The lockdown diaries (a fictional Covid-19 experience)

A lighter look from a fictional optometrist’s perspective of the Covid-19 lockdown experience...


23/3/20: Lunch time, my favourite part of the workday! Quiet morning for a Monday, a few cancellations for some reason. A new flu is going around that people are freaking out about. Take your vitamin C and you’ll be right.

Not a lot of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) highlights to catch up with, so on to the Stuff quiz. Eight out of 15. Hmm, guess that’s a pass. Jacinda is doing a live news announcement. Always liked the PM, great teeth. Woah! Countrywide lockdown from Thursday?! That must be some flu. The boss won’t like this….


25/3/20: Last patient for the foreseeable future: silly goose wanted a fresh pair of frames to match the designer face mask she’d recently bought. Out of steriwipes, so I gave the chair and slit lamp a quick scrub with some left-over Bombay Sapphire from the Christmas party. One for the cover paddle, one for me…


26/3/20: Lockdown day 1. Slept in until 9am. Brilliant! Normally I will have seen three patients by now! Spent the day in underwear watching Friends reruns. Who needs others in your bachelor-pad bubble when you have Ross and Co to keep you company! Will start to run low on beer and chips soon…


30/3/20: Lockdown day 5. Boss is handling patient enquiries, so she doesn’t have to pay me. Doesn’t really seem fair, but to be honest I don’t fancy trying to differentiate between panuveitis and subconjunctival haemorrhage over the phone anyway. 

Surprisingly Chandler’s sarcasm is starting to grate, so I figure I should make more use of the next three weeks. Okay… CPD points are up to date, although the local ophthalmologist’s webinar tonight on gene loci for dermatochalasis does sound thrilling! No garden in the apartment, so I can’t busy myself with topiary sadly. Aha! The LinkedIn page needs an update.

With the help of some Photoshop magic, successfully modernised my profile picture to one a little less ‘wide-eyed-new-grad’, more ‘debonair-yet-approachable-eye-guru’. Should help with attracting patients (in and out of work... if you know what I mean) when normality resumes. 


2/4/20: Lockdown day 8 or 9. Feeling a tad slovenly. More exercise probably needed. Plus, Molly the dog is starting to go a little crazy pacing the balcony. Hit the local park for a walk. People keep trying to make cheery small talk, but I keep my mouth shut and give them a wide berth. No point taking risks. 

Get home to find an email inviting health professionals to assist with the Covid-19 response. Fat lot of use I would be, unless people want to know which kitchen knife is best to tighten their glasses’ screws during lockdown. Delete! 


4/4/20: Lockdown day 12? Supplies running desperately low: Had only cooking wine left in the pantry last night, so made sangria with Raro and vitamin C tablets. Not recommended. Ventured out to the supermarket resplendent in an ancient dust mask I found behind the drier. Felt a little like a criminal planning his next cauliflower heist. Corona beer on sale amusingly! Don't think there’s a link? Buy Peroni instead, just to be safe. Plus, those Italians need all the help they can get. Lady in front at the checkout keeps missing grocery items she’s packing; AMD perhaps? Realised I hadn’t thought seriously about eyes in a while, so tried to learn Park’s three-step test. An hour later, still completely baffled, so gave up. Watched Groundhog Day instead. Seemed appropriate. Bill Murray is a god.


15/4/20: Lockdown hour 471. Suspect I may be going slowly insane due to the lack of any real human interaction. Spent the morning organising my linen cupboard from soft to coarse material. Needed five showers to fully evaluate the roughness of all the bath towels. When will we be liberated from this accursed home-detention?


22/4/20: Five days until end of lockdown: Hallelujah! Jacinda-the-benevolent and her gorgeous pearly whites announced that come Tuesday we move back to level three! The boss called and we are apparently allowed to reopen, for urgent patients with strict hygiene measures of course. Never before have I been so excited at the prospect of discussing the finer points of the weather with random strangers.

My optom gear is at home, so I did a quick ret of Molly in preparation/celebration: Hmm cataracts. I half-consider a home couching operation with a melon baller but see sense and binge the two seasons of Joey instead. Unsatisfying. It’s just not the same without Phoebe! 


27/4/20: Lockdown day 28: ONE MORE DAAAAAYYYY!!!


28/4/20: Day one of freedom. Beneath my mask I hummed a merry tune as I arrived back at work. My eyes smiled at the scantilclad spectacle wearers in the Jockey advertising in our window and I virtual high-fived Gladys at reception as I strolled through the waiting room.

Lovingly, I patted my trusty auto-refactor before wiping it down with hydrogen peroxide samples (someone used all the gin). Ahhh I’m back!

First patient for the day turns out to be a fellow ‘Frienatic’. I refract at a rapid pace, just to have more time to talk about whether Gunther’s hair colour is natural or not. As I lean in for tonometry the patient is racked with a cough, spittle flies everywhere. “Not to worry” I laughed. Today nothing could spoil my chipper mood! 

As I head home for the day, I felt a slight tickle in my throat. Nothing to worry about, probably just beer and chip withdrawal kicking in. Fortunately, I have plans to remedy that with the lads at our long-overdue poker catch-up tonight. Finally, life is back to normal again!


Alex Petty is a New Zealand optometrist based at Bay Eye Care in Tauranga, with a particular interest and knowledge in specialty contact lenses, ortho-k and myopia control. His favourite sitcom is in fact How I Met Your Mother, not Friends, he says!


Ed's note: Sadly, optometrists won't be reopening at Level 3 in New Zealand, as social distancing is still paramount. For more Covid-19 experiences and what Level 2 might look like, go to:


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