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What Melbourne has learned in 100 days of lockdown

Melburnians have changed a lot this year. Here's what we've learned under 100 consecutive days of lockdown

Written by
Nicola Dowse
Cassidy Knowlton
Rebecca Russo

On Friday October 16 2020 Melbourne marked a unique, rather unfortunate milestone: 100 days since stage three or “stay-at-home” restrictions came back into place across the city. These orders brought an end to the gradual return to the relative normality that was taking place across the rest of the country and was only the start of what was set to become a grim winter. 

When those orders came back into effect on July 9, we were due to be under restrictions for six weeks, or 42 days. After more than 100 days (that’s 14 weeks or over three months) later, we have all been through a lot. Lockdowns have presented every Melburnian with different challenges as we cooperatively kick this virus out of town, but there’s no denying everyone has experienced loneliness, sadness, despair, anger, frustration and a whole lotta stress.  

While the world seems brighter these days, one thing is clear: we all changed immensely throughout those 100+ days. It’s been so incredibly hard but Melburnians are coming out of our darkest of winters stronger, smarter, kinder and more resilient, and having adapted to each and every wild curveball thrown at us. Here are 100 lessons Melbourne learnt this year.

100 lessons Melbourne learned during 100 days of lockdown

1. That it is so important to talk about how you’re feeling – and that it’s important to normalise it. 

2. There are always people to reach out to, be that a mate, a family member or a service like Lifeline (13 11 14) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636).

3. Contact with friends and family is so much more important than you realise. 

4. To not read the comment sections. Just don’t.

5. It’s OK to cry. In fact, it’s very therapeutic. 

6. It’s OK to not exercise or leave the house at all for a bit.

7. It’s OK if you can’t focus right now. 

8. It’s OK if you’re eating like shit at the moment. 

9. But also that if you go outside and eat an apple occasionally you will feel a little better. 

10. The feeling of sunlight on skin is the best thing in the world after a long, cold and miserable winter spent largely inside. 

11. Einstein was right – time really is relative. Weeks feel like years and also like minutes at the same time. 

12. And that time passing is marked more by the changes in nature than in calendar events. 

13. Melbourne is filled with highly resilient, highly creative people. YOU’RE ALL SUPERSTARS.

14. During the lockdowns, families of spoons will return to claim the streets.

15. You will start dreaming about forgetting to wear your mask. This is the lockdown version of the “realising you’re naked” dream. 

16. You will start dreaming about being in other cities, then freaking out that the dream police will catch you. 

17. The symptoms of dissociation. Because we’re all starting to feel a little that way.

18. That social media is great for staying in touch – but also that muting interstate friends is sometimes the best way to take care of ourselves. 

19. How to cut (and dye) your own hair. With varying degrees of success.

20. How to bake sourdough bread. With varying degrees of success

21. How to do the WAP dance. With varying degrees of success.

22. Where all the hand sanitiser stations are at local shopping centres.

23. And that you should carry some pocket hand san with you at all times because sometimes they’re empty or broken. 

24. That being able to work from home is a privilege. Many Melburnians essential to keeping our city running, be they healthcare workers, supermarket staff or cleaners, put themselves at risk every day for all our sakes. Many more of us have had to stop work entirely. 

25. The exact limitations of our 5km bubbles

26. How to enjoy catching up with your mate, even if your 5km bubbles only overlap in a car park.

27. That drinking in the park is the new rooftop bar. 

28. That going out wearing a mask means you can wear pimple cream all day and no one knows.

29. That some hand sanitisers smell better than others.

30. The ABC live blog has a strong GIF game.

31. If Australia were Panem à la The Hunger Games, Melbourne is definitely District 12 (and everywhere else is the Capitol – Sydney had a dog wedding for chrissakes). 

32. That you can still eat like a queen thanks to some of Melbourne’s top restaurants delivering meals and groceries

33. That if you go for a walk just after 3pm the streets will be filled with children. 

34. How to maximise your one (and now two) hours of daily outdoor exercise.

35. No, that person isn’t staring at you, it just looks like that when we’re all wearing masks. 

36. Who exactly in your neighbourhood is on the same daily exercise schedule as you. 

37. Who exactly in your neighbourhood is on the same coffee run schedule as you.

38. Who all the dogs that live on your street. And which of your neighbourhood cats are friendly. 

39. How to make dinner out of a tin of tuna, a bag of frozen peas and a shoe because you forgot to go shopping during the curfew. 

40. That you should stop being so suspicious of every car you hear after 8pm during the curfew.

41. On the occasion you catch public transport it feels super luxe because there is ample seating.

42. And that holy moly the trams run efficiently when there’s less traffic on the roads.

43. That actually the one-person shopping rule was excellent. DON’T @ ME.

44. That Dan wearing his North Face jacket was a good omen, and that you should steel yourself if he wears a suit on the weekend.

45. Especially if he wears a suit on a weekend and gives a post-lunchtime press conference. 

46. Who your favourite Auslan interpreter is. Come on, you know everyone has got one.

47. That regressing into TV shows and films you loved as a teenager is almost as good as a therapist. 

48. That applying for jobs right now is the little-known tenth circle of hell. 

49. It is really hard not to hug your friends when you meet up with them outside. 

50. Just which parks in your 5km offer the ultimate balance of sunshine, shade, grass, no swoopy magpies and won’t be jam-packed on the weekend. 

51. All the graffiti in your suburb and when you get some new stuff. These are the art galleries of our time, people.

52. Subsequently thinking about if they broke curfew to do it or just rolled the dice during daylight hours. 

53. How to put a mask on one-handed between coffee sips. 

54. That at some point in the last seven months Australia Post decided to start delivering on the weekends?!

55. That bicycles have become a hot commodity as everyone swaps four wheels for two. 

56. To keep your masks by your door because you have definitely run out of the house accidentally without wearing one. 

57. Which walking tracks are packed at what times. Do not, I repeat, do not walk the Main Yarra Trail on weekends. It is the Punt Road of walking trails. 

58. That you’ve basically been able to get away without having to have a rental inspection all year. 

59. Which retailers have reasonable delivery fees and which you should click and collect only (if possible) because they’re an absolute rort. 

60. That stage four restrictions are bad, but the fourth/last step on the roadmap to recovery is good. 

61. That literally no one in Melbourne cares when Queensland announces (repeatedly) that they’ve had no cases again. 

62. What an R-0 number is.

63. The important difference between a “mystery case” and a case that’s “under investigation”.

64. That the DHHS contract tracing commander is called Jeroen, not Jerome. I cannot be the only one who went weeks thinking this. 

65. That poop never lies. You can use that literal shit to divinate where the ‘rona is like some sort of fecal tea leaf reading. 

66. It is entirely possible to be both grateful for being employed right now and completely exhausted by it.

67. Online meetings are somehow more tiring than IRL meetings. 

68. To always turn off your mic if you’re not talking in said meetings. 

69. Oh, and to make sure any housemates or partners are aware you’re having a meeting, to avoid any accidental streaking. 

70. You’re not too lazy to cook, you’re supporting local businesses.

71. Mask wearing gives you the chance to really up your eyeliner game.

72. You can now identify press conference stars like Raf Epstein, Andrew Lund and Rachel Baxendale from the Australian by their voices alone.

73. Calling your mum every few days is actually not that hard.

74. Learning a new language actually is that hard.

75. The best way to put together a jigsaw puzzle (edges and corners first, obvs).

76. You do actually need that many streaming services.

77. Your neighbours’ habits. Including which of them are unfortunately conspiracy theorists. 

78. How nice reading a book is. Especially when done so in a park.

79. That you’ll occasionally slip and wish you lived in Sydney, but you’ll wash your mouth out with soap and swear to never say it again. 

80. How to calculate the rolling 14-day average.

81. Which delivery platforms have your favourite snacks. And sweets.

82. You can probably nap during your lunchbreak and your boss probably won’t know.

83. You don’t actually need that many pairs of shoes, but you do need plenty of sturdy socks.

84. You definitely don’t need clothes that are uncomfortable. Hoodies are in, coats are out. 

85. You know exactly what time Dan’s presser will be because of the noble yet mysterious work of WhatTimeDan.

86. A method that works for you to not fog up your glasses while you’re wearing a mask. Putting your nose outside your mask doesn’t count. 

87. Ordering crap online is super fun. 

88. The arrival of the post is one of the best parts of your day. Especially if you live in an apartment block and you get to see all your neighbours for five minutes.

89. You can eat foods that give you a dodgy tummy if you’re not sharing a toilet with your coworkers.

90. How to make coffee at home. (No? Just me? You already knew how to do that?)

91. The relief of turning off your Zoom camera.

92. But the lurking suspicion that it’s somehow still recording you when you’re not on an active call and closing absolutely all windows, disconnecting your wi-fi and restarting your computer just to be sure.

93. It is really easy to go all day without brushing your teeth. Too easy. (Yes, I am writing this because I am currently in that situation...)

94. Watching live theatre or comedy via Zoom is somehow more intimate because you are in your home. Please don't judge how I live.

95. The location of your nearest testing site. 

96. That it’s actually really hard for deaf people when everyone is wearing face masks.

97. It’s normal to occasionally experience a stab of schadenfreude when you hear about any other state having a new case INSTEAD OF US FOR ONCE. 

98. You now know too much about the work lives and personas of your partner/family members/housemates. 

99. That love him or hate him, Dan Andrews can channel some serious burns during press conferences and question time. (Remember when he said, "who would want to go to South Australia anyway?")

100. And that despite everything we’ve been through, we’ve learnt that we still love Melbourne. We love its wonky laneways, its food and coffee culture, its sweaty live music joints, its appetite for art and its fervent love of footy. Most of all we still love the people, who have been through so much this year and yet manage to treat each other with gentle kindness and support in the face of great adversity. We don’t know when things will return to normal exactly, but we know we’ll still love Melbourne when they do.

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