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Outside the Bubble | An Empty World

Yesterday I ventured into a strange world. A world without traffic, noise or 'normality'.

Outside the Bubble | An Empty World - 1

After suffering for a couple of days with unbearable toothache, I had to bite the bullet (pardon the pun), and go to the emergency dentist for an extraction.
I've been holed up at home for some time now because a few weeks back I got the 'ordinary' flu and our Govt advised all people with flu like symptoms to stay home.
It's always peaceful here in my semi-rural haven at the end of a dead-end road. I knew New Zealand had come to a standstill, but it wasn't until I had to go to the dentist that the true gravity of our Covid-19 lockdown hit me.
Motueka is the gateway to Abel Tasman National Park. Usually our main street is impossible to cross with bumper to bumper campervans, sightseers and locals going about their business.
Now, nothing.
It would have been a lonely drive to Nelson if not for the large police presence on the road. Cops were stopping people to check their reason for travel was valid, essential and not restless, willy nilly roaming.
The traffic lights at Richmond were red. Nothing out of the ordinary except for the lack of traffic to comply. Sitting in the car at a red light with no other vehicles in sight was weird.
Tahunanui Beach was almost desolate. I’d often come here to watch stand up paddleboarders doing headstands on their boards, families playing in the sand and fisherfolk casting a line. Now, hardly a soul in sight. The Port of Nelson is silent. No forklifts, big ships or containers dangling precariously from cranes. At the shipyard containers are stacked like skyscrapers with nowhere to go.
I arrive at the dentist and phone in from the carpark to let them know I have arrived.
The dentist came out to the carpark and summonsed me into her surgery. She resembled the images of worldwide health workers I have seen in the news. Completely covered from head to toe in PPE with her face obscured by a ‘Darth Vader’ like mask, she waved me into the surgery. She points to the hand sanitiser on the counter and tells me to use it. The EFT/POS machine glistens from the alcohol used to clean it then gets covered with a paper towel. I’m questioned about my general health, then the Covid questions come. “Have you been in contact with anyone who has Covid-19? Do you have flu symptoms? Have you been self-isolating? Have you returned from overseas in the past 14 days?”
After answering all of the above I get into the dentist’s chair and follow her instructions to gargle a foul-tasting antiseptic liquid. All I can see is her eyes, her voice barely audible, muffled by the confines of that mask. Extraction is swift and painless. I thank her profusely for her expertise and for the essential work she does, pay the bill and leave.
Driving back to my semi-rural haven at the end of a dead-end road I’m struck with the reality of life for many in these challenging times. I’m overcome with gratefulness for the treatment I received and for all the other essential workers who step outside their bubbles daily to alleviate pain, treat the sick and infirm and keep our pantries filled. Remarkable folk, all of you! 


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