Air New Zealand flight 409 to Wellington at 7.45am this morning was pretty packed.
No doubt, it was a little fuller for the addition of latecomers like me who cancelled a day of meetings in central Auckland because of the new covid community transmission scare.
Arriving at the Auckland airport domestic terminal, perhaps one in 10 passengers is wearing a face mask – the basic, simplest way to protect everyone around you from the remote possibility you may have the virus.
Few stop at the doors to record their arrival on the Covid Tracer app – the basic, simple way to make it possible to trace your contacts in the remote event you come into contact with the virus.
Because while the risk is remote, the impact is not. I am leaving Auckland for the third time this year in the shadow of a lockdown and, as a business owner with 14 staff, it scares the crap out of me to think what a pre-Christmas lockdown might mean for my business, let alone everyone else’s.
Most, but not all, Air NZ staff in the terminal are wearing masks.
There is no attempt to encourage social distancing and in the queue for the X-ray scanners, people are, for the most part, jamming up together. Airport security staff are clearly unnerved that I’m taking photos, but not by the absence of caution among people in the country’s largest city leaving for other parts of the country.
Boarding the flight, all bunched together in the queue again, Air NZ staff offer face masks. Many take them, but not all.
To my left in row 18, two women who religiously hand-sanitised before take-off are protecting themselves but not me, since they are not wearing masks, even though I am – in a very basic and simple way – protecting them by wearing one.
Across the aisle is a thickset bloke who looks like he wouldn’t appreciate some pointy-headed suit-wearer asking if he wouldn’t mind popping a mask on. He apparently lives on the edge anyway, using his mobile phone till the very moment of take-off.
Meanwhile, an early reaction has landed to my Tweeted pic of everyone wandering around as if the virus doesn’t spread on the air between people and that airports aren’t one of the most likely places to become infected.
Some fool going by the Twitter handle ‘Berend de Boer’ asks how many cases of covid my mask “recommendation” has prevented.
Wow, Berend. What a zinger because, yeah mate, I have no friggin’ idea.
That’s the whole point of basic community-level prevention for a virus that depends for its life on complacency and non-compliance by its otherwise more intelligent hosts.
We do these things collectively precisely because we don’t know who might be infected, whether we are in the contagious incubation phase, or whether somewhere, sometime in the Auckland CBD yesterday I had a contact that means I’m carrying the virus home right now to my family, my workmates, my city.
New Zealand has been so lucky not to experience covid like most of the rest of the world.
But on mornings like this, it feels far more like dumb luck than it should.
It should be so simple: wash your hands, wear a mask, use the damn app, even if you have to wait behind some incompetent Boomer who can’t get it to work.
Or be part of the herd that thinks this is all over, or that it won’t happen to them, or whose internet research tells them it’s all crap anyway.
Just don’t sit next to me.