around chatting. And besides, I’m forgetting how to speak.

There are people in the news saying quarantine is like prison, which only confirms they’ve never been in one. It was brought home to me when I opened my dinner last night (burger, salad and chips) and found a sachet of tomato sauce. What, no mustard! There’s a first-world problem if ever I saw one. I need to get out more.

No, actually, I don’t. Time to send out for the nails.