Lockdown! And what it’s got to do with the end of your nose

Lockdown eh? Who would ever have believed, one, two, three, four years ago, that ordinary, everyday Kiwis like you and I would be living in ‘Lockdown;’ virtual prisoners in our own homes thanks to the very real threat of death from a virus (COVID-19, or the ‘Coronavirus) which originated in a city in China (Wuhan) few of us had ever heard of before.

Who indeed? As I said to my kids on Sunday night, as we sat around talking (a very un-MacKay-family-like thing to do!) after watching the news; this is unprecedented in my lifetime, and I think that we would have to go back to 1939 and the threat of WW2 to find a similar set of ‘dark clouds from overseas looming’ circumstances.

Which is all very dramatic and I can certainly understand why so many people around me – at home, in my job, and in my areas of ‘social interest,’ like motorsport, Mountain Biking and general fitness – are getting so twittery.

What I can’t understand is why otherwise sane individuals are making such plainly stupid decisions………….. like lining up outside Supermarkets before they open, then rushing in and bulk buying what? Toilet paper?

As I said to my – poor long-suffering – wife Delia when she showed me a pic on one of her Facebook feeds of three stupid people actually fighting over some bulk bog roll bags in a Pak ‘n Save somewhere…’you’re shitting me!’

It was virtually the same when I waited for the PM’s Monday press conference to begin.

Initially, I watched on the Radio NZ Facebook feed, thinking that the coverage would be a little less ‘sensational-ised’ than that of the NZ Herald’s site.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the button to turn off the comments which were so pathetic in their ‘me, me, I, I, I’m important, I demand…’ sameness that I swapped back to the NZ Herald site where they were not so ‘whiney’ and ‘samey.’

Which is the problem with social media these days, isn’t it? Not only does everyone have an opinion – and an immediate means to self-publish it – the ‘internet generation’ is still in the ‘toddler taking his or her first steps stage’ meaning that every last one of these opinions is deemed to be as important as the one which came before, and the one that came before that etc.

Never mind that – in, er, my humble opinion – it was as obvious as the nose on Alain Prost’s face that the PM was going to ‘crank the response level up from 2 to 3 and probably 4’ the stupid bloody sheep in the comments column kept bleating on about how they were (or were ‘gunna’ if Jacinda and co didn’t) take matters ‘into their own hands’ and ‘take their kids out of school/buy more toilet paper/whatever.’

Honestly, if you are currently a slave to your various social media feeds I feel sorry for you because you are being poisoned from the inside out.

OK it is early days yet but something else which is bothering me is….…how come no one yet has been brave enough to raise the simple issue of ‘what’s our world going to look like when the worst is over. When we’ve reached ‘Peak COVID-19’ and come out the other side.’ Or – as Sir Ed so succinctly put it as he stood atop Mt Everest with Sherpa Tenzing – when ‘we’ve knocked the bastard off.’

Instead, as one of my contacts from deep within the motorsport game pointed out to me this morning how ironic it was, that MotorSport NZ actually stepped in or stepped up (or however else you might like to describe it) and pulled the permit for last weekend’s Legends of Speed meeting at Hampton Downs after unilaterally cancelling (rather than postponing) the final round of its national championship series due to be run at the same circuit this coming weekend.

Michael Lyons and Andrew Higgins enter Turn 1 at Hampton Downs

Speaking strictly personally here (and I am just one of a number of service suppliers to categories at the Legends meeting who is now out of pocket because of the Motorsport NZ call) I was perfectly happy with the ‘risk’ I was going to take by attending and reporting on the meeting.

As I was as – before Jacinda’s Monday ‘Lockdown’ call – heading off down SH1 to Evergreen this weekend.

I was ‘happy to take the risk’ because, as someone who has been coldly and (so far, so good) calculating the odds since I first hopped on (and almost immediately fell off) an SS90 Vespa as an 8 or 9 year-old, I felt that the chances of either coming into contact with a sneezing and obviously unwell recent arrival from Italy at either venue or meeting were remote to say the least. And since I have been working remotely (and thoroughly enjoying the fact) for the past 6 months I feel that my risk profile has got to be a hell of a lot lower than if I was pulling shifts at the local Macky Ds.

The problem, of course, is one of perception.

If, and it’s a VERY BIG IF, someone who attended the Legends of Speed meeting – or worse still – the Speedworks-promoted NZ Championship final at Hampton Downs, contracted the virus there and subsequently not only infected a number of others but also died  a particularly high profile death of it the chattering classes would have a field day.

More so, in this heightened state of social media agitation, methinks, than if he or she died of injuries received in a freak accident on track.

Better then, so the logic goes, to ‘do the right thing, to avoid the risk’ by pulling the permit and stopping the event going ahead in the first place……

Can you see where I am going here though? Of course by removing the event you remove the risk. But isn’t the risk – and how we as human beings calculate it – an absolutely key part of why we do what we do?

As of now, for instance, I can understand why MotorSport NZ will not permit an event for the next four weeks. We are, for instance, living under the next best thing to martial law.

Two weeks ago, however, the ‘risk landscape’ was very different. And bar some political grand standing (aka brown nosing) I still can’t for the life of me see why the governing body pulled the permit for the Legends of Speed meeting – particularly just two days out.

For much the same reason I’m 100 % behind Targa man Peter Martin’s decision to continue working on his plan to run his second two-day Targa event of the year – Targa Hawke’s Bay – over the weekend of May 16-17.

That is fully two months away – and at least a month AFTER the supposed month-long Lockdown deadline.

Like me, Peter is self-employed, and as he said to me this morning, organising motorsport events is what he does.

If he doesn’t (organise and run events) it’s simple, he doesn’t eat.

So, before any of you reading this, start even thinking about saddling up your high horse and letting your lips flap as your fat corporate steed reaches terminal velocity, please make sure you lift your chin up and adjust your gaze so that it goes (preferably) well beyond the end of your nose.

Ross MacKay

Ross MacKay is an award-winning journalist, author and publicist with first-hand experience of motorsport from a lifetime competing on two and four wheels. He currently combines a day job editing NZ4WD magazine with contract media work, weekend Mountain Bike missions and towing his 1989 Nissan Skyline drifter to grassroots meetings around the North Island.

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