Isolation

Last week I was made aware that I was in self-isolation. An email from the accommodation warden was sent to my flat mates and I, reading: ‘We’ve been made aware that a number of people in your corridor requested a test via the University’s Test and Trace service’. As a result, we were supposedly subject to a period of seclusion, in which we were only meant to leave our rooms to go to the kitchen (with a kitchen rota already in place), pick up a delivery and smoke or vape.

Our freedom (limited as it was) to do as we pleased in freshers week, was quickly taken away from us. Infuriated, and already breaking the strict restrictions, we had a flat meeting. I don’t want to incriminate myself and my co-defendants but we soon came to the conclusion that some of the regulations were bullshit. It wasn’t anyone in our kitchen who had requested the test, no one was showing symptoms and we felt like university students denied of our right to party.

While I have concern for the safety of others, the call to self-isolate was tough to take. It was a step further than the initial lockdown in March. During that period, I could still go outside everyday to exercise if I wanted to. Now I could only do that with a cigarette in my hand – I don’t need to have had experience to tell you that that’s counterintuitive and not a great idea.

So, I went onto my phone to complain to my family and friends. I received two different responses: my family obviously thought that I should adhere to the guidelines that said we should be wearing a face covering in the event of a fire alarm – forget the potential danger of burning to death; I must make sure that I have my face mask to protect me. However, a friend of mine had a different perspective, expressing that universities don’t care about or enforce the rules and that COVID-19 isn’t that bad – who wants to smell and taste their food anyway?

So, as I sat staring at my phone, with as devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, I was unsure of what to do. In an idealistic world, everyone in the university would stay in their rooms for two weeks and the virus wouldn’t spread. But realistically, we are in country that has championed liberalism and more importantly, Tesco delivery slots are not cheap and fill up quickly.

An alternative had to be reached; a middle way if you will. It was agreed that we would go out only when necessary and when we did go out, we wouldn’t interact with anyone. Necessary of course, is subjective, ambiguous and about as vague as COVID-19 instructions delivered by Boris Johnson. Necessary in this case, essentially meant ‘don’t take the piss’. Don’t attend kitchen parties, don’t go to bars and restaurants and don’t take public transport. Those were the essentials that I’m sure everyone was able to follow.

Yet these were only the rules agreed by us. Technically, I wasn’t allowed to do laundry in the launderette located twenty feet from my accommodation. But my towel needed to be washed and my sheets had seen better days. I was also running low on food and I didn’t want to go a week without exercising outside, given that I’d been accepted into the football team.

I made a plan and split it into three phases:

Phase 1 – secure some food

I contacted my friend and the situation was explained. No less than a day later, the food was at my door, received without having to pay the Tesco delivery fee.

Phase 2 – wash my clothes

The university had organised an emergency laundry service but I made sure to read the small print. They would offer a small plastic bag, your clothes would be washed at 60 degrees and they would take no responsibility for any damages, loss or shrinkage of the clothes. They also, worked from Monday to Friday and if they took your clothes on Friday, you wouldn’t receive the washed version until Monday. Although I received my bag on Thursday and left it outside of my door, it soon turned to Friday and there was no change.

I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. I sorted out my clothes, put on my mask and made the perilous journey to the front door. My heartbeat was racing. I was criminal the second that I stepped outside and breathed fresh air. With each step, I thought so far so good until it wasn’t so good. My heart stopped for a second. In front of me a member of staff was doing the emergency washing. Was this where my journey would end? Would I be jailed with the illegal ravers? Would an email be written to my parents? No. Instead I was greeted. The cleaner was acting as if everything was normal. As if I wasn’t a fugitive, risking my freedom in the name of clean underwear. I put my money into the machine and came to the conclusion that I had been scared for no reason. I was ready to take things to the next level. I decided that next time I would launder money not clothes.

Phase 3 – exercise

After my crazy experience at the laundry, I decided that I was a bad boy; I was going to do some exercise outdoors. I staked out and waited until no one was around and then I was off. The breeze, the cold and the pain I felt in my legs…My body was not used to this strain anymore. I felt as though I had committed so I soldiered on but suddenly I wanted to be inside. Maybe isolation wasn’t that bad. Maybe that was enough adventure for one day.

But on a more serious note, I have tried to be responsible, hard as it has been. I often heard people having fun outside and can confirm that I never want to hear Funky Friday again; in this coronavirus age, I am still hating. I also learnt more about my flat mates’ habits, whether that was takeaway food, taking food or washing up.

Now, I just can’t wait until this period of self-isolation is over. I’ve picked up a nasty smoking habit.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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