Yet another ‘Lockdown Day One’ recap

An occasional insight into working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown, with your other half who also works for the same educational institution.

New Zealand, 26 March 2020

Couldn’t sleep from 4am so got up and had a shower at 5.30am as I didn’t bother with such a time-wasting activity yesterday (I started this lockdown earlier than most people). Don’t judge my ablutions ok, I don’t know when I will run out of soap. Went back to bed until just before 8. Even though I knew the pips were coming up for the RNZ news, I didn’t tune in. I haven’t listened to any news bulletins so far today (8.58am) as I want to feel clean for a while. 

Emptied the kitchen compost and filled up all my bird feeders around the property. Was about to video my happy moment of watching the birds feed when the new neighbour’s cat came and pounced, unsuccessfully, on those fat dumb Malay spotted doves that really have shite for brains. I shooed the cat, but he remained beneath the feeder, which, for your interest, is two three-quarter coconut shells hanging on my clothesline. You can get them at Bin Inn. Oh, wait. Oh well, they will still be there in four weeks. 

The cat, who I may as well name Intrudy as we have four weeks of this, remained despite my shooing so I brought out my handy gel-pellet shooter gun. You can get these at HobbyZone. Oh wait. Anyway, it looks like this. The cat ran off but then surreptitiously sneaked to another part of the house to start a fight with elderly ginger Reggie, also a cat, sunning himself on our deck. Does Intrudy not understand lockdown?  I did not anticipate running out of gel pellets so soon. I have brought Reggie’s outside chair inside next to the open door (screen door to keep out any Covid-carrying flies) and he seems to quite like it. 

Reggie with his chair brought inside. For the record, those Crocs are for gardening!

Earlier, before the first cat-chase-bird incident, I was talking to Reggie. My husband said: “omg it’s day one and you’re having a full conversation with the cat”. ‘Don’t interrupt,’ I said. ‘I can’t hear what Reggie is saying.’ Also, I said, at least I’m showered and dressed. 

When I got back to my phone, there was a Viber message from my husband who was sitting in the office about four metres away. 

He got the wrong ‘too’ but it made me laugh so I don’t mention it. 

Made coffee. So grateful to have “wasted all that money” on a coffee machine. The relief. 

Checked in on mother in retirement village in Taupo. Her apartment looks over the main road and she said it’s so quiet. Not a car has gone by. ‘There goes sitting and watching the world go by; it’s gone already.”

While I was writing this I realised I’m NOT alone! A tiny spider is walking back and forth across the top of my monitor. (Note, this was a portent of things to come.)

Noticed that Melissa Etheridge is doing 15-minute Facebook Live concerts today. Imagine she won’t be encouraging people to “Come by my window” or “Bring me some water”.   

So then I checked Twitter and quite frankly this tweet couldn’t be beaten when you’re an Aucklander who’s used to being stuck in rush- hour traffic, so I started work. Second tweet one minute after the first.

Rest of the work day

Our 10am Zoom meeting was nice and tight – 30 minutes. Someone described it as the highlight of their day and I figured her threshold for entertainment must already be rock bottom so I think we might need to have a remote Houseparty with her (it’s an app not an illegal activity). She is doing a sterling job with a three-year-old wrapped around her neck. 

I’ve decided to have a lunch-hour every day. This novel approach to work is unfamiliar to me but as, thus far today, I am getting a lot more done with clarity I think I deserve it. Mental health and exercise are important. Today I followed a F45 workout that I did in our carport on two $40 bits of carpet I bought at Mitre 10 the day before lockdown. It went surprisingly well and the neighbour didn’t come to chat because he was too busy testing how many decibels he could create while working outside. F45 @ Home requires timed movements and for me, intense concentration to ensure I don’t kill myself. Neighbour (a decent Irishman who likes to talk) has no sense of time, because he works from home as a mechanic. Anyway, he appears to be smashing a car to bits. If this is yours and you’re getting it fixed, maybe you should have chosen a less stressful time to have your car serviced. Also you’ll be picking it up in four weeks. The smashing and banging has, of course, been timed nicely to coincide with my 2pm Zoom meeting.

I don’t mind the Zooms at this point. I like to come up with a different virtual background every day so I don’t have to tidy my house. 

Like this:

Anyway, it’s not my most professional approach, but these are strange times. 

The magazine that was I was working on has to change its content to reflect what’s going on. Logical given the situation, so I’m coming up with new timelines, new ideas and just drafting those up when a quavering voice comes from the husband. 

“We have an issue.”

I assume it’s something to do with him having to teach remotely next week. Maybe he’s lost a file or is struggling with some aspect of Zoom. 

No, it’s this: 

Mr Bravery looks at me as though I am going to do something about it. 

“That’s the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life,” he says helpfully, in case being locked up with him for a day has rendered me blind. 

I get an extendable duster thing – very extendable, like more than Covid19-safe distance away – and poke it at the spider which obligingly hops on, doesn’t run like a crazed bastard, and I calmly, not calmly, take it outside. I feel triumphant. I have saved our bubble from another intruder. I am fast turning into the Bubble Defender. 

I Snapchat it and this comes back from my nurse niece. 

She is correct. This was a definite “just burn the house down” type of spider. However, we need a bubble in which to protect ourselves so I didn’t. Besides, there are sooooo many flies around I’m hoping the spider can help. (I have worked out that four out of five flies I spray with fly spray do not drop dead.)  

I work, then at 1630 have had enough. The husband appears from the office, unshaven and looking a bit blazed. His brain hurts. He’s learning new things. Now he knows how the students feel.

We get very excited at the idea of playing with the cat. Not the old one, the young spritely one.  

Shortly after, I reach peak excitement for the day when two courier deliveries arrive. First delivery is meat I ordered online at the perfectly normal time of 2am, after Countdown onlinr groceries didn’t send any because they were all out of stock. It was my first ever order at Wholesale Meats and would recommend. If they’re still delivering, that is. All delicious-looking and I wedge it into the ridiculously full freezer. I realise we are privileged but if that claps out, we are doomed. 

Second delivery was some new speakers for the computer (also ordered two days before lockdown) so when the husband is listening to songs, which he then plays on his keyboard, he can hear them better. Louder. Loud enough to drown out all the lawnmowers that are going midweek. Also because, quite frankly, if you are going to be locked inside for four weeks, gadgets can make a difference. 

I notice that all my regular “workweek hustle” crew on Fitbit are high-fiving themselves for having done their steps. Although I exercised at lunchtime I have not done mine, so I decide to walk to the supermarket for steps and to see if the madness is over. 

All the way there, there are waves and hellos and it’s kind of like I remember NZ back in the day. Or during Carless Days. Also no one walking is on their phone at the same time. Probably sick of looking at them. 

The supermarket is heaven. You line up (but only two ahead of me) at a safe distance outside, then get drip-fed into the store. It’s how it always should be! Personal space not encroached by people in pyjamas or kids with snotty noses. I actually stand in an aisle and enjoy it. It’s my outing. I don’t want to stay long though but I feel quite happy there. I’m just too scared to touch anything. All the staff are wearing masks and gloves though and there are various defensive mechanisms put in place. It’s also very weird.

The shelves mostly have stuff on them. I only came for butter, dishwasher tabs and wine. But I find myself buying quite a lot of alcohol. There are no baskets – filthy things – so husband comes to collect me as I can’t carry it all. (Note: I do not plan to leave the house very often and it will be him that goes in in future.)

I didn’t do this, by the way:

I catch up with social media that I have mostly avoided all day, and glance at the news. The news is already stressing me out so despite having worked in that very industry for about 30 years before opting for a quieter editing life, I think I have to limit my consumption. We have more people with COVID-19 but I don’t read any more as I’m already over it. 

I laugh louder than I should at this: 

Of course, by the time you’re reading this, this meme will have already been sent to you about 550 times, but this was day one.

And that’s it really. Minus some details of cat play and husband chat. We got through it. It was sunny. Just 27 days to go. At least. 

Auckland Transport: Ripping you off. ‘It’s in our terms and conditions’

Mark* (not his real name, but he’s a real person) has recently moved to Auckland and has been “in between jobs” as they say, for some time.

He came here for a fresh start. He was a big user of public transport in Wellington and transferred the same preference for travel to Auckland.

Anyway, Mark managed to get a part-time job. It’s a start, he was excited, and he investigated the cheapest way to get around for someone who likes to travel to work and all over Auckland on what he calls his “tiki tours”. He goes to lots of markets and likes to sightsee this way. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s his. It certainly wouldn’t be mine. I’d rather die.

Anyway, the best option turned out to be the monthly pass by Auckland Transport.

After a couple of weeks on the job he had saved up the $250 required for a monthly pass, plus the money for the actual card plus the “discretionary balance” required of about $30.

It was a lot of money but for someone on a budget it worked out best. It meant unlimited travel on buses all over Auckland.

Or so he thought.

In that first week of travel, he noticed money was being taken from his card whenever he used the card on the green inner city bus, going Customs Street to Victoria Street. It would take $1.60 off the card each trip. But if he did the trip in reverse, it took nothing.

As he had paid for a monthly pass, he knew it shouldn’t be dipping into his discretionary money on the card so he went to see Auckland Transport at Britomart. Mark doesn’t like to communicate much online. He’s a bit old-fashioned.

They asked if he had registered the card online. He hadn’t as he didn’t like the idea that bus drivers and all agents for HOP cards can look up and see where you travel to and from to. He doesn’t do anything wrong, he just doesn’t think that’s right.

He was once shown by a bus driver what they could see. “What if I was a young lady,” he said. “All the dairy owners and agents can see my patterns of travel too, that doesn’t seem right to me.”

Generally Mark’s at home in the evenings watching telly, but it’s the principle so he doesn’t want to register his card online. Besides, he’s a people person, he’d rather go into the agency and top up when he needed to, and have a bit of a chin-wag and come home and say he’d met a friend.

Anyway, the AT office told him that because he has not registered his card online they cannot refund him the money due. They concede he was incorrectly charged the inner city fares but there was “nothing they could do to help”.

Why not? If he was topping up his card with cash, that would be fine without registering but if they owe him, they can’t return it? Even as an electronic transfer to the card?

No, not if you aren’t registered online.

Mark was annoyed but decided he just wouldn’t catch that bus in the future. He didn’t really know what to do. It was a matter of $1.60 here and there. About $5 all up. Best move on. Wasn’t going to break the bank. He’s a reasonable man.

Almost three weeks into using his monthly pass, things were going fine. Until Thursday September 3 when he got a red light when boarding the bus, telling him he could not use his card. This was despite the fact the monthly pass was not due to expire until Friday September 12.

The bus driver told him to try the next bus “because there have been some problems with the monthly cards”.

So he tried the next bus and it was the same story. So as he was near Britomart he popped in and asked the lady there what was wrong with his card.

“It’s been blocked as you haven’t always been tagging off”.

Tagging off – that is swiping your card past the reader as you leave the bus.

Mark can only recall two or three times when he hasn’t tagged off. He catches a lot of buses. They all end up back at the same place though, in Birkenhead at the end of the day.

At any rate, when he first bought the monthly bus pass  he was told two different things. 1. that as it was monthly pass, the only thing that would happen if he didn’t tag off would be the fine through his discretionary balance.

and 2. He didn’t have to tag off. Just tag on the first time to activate the card.

So he looked it up online to be sure and that’s what the terms and conditions seem to say too.

37 Period passes, monthly passes


A Period Pass is activated by “tagging on” and expires when the

specified number of days from the day of activation has elapsed.

There is absolutely nothing in the terms and conditions to say you have to tag on and off with a monthly pass. Mark had made a habit of doing it regardless, just in case.

 Mark asked the operator the number of times he hadn’t tagged off and why did it matter if he’d paid $250 for a month anyway?

 “Eight times in three weeks,” she said.

 This meant his card was now blocked. Not only that but they would be keeping the discretionary $30 he had on the card PLUS about $70 left of travel he had left until September 12.

 He arrived home, having paid cash for his fare, demoralised. He could barely afford the card in the first place and now this.

 “Call them,” I said. “They can’t just take your money. You’ve paid for a month of travel!

 He calls them. “What exactly have I done wrong?” he asks.

“It’s fare evasion.”

“But how can it be fare evasion when I have already paid you until September 12?”

“It’s in our terms and conditions.”

“But this is double jeopardy. You’ve fined me the fares for not tagging off, even though I thought I had anyway, AND you have taken my other money as well. How can you do that?”

“It’s in our terms and conditions.”

 It isn’t that we can see.

There’s this: 12.1 We may retain, cancel, or suspend any AT HOP card or the System or any of our services at any time without specifying the reasons, but we will endeavour to minimise any inconvenience caused to you.

 What? How is that fair?

 Mark has read that AT are currently having problems with people catching trains and not paying for their ride at all. Supposedly they can be fined $20. Problem is, AT can’t catch the people and it’s not 100 per cent clear the fine is legal.

“But I have paid for a month’s worth of travel and because I haven’t tagged off, they can just take all my money because I did the right thing and paid and they can? They say I am an evader… how can I be an evader when I have paid for the service upfront?”

How indeed. I’d love someone to answer us that question.

Tomorrow Mark will pay $10 return to get to work and back to his new part-time job. That will be the same every day till next Friday when his pass was due to end. That’s an extra $70 he will now have to pay – without going anywhere else apart from work.

He was really looking forward to the markets again this weekend. But there will be no tiki-touring. No sight-seeing.

His wages this week will now barely cover what he has spent on transport, given that he’s having to pay twice.

How is that fair Auckland Transport? How? Is it any wonder people like me HATE your public transport and all it represents?

I want to tell Mark that it will be ok, surely it can be sorted out. But I know Auckland Transport. They’re not in this business for the people.