Arts & Entertainment

THE NAKED CITY – WELCOME TO THE NEW ABNORMAL

Sam The Caricaturist

“Covidiocy” – a new word that has just been coined to describe an inept and irrational response to the current pandemic.

If and when we get completely on top of the current pandemic there are many things that I personally never want to see or hear again – like endless Zoom screens of choirs and other community get togethers, celebrity chefs flogging easy to prepare meals during TV news broadcasts and that much parroted platitude “we’re all in this thing together.”

Clearly we are not all enveloped in a glorious solidarity, especially when it comes to the international stage. The forces of economic expediency have quickly overtaken common sense, and the sanctity of life in many countries, headed by such pillars of democracy as Trump, Bolsanaro and Putin. We have all been told to prepare for the ‘new normal’ but the reality is, are we ready for the ‘new abnormal’?

It’s anybody’s guess what Australia will look like in a year from now but pseudo-futurologists like myself, are more than happy to speculate. There is a plethora of some almost Bladerunner possibilities, but let’s begin with the already contentious issue of social distancing.

Without a workable vaccine I’m prepared to say this will see a revolution in the way the hospitality industry operates. Small bars for example will become ever smaller, often limiting to only two patrons at a time. We will also see the rapid growth of a new phenomenon – the telephone booth style solo bar. Not much larger than a portaloo, I’m predicting thousands of these Tardis like boozers will pop up all over Sydney.

With the swipe of your credit card and a virtual reality headset the solo drinker can call up the environment of their choice from a traditional Irish pub to a western suburbs bloodhouse. Interacting with virtual bar staff and other patrons, the solo drinker has access to a full range of alcoholic beverages, touch screen pokies and a flip up toilet contained in the barstool. An in built breathalyser monitors their sobriety and if they exceed the limit the doors of the solo bar go into lockdown and they are forced to spend the next 20 hours there, drinking only coffee, before they are released.

Plans are already underway to turn Sydney into a 24 hour city, with people working staggered hours and the traditional peak hours softened to create a safer flow of social mingling. The Government will introduce a special night time incentive package for those who choose to become entirely nocturnal. Parks and beaches will be fully illuminated at night and selected sporting events scheduled to start at 3am. Those who chose to start their working ‘night’ after sunset will be affectionately known as ‘possums’.

Enclosed cinemas, where contagions can easily spread, will eventually give way to a whole new string of drive-ins where movies will screen around the clock. Ultra bright LED screens will create a new daytime experience although any hanky panky in the back seat will be more visible.

It may sound a tad authoritarian but I can foresee a strict division on public transport between those who have been vaccinated and the anti-vaxers. Limited services will be available for the latter on trains, buses and ferries whilst taxi and ride share drivers will have to declare their immunity status with a flashing green light on top.

Some may see it as a kind of dystopia, a brave new world where all civil liberties are sacrificed in the name of medical containment. Others will no doubt welcome the kind of enterprise that it will spawn. Let’s just hope that ‘covidiocy’ does not spread as rapidly as the virus itself.

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