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Buying local in a global pandemic

  • 24 March 2020
My eight-year-old has been crying for days. Any mention of the coronavirus sets her off. She scared she’s going to infect the teachers at school, even though she’s not sick. She’s terrified of things she cannot articulate. Her stomach is nauseous, her face pale.

Because anxiety is more catching than any coronavirus, I leave the house each morning before dawn and cycle through the cool March air, up and down the hills to the Brisbane River. I bike through the dark before my daughter wakes.

This morning there is fresh graffiti in the tunnel on the bike path: ‘No Income Still Pay Rent’. And it hits me like a punch in the gut: I still have a job, an income. I’m lucky. My university cancelled classes on campus, but we’ve all gone online and even though we moan about Zooming and discussion boards, at least we have a job to complain about.

The graffiti must’ve been sprayed last night after our federal government closed bars, restaurants and cafes yesterday at noon putting tens of thousands of people out of work in an instant. Luckily, the café on the bike path bridge in Brisbane is still open, though they’ve had to take the stools away. I ask the young men behind the counter how they’re coping. Their hours have all been reduced and they’re scared that the café could shut at any moment. They look stressed.

I meet up with the same women I always meet up with on the bridge and we stand at a social distance and talk about what everyone talks about these days: COVID-19. And then I tell them about the graffiti and we agree how lucky we are to still have jobs. Our conversation shifts from fear and disgust at social media to compassion as we brainstorm what we can do to try to keep the economy afloat at a safe social distance. We say our goodbyes and I bike home, where my daughter’s awake in bed in a foetal position, crying.

I hug her. ‘I’m sorry,’ I say and I want to tell her everything’s OK, but I don’t want to lie. And so I tell her a story about the café, about how when I left I tipped the baristas forty dollars because I’m still working and they don’t know how long they’ll have a job. I tell her how lucky we are, that we can use