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Day 67 of Shanghai Lockdown

One week since Shanghai's "reopening"

This past week feels like the week after a layoff. You’re walking around the office/city wondering if the seats are empty because they’re away at a meeting, or are they just gone? How many small businesses (and people) can survive 2-3 months with zero income?

Everywhere I go now, I have to scan a code that collects my personal information, and have my phone loudly declare my test result on speaker. I don’t remember ever enabling this particular function. Every day feels like a dozen small runs through gauntlets. Scan this code. Show that code. Take your temperature. Queue up for Covid tests. Wait for the results. Does this place do dine-in, delivery only, or self pick-up? Which app do I need to pay for food that’s a meter away from me? What information and “rights” do I have to sign away to do that?

Are we happy to be out? Sure. But we are still angry. This lockdown happened to us. We begun the lockdown with a sense of solidarity, a sense of duty to our fellow city dwellers, but that dedication was exploited and abused.

Over the last 9 years, many friends who have come and gone had compared Shanghai to a temperamental romantic partner. It’s a city with big peaks and valleys. But the last two months felt like… My partner of 9 years decided I’m a dirty cheater who can’t be trusted. ?Where have you been? Who did you see? Show me your phone. Tell me where you are at all times. I don’t trust you. You’re going to cheat on me, I just know it."

And after two months of that… Wouldn’t you want to cheat? Might as well do the crime if you did the time? There have been videos circulating of late night street parties, with many unmasked people. I’ve seen way more people riding around on their scooters without helmets, running red lights, and pedestrians jaywalking in front of facial recognition scanners (hello dystopia). The garbage sorting that was instituted not 3 years ago largely abandoned.

We were treated like criminals, viral until proven innocent. Why should we behave like law-abiding citizens now? I’m critical of the behavior, but I understand the drive.

We were betrayed by a city we’ve built our lives in. And now they expect us to just forget it. They published a letter of appreciation to the citizens, but what we want is an apology. Gaslighting 25 million people who endured hardship in 25 million different ways. I may choose to forgive Shanghai some day, for my own peace of mind. But I won’t forget what this city put us through.

I got a Covid test on the every-72-hour schedule mandated by the government that would endow me with the “freedom” to go places. 23 hours later, I finally got the results back, after being denied entry into a mall where I had a massage appointment.

It feels PEAK PETTY to be upset over missing something as indulgent as a massage after the 2 months we've had. But that’s precisely it. I had done everything “right.” I’ve been “good.” And goddammit I needed a massage, an hour of caring human touch and artificially created vacation atmosphere because I haven't gone beyond China's borders in over 2 years. And I can’t even get that. I couldn’t even go into the mall to pee or use a public bathroom.

And the lockdown isn't "lifted." Many parts of the city are still under lockdown. Some residents woke up a day or two after "reopening" to find their front gates padlocked and fences erected around the block. But we're all just supposed to go back to work like nothing happened. Time to "save" the economy.

All in all, the past week had been one of the most exhausting weeks of my life. There's the strain of re-entering real life after 2 months of isolation, made harder by all the new hoops you gotta jump through to perform basic adulting tasks.

I'll be OK. I know in time this will translate to resilience. I've even written some jokes about it. But for now, no, I'm not celebrating the "freedom" that was taken away from me. I'm not "grateful" to regain the normalcy that was sacrificed for political face-saving.

What am I grateful for? My cleaning lady is back and hasn't lost most of her clients. My security guard no longer has to sleep in a chair every night and now works 12-hour shifts instead of 24-7. Every single delivery driver and restaurant worker who has had to pee in the streets and sleep in tents because of these ridiculous rules to keep us from starving. My cats. My friends who I've gotten to known better thanks to this nonsense that's forced us to ask "how are you?" and really mean it.


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