By Eamon Hale
“Hurry up and wait.” Is there a phrase we know better from our time in the Defence force?
Whether we did it in breezeways, crew rooms, messes, hangers, vehicles, sitting on the ground throwing pebbles at other pebbles, or under a bit of convenient shade, we all know that feeling of racing to get somewhere and then just hanging around.
“Hurry up and wait” can sum up a day, an exercise, or for some unfortunates, a career.
I reckon it does a good job summing up COVID.
It’s how I’m feeling, especially as a Victorian. And perhaps it is why my mates and I can be so calm about it all compared to some of our civilian friends and family. We enter lockdown, we do the right thing, we wait for the easing of restrictions, and we cop it sweet. We hurry up and wait.
We have watched as people in the community have died from the virus, as the vulnerable have struggled in nursing homes and hospitals, as local businesses have been smashed, as others struggle in isolation, and as things we never thought possible happen around us. Unprecedented has become thoroughly precedented.
Most of us can shrug and just carry on because it can always be worse. We downplay the seriousness of it. Yeah, you can’t travel more than 5 kilometres from home, but at least you’re not out field.
This latest Victorian lockdown announcement has been pretty significant for my partner and me. We were due to get married this Sunday. Our fourth attempt in 18 months and this time it seemed like we’d finally make it. The cake was ready. The dress prepared. The suits dry-cleaned. The flowers bought. A groomsman had flown in from Queensland.
It was heartbreaking to see her reaction to the press conference announcing the lockdown on Thursday evening. There were a lot of frustrated tears and, not yet 24 hours later, they have not fully stopped yet. The realisation that all the preparation and work she had done was seemingly for nothing; that the celebration with the people in our lives that matter most and that we had been looking forward to for months was delayed again.
“How can you be so calm about it?” she asks me.
“I don’t really know. Hurry up and wait, I guess. It will be alright in the end. It’s not like they can take our birthdays off us,” is about all I can muster. (Can they take away birthdays? I’m not sure the emergency powers go that far.)
Will this latest lockdown last five days? Will it be extended? Will we be doing the same thing in 12 months? What is COVID normal?
Who knows? Hurry up and wait.
For what it’s worth, I would encourage anyone reading this to do the right thing. Look after your family, your friends and those who need the extra help. Reach out to each other and support your communities.
Lockdowns are hard, but it could always be worse.
You could be on picquet and it could be raining.
Eamon Hale is the Vice President of the Hawthorn RSL Sub-branch in Victoria, having served in the Australian Army as a cavalryman for 16 years. Eamon is a regular contributor to Australian Veteran News.
Connect with Eamon on twitter: @eamhale