The thumping continues for a few hours throughout the night and I can’t sleep. It doesn’t help that it feels a bit like Christmas Eve – the excitement and anxiety surrounding tomorrow’s release surrounds me, and my brain won’t switch off. I feel bad for keeping Michael awake with my busy mind and inability to ignore the thump thump but I can hear him snoring so I figure at least he’s getting more rest than I am.
It’s still dark when I first start considering giving up on sleep. I manage to doze for an hour or so and when I poke my head out of the pillow I can see the sun glowing through the curtains. It’s a few minutes before 7am. Michael rolls out of bed and pulls back the curtain to flood the room with light. I stick my head under the doona for a few minutes before resurfacing and seeing what the main stories on Breakfast TV are today. Our actual breakfast is right on time, the juice boxes are warm as usual, but we have yesterdays already chilled in the fridge ready to go. I’ve had a few emails come in over night so there are a couple of things to tie up and I suspect the day is going to pass pretty quickly.
I go through my morning routine and almost jump out of my skin when the room phone rings as I am plugging away at my laptop. The most cheery healthworker yet is on the end of the line, wanting to know how we are, do we have any symptoms, the usual guff. I confirm we are both fit as can be. She says we’re officially cleared and will be provided with a letter later on in the day formally acknowledging our successful completion of quarantine. Our official release time is 4.45pm and we must remain in our room until the clock strikes to the minute.
A feeling of anxiety has surrounded me as I consider leaving our room. It’s a strange complement to the sensations which gripped me over the weekend like the need to be out in the sunshine. Despite everything, this room-like box has become comfortable; the space is familiar, the bed, the workspace, the bike, the filthy carpet, the view of the river and the park. I want to leave of course but in the very same breath I don’t and I’m glad our stay isn’t any longer because I think that perhaps the longer I am kept here the harder it might be to leave.
I hesitate whether to order our morning coffee and decide I may as well. I speak to Sue downstairs who takes our order and the drinks are sent up shortly after. For the first time mine could actually be described as hot. I munch on the top of the muffin they provided at breakfast which actually tastes pretty damn good – it even has more than one blueberry in it. Today for my final challenge I’m working on a “Quarantine by Numbers” where I have to highlight the number of certain things done/eaten etc in the last 2 weeks. It’s quite fun to reflect, although I lean on Michael’s maths skills for addition assistance. We’ve just this morning run out of toilet paper; we were down to the wire and I was hopeful that we would be able to make it through a few more hours, but just before lunch I realize that’s probably not going to happen. I bite the bullet and call up the ever-efficient housekeeping lady who sends up not only two additional rolls but a box of tissues as well.
We leave packing until after lunch. After 2 weeks a complete repack is required. I went to the trouble of unpacking some of my stuff and using the drawers when we first arrived, which today leads to an obsessive opening and closing of every cupboard and drawer to ensure I don’t leave anything. We still have a plentiful supply of snacks so I toss four muesli bars into my carry-on in case… in case we are hungry? or get stranded somewhere… (in a country where groceries and food are readily available). I hate waste, but we have about 20 Uncle Tobys’ muesli bars stashed in our room. I leave the rest with the extra soft drinks that have been delivered and stored over the last two weeks. I wonder if these will actually get consumed by hotel staff or recycled for future lepers rather than tossed in the trash now that they know we have tested negative. I’m not holding my breath.
I take a final shower in our beautiful bright blue bathroom around 4pm (we’re on the redeye tonight so will be feeling pretty filthy by the time we actually arrive in Brisbane) and put the last few items in my suitcase. I take a moment to lie on the bed as Michael takes his last minute shower to try and give my back a little extra rest before the flights. At 4.30pm, we are pretty much ready and movement can be heard in the hallway. We position our packed suitcases near the door so they are easy to get out, and obsessively check our phones waiting for that official 4.45pm to tick over.
At 4.43pm Michael is edging up close to our door and peering through the peephole – he can see the security guards moving into position. Without warning Michael suddenly pulls back the door – it must have ticked over to 4.45pm – and wiggles the first large suitcase out. I’m a bit confused as to what to do next so I try to help with wiggling the other suitcases out to chock open the door. I stick my head out and look left and right down the hallway – other inmates are also materializing from their rooms. It’s all very civilized, 98% of people are masked, they have their suitcases out by the door and they all wait patiently as the security guy checks their name & form. One young guy who seems quite jocular keeps yelling out “freedom!!” every minute or so. It’s funny enough the first time.
The security guy asks if we need a trolley. We say yes and Michael wanders down to the elevator to retrieve one. He slowly maneuvres the trolley down the hallway past another lady struggling with one herself. We turn the corner and speak to another hotel worker who has an available lift already waiting – we get in and I hit the lobby button several times before the doors finally close and we start to descend.
We are greeted at the bottom by another lady who asks us for something – form, passport, certificate, I can’t even remember now, and directs us to continue around the corner. A tall, self-important hotel worker directs us from behind a barrier “You’re entering the Green Zone guys, now there’s no requirement to wear masks in WA…. but if you want to keep yours on that’s up to you.” We are content to keep ours on for now, we are still withing the boundaries of a quarantine hotel after all, notwithstanding that it is apparently within the “Green Zone.” We can see people seated in the lobby without masks, going about their usual business, probably somewhat bemused by the show of lepers being released into the “real world.” We check with the concierge – we thought we were supposed to pay for at least the drinks and extra meals we ordered, but are informed that everything has been/will be charged to our credit card that I provided a photo of on Day 0. We haven’t seen an invoice or receipt or anything so we have no way of knowing if we will be charged for 6 almond lattes or 60.
The whole thing is over in 15 minutes. Our flight is not for another 7 hours so we leave our luggage with the hotel and walk out onto the street where we finally remove our masks. The air is cool and the breeze has a definite chill to it. We wander down towards the park which we had gazed down at so many times in the last 2 weeks and look at the river. The grass in the park is cushy and the sun is warm despite the breeze, although it’s clear the temperature is dropping and I’m glad I pulled out my jumper.
We sit on a bench just to breathe the air for a while and look up at the Pan Pacific looming over us. This is my first visit to Perth and given we haven’t had to do much walking recently we decide to go for a bit of a wander through the CBD. The streets are wide but I still can’t help my habitat of shying away from people when they pass me or come walking up behind me. Out of all the people we come across I see only one guy wearing a mask riding his bike on a food delivery.
My watch vibrates – I’ve achieved my step goal for the day in only an hour. It’s just gone 6pm, exactly two weeks and one hour since we touched down in Oz, before we knew what joys quarantining in Perth hotel could bring us. We circle back and find an outside table at the pub for a beer.