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Mario’s Quarantine Diary, Day 14: Freedom is making a list, responsibility is staying home

The more it changes, the more it stays the same, as the 14-day self-isolation period for Tri-City News journalist Mario Bartel and his family comes to an end
shopping list
This may be the longest grocery list I've ever assembled. That's the consequence of two-weeks of self-isolation.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The more it changes, the more it is the same thing.

Our 14-day period of self-isolation has come to its end. Or has it?

Yes, I’ll now be able to go out and get our own groceries, venture out occasionally to work on a story or take a photo, maybe even pop into the office, although we’ve all been advised to work from home.

But really, at this stage of the COVID-19 crisis, we’re all self-isolating. Because aside from the grocery or drug store, and maybe work, there is nowhere to go.

The experts tell us that’s a good thing, that’s how we’ll bring this pandemic to its knees.

Yet it’s advice that’s so counterintuitive to our species. 

Humans are social creatures. We want to experience the world together, share its wonders and even its failings with one another. It’s that bond of common experience that brings meaning and richness to our lives.

A week ago, I stumbled upon an Aussie Rules Football match on one of the sports channels. It was late at night and I thought the broadcaster was just filling airtime with an old repeat. Then I noticed the empty seats in the massive stadium, and the commentator admonished viewers to stay tuned for a special press conference with the AFL commissioner at halftime.

The match was live. But without the cheers and jeers of the crowd punctuating the crazy leaps for the ball and crunching tackles, it was hardly alive.

In a sense, our two weeks of confinement to quarters has been like watching a sporting event put on only for the sake of a remote audience watching on TV. We’re in our condo but the pandemic is out there, beyond our balcony somewhere, an abstraction to our daily lives at the same time it’s defining them.

That will change when I head to the grocery story myself. 

For the first time since the world went topsy-turvy, I’ll be walking into the maelstrom, packing in the car the Lysol wipes and the box of disposable latex gloves I bought long ago so I wouldn’t grime my hands when cleaning my bike. I’ll be consciously trying to limit the surfaces I contact, keep a distance from others in the aisles and checkout line.

There will be no circuitous pitstops to round out the shopping list or to hunt for a better price, no spontaneous detour to the home electronics store to indulge in a little aspirational consumerism, no swing by the library with my son to replenish his storytime reading or pop-in to the coffee shop for a hot chocolate. It’ll be straight out and straight back to the hunkering

The health and safety of my family, of all of us, depends on it.

The self isolation is over. But there are still many challenges ahead, like navigating the remote education plan that is coming our way. So I’ll still be checking in occasionally to share our experiences. Stay healthy.


Miss a day? Catch up here:

Day 13: 'Shopping for meat is a very personal thing'

Day 12: Let us eat (ice cream) cake

Day 11: Ode to joy, wherever you can find it

Day 10: Thank goodness for doodle time

Day 9: Cycling through the uncertainty

Day 8: Lessons from the vegetable crisper

Day 7: Let's do the time warp again

Day 6: The new normal is taking some adjustment by everyone

Day 5: She's fit, she's strong, but she has diabetes which make her vulnerable

Day 4: Trying to contain the fear

Day 3: How much do you tell your kids about COVID-19

Day 2: Doing the right thing at the 25th hour


Day 1: A brief trip means a COVID-19 condo quarantine