I managed to escape Stalag 14 last night to take the dog for a walk and things felt different as soon as I stepped outside.
Our street is a quiet place in normal times, but in this new coronavirus era it felt like something out of a silent apocalypse movie.
Nobody was mowing their lawn. Nobody was chatting over the fence. Kids weren’t playing in the front yard. There were no strolling families or footy dads with pushers.
There was an eerie silence as I walked up the street. As usual, Prince Finski tugged at his lead to see what the next bush had to offer. But for some reason I stuck to the middle of the road in case I got too close to the neighbours’ lawn.
I suddenly thought to myself — should I be doing this?
Are people sitting in their front rooms right now pointing at that irresponsible swine walking up the middle of the street like he doesn’t care about armageddon?
Then, as I turned a corner I almost bumped into a fellow dog-walker. I was relieved and terrified at the same time. I was relieved because if I was doing something wrong then I wasn’t alone. I was terrified because we were too close, and we had to walk in a widening circle around each other.
Then a strange thing happened. We both waved at each other. It was if we were admitting our misbehaviour and saying, “I won’t tell if you don’t”. We were crims together.
But in waving we were also acknowledging our common humanity. Here we were doing something normal, walking our dogs, yet somehow it felt furtive and dangerous. The wave was our ‘we’re all in this together’ moment.
When I got home, I looked up the new rules of what is allowed in the coronavirus era.
I was relieved to find that dog-walking is allowed under the permissible exercise rule but limited to two people. However, families of more than two can walk their dog together.
That was the rule from Tuesday when Stage Three restrictions came into force in Victoria. They could be different in other states, and in other countries. And next week — who knows?
We have always lived in a changing world, but things are now changing so fast we can’t keep up.
I firmly believe most Australians are trying to do the right thing about limiting the coronavirus spread. But exactly what the right thing is keeps changing. Two weeks ago, gatherings of more than 500 people were outlawed. Then it was 100. Now it’s down to two people who are not in the same family.
Uncertainty and confusion is inevitable in these times. In other circumstances it would be called the fog of war.
In the end, the clearest advice came from TV gangsters the Peaky Blinders, who said in a dubbed Facebook video this week: “You! Stay the f… home!”
Blunt — but it cuts through the fog.