Operation Oysterhood: Day Fifty-Three

OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.



Wide awake at four a.m. again. I migrated to the TV bed with a hot-water bottle and coffee. Found a weather channel that was broadcasting half an hour of waves crushing over a secluded beach. I fell asleep again, listening. With my eyes closed the sensation was uncanny. In my head, I travelled to all the beaches I have ever loved…


In the night, I saw the news that my lovely neighbours had lost a friend to Covid-19. A number becoming a name. An invisible threat becoming terrifyingly real.

Monday. I took out the bin, watered the orchids (two are releasing new flower stems), cleaned up the kitchen and decided to walk outside. The balmy air was so enticing, I could not resist. And after transferring the bath water from last week’s bath into the pool yesterday, two buckets at a time, I needed some ‘ordinary’ exercise. Sticking to side streets, I managed to avoid people, but the few I saw astounded me: is it really so difficult to put on a mask correctly and to keep it on for the duration of an outing? I passed one neighbour I know and he had his mask on the right way and his dog was very happy to be out and about on his usual route. We said hello from the distance of a few metres, exchanged the latest news and went happily our separate ways.


I saw these two on my walk and envied them, their closeness, their freedom.

Preparing my breakfast, on the radio, I heard arguments for and against the quick reopening of the economy. I think most people are for, but looking at the inability of so many of us to do something as simple as wear a protective mask properly, I have my doubts about our readiness to proceed to level three, even our ability to keep safe already at level four, to keep generally safe during the Covid-19 pandemic – at least as safe as humanly possible…

This message arrived mid-morning:

Refuse collection delay this week: COVID-19
A staff member at our Collections Depot in Woodstock has tested positive for Covid-19. Management was advised today of the result. As a result the facility is shut down for deep cleaning and sanitising. This is the second depot to be shut in under a week and we will have very limited resources available in the next few days. We will therefore not have capacity to service all refuse beats. Residents and businesses are requested to please keep their refuse on their properties until their scheduled removal day next week, when any excess refuse in bags will also be removed. We do apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause.

I tried picturing the faces of the men and women that usually accompany the collection truck in my street. We often talk. They usually make me smile first thing on a Monday morning. Thinking about the risks they are exposed to at work and what they must be going through right now, I felt afraid for them. As a society, we should be apologising to them for the dangers their jobs entail.

The Philosopher and the WolfAnd this is when I remembered reading about John Rawls’s ‘original position’ in The Philosopher and the Wolf by Mark Rowlands, my all-time favourite philosopher. Rowlands asks: ‘How do we ensure that the society you live in is a fair one?’ And explains: ‘Just as we ensured a fair slicing of the pizza by making sure that the person who sliced it didn’t know which slice they were going to get, so we ensure a fair society by allowing a person to choose how it is to be organized, but by making sure that when they choose this they don’t know who they are going to be in this society.’

One could employ the same principle to every business wanting to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic: every business owner/manager should organise the workplace in such a way that they would feel comfortable working at any of the positions available in the company, and just to make them think twice, I would propose that they think of their grandparent, parent, spouse, partner, child and friend occupying the other available positions. If they feel that they have safeguarded the safety of all these positions to the best of their abilities and official guidelines while asking people to return to work in a pandemic, then the company is ready for business.

I had to show something to someone in person today (all level four stuff). We arranged to meet in an open space that we were both allowed to be in, parked our cars a few meters away from each other, wore masks, disinfected hands before handing over the object under discussion, never approached closer than two meters, discussed the business at hand for a few minutes, smiled with our eyes, wished each other well and went home. None of this is easy, but if we want to take care of the people we work with and keep them safe, we need to think, be vigilant and extra-cautious.

And the reasons are simple. Earlier today, my love sent me an article written by a NY ICU nurse: OUR GRIEF: A NURSE’S EXPERIENCE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. Two quotes:

The reality is, the people who get sick later in this pandemic will have a better chance for survival.

This is the tiniest, devastating snapshot of one patient [a twenty-three-year-old at death’s door because of Covid-19] and one family and their unimaginable grief. Yet, the weight is enormous. The world should feel that weight too. Because this grief, this heartbreak is everywhere in many forms. Every person on this planet is grieving the loss of something.

My neighbours lost a friend. 164 other families in the Western Cape are in the same position, grieving for loved ones. While waiting for their test results, the refuse collectors working on our neighbourhood route are fearing for their health tonight. As of today, around six thousand people in the Western Cape are trying to survive a Covid-19 infection.

These are not mere numbers.

I am not asking for a fair society – I am not that naive. But a safe working place for people already working and those about to return to their jobs under level three should be a given. Ask yourself: would you do the job yourself or send a loved one to do it? If yes, we are all good.

Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Have a drink, if you still can.


To health!

“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”


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