Lockdown diary, day 8

Here we are again. Another Monday. A cold one – the sun was out but a bitterly cold wind made it unappealing to stay outside for longer than was utterly necessary. Because at the moment everything we think is filtered through a coronavirus haze, all I thought was “well, this should be good for making sure that people stay indoors”.

The actual daily routine is pretty uninteresting – older kid reluctantly does some schoolwork and watches hours of Netflix and plays hours of Animal Crossing, younger kid goes to nursery where he’s usually the only kid there (we have tried and it is simply not possible for T to do her still-compulsory university teaching with a highly demanding toddler in the apartment, especially given that she has to teach for several hours at a time), I do some work and talk to colleagues who appear on my computer screen. Maybe I’ll worry a bit about the building’s rubbish bin getting overfilled again due to everyone being at home, as last week the city rubbish collection people left a bunch of bags behind because the bin was overfilled meaning that it was 25% full before the week even started. It’s an exciting life. About the most exciting thing to happen to day was when the police pulled over an elderly person with sirens wailing, I think for driving the wrong way up a one-way street (very easy to do in the maze that is Gersthof). After they had been issued with (and paid) a small on the spot fine they started the car in reverse gear and it immediately shot straight back out into the junction where they revved a lot before they finally getting it to go forward again. Fortunately the cop had already left at this point.

I may have sounded as if I was complaining about the rubbish collectors above. I’m not – they’re working at a tough job for bad pay (but they’re city employees so at least get the benefits of being public sector workers) at a time when all the essential services are under strain. Just another of the everyday heroes who people are starting to notice a little more at the moment – working to keep the city clean is a key part of controlling the spread of infection. Groups of volunteers at the city electricity supplier Wien Energie have moved into power stations for the next weeks, leaving their families and homes behind to live, sleep and work in an isolation area to make sure the lights stay on.

Technical and operational staff at national broadcaster ORF are doing the same thing and isolating themselves to keep the central technical and distribution areas operational, and so are a number of journalists. It’s been extremely fashionable to dump on public service broadcasters as pointless, unnecessary, obsolete and so on – but it’s at times like this that we really understand how important that “public service” part is. The ratings for ORF’s main news bulletins have been absolutely through the roof for the last couple of weeks, as people discover anew that Facebook and Twitter are a terrible place to find accurate information about what’s really going on. ORF, the BBC and so on have their problems for sure, but in times of crisis you’re certainly not going to find objective, accurate coverage of the ongoing situation on fucking Netflix.

Yesterday’s top 10 programmes on ORF. The 19:30 bulletin “Zeit im Bild” and the regional news before it are being watched by a quarter of the population.

There are thousands of unseen heroes in our societies who work with dedication and passion to report and broadcast the news with accuracy and impartiality, who keep the lights on and the streets cleaned and the phones ringing and the taps running and the shelves filled and the packages delivered, who maintain the sewers and make it possible for the rest of us to stay at home in relative comfort. Many of them have lousy pay. Many professionals choose to work in the public sector even if they could make a lot more working for a private company because they see the value in doing a job that provides an important service to society as a whole. We need to appreciate them more. Medical workers and emergency services are getting a lot of praise as well – and it’s absolutely, 100% deserved – but if a few more people took a few moments to consider just how many other people are working almost completely invisibly to allow them to maintain their lifestyle the world would be a more understanding place. Their very invisibility shows us what a good job they do – nobody ever switches on a light in the developed world and is pleasantly surprised to find the electricity is on, but they sure as hell notice when it goes off.

Best wishes to everyone in the UK who has just been told by the country’s shambling mound of a prime minister on the telly that they’re now joining the lockdown club. Look after each other, remember that it’s always okay at least so far to get out for a walk if you really need one, and look after your neighbours. It’s boring, but it’s necessary, and you’ll get used to it.

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