30 Dec A New Year (Peow Peow)
First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 4.1.21
After careful thought, I have decided that my New Year’s Resolution for 2021 is to make the diary in my NZ Covid Tracer app look like something I’d be proud to have Dr Ashley Bloomfield read out to the nation at a 1pm briefing.
To be clear, this does not mean I want there to be any community transmission of this stupid virus or that I would like a cluster named after me. Horrific idea. I mean that having a thrilling record of places I’ve been is symbolic of the kind of lifestyle I aspire to.
This is the great thing about each New Year – it invites us to pause for a moment, take a breath and consider the sort of person you would like to grow into, and the type of life you would most like to lead. Hence the annual making of resolutions – fresh resolve to do things differently as our planet makes its next orbit around the sun.
I’ve never liked the negative resolutions that are about stopping things (eating chocolate, swearing) but I can embrace positive resolutions about doing more of something (eating vegetables, saying “Stop it, I don’t like it” with practiced force). And it seems very in keeping with the 2021 vibe to track my “Things I’d Like To Do More” progress with an actual tracker on my phone.
I’ve developed real affection for the little yellow-and-white-striped icon on my home screen, its symbolic gender-fluid person in the centre with arrows shooting out in a burst like a superhero. I imagine a cartoonish “peow peow” each time I see those arrows but I stop short of making the noise out loud – most of the time, at least.
I love learning a new skill, and I’m pretty darn proud of my ability to tap that icon with my thumb, hold the screen in one hand up to a QR code while nonchalantly looking elsewhere and waiting for the gentle buzz that lets me know a visit has been formally recorded. It’s how an old sailor must feel when they skilfully tether a boat using a complex knot while gazing off towards the horizon, or maybe how an actor in a western feels as they blow the gun smoke off the tip of a pistol, then spin it and replace it in the holster in one smooth move. Peow peow.
As a record of my whereabouts, the “My Diary” tab proves to be more reliable than my memory which increasingly has only vague settings like “not that long ago” and “just the other day”. It is also more specific than my actual diary which contains information about what I had planned to do (as opposed to what I did) and is even more specific than my bank statement which has plenty to say about what I bought (ooh, Christmas) but not where I just window-shopped.
Recently (and that’s the only time frame my brain can give me) I used my NZ Covid Tracer to confirm that I went to the supermarket on the Wednesday (not Tuesday) which meant I could safely deduce on Friday that the leftovers in the fridge were still good. Excellent backup to a sniff test which is generally unreliable for something that contains prawns, chorizo and quite a lot of spice.
There are people, of course, who suspect this is all about the government, or deep state, or someone in a basement beneath a pizza parlour or something, wanting to track my movements. I figure if Facebook, my bank and my phone’s GPS constantly know where I am, the Ministry of Health might as well get in on the action. Plus I admire the specificity and accessibility of the information we are sharing between us – I can’t phone the bank, for example, to check if my paella is off.
The challenge I’ve set myself for 2021 is to ensure that this diary is a fun read. From time to time I’ve scrolled through it to see how the land has lain, and felt deflated. Supermarket, supermarket, vet, supermarket, gas station, supermarket… That’s no way to live. But then there will be a flurry of entries that make me smile fondly – a restaurant, an airport, a bookstore, an art gallery, a theatre, a ferry crossing… That’s more like it. Or a whole clutch of check-ins to some idyllic little town like Akaroa, or from the road on the way to visit grandchildren.
It’s not that I want Dr Bloomfield to ever find himself in the position of narrating the basic plot-points of my life to the whole of Aotearoa. Though if he had to, I’d like him to have a good story to share. Really, dear diary, this is just for me. Here’s to a remarkable 2021 where we make our own stories a pleasure to read.