The Time Warp of 2020
The city streets are empty of the typical weekday city crowds, cars and commuters. No more people than the digits on my hands.
Unfortunately, the daily Freo Doctor wind feels the need to continue to invade every inch of air space like clockwork. It would be nice sometimes for it to take a vacation! I feel like I’ve jumped into a time warp, that’s taken me back to the mid 90’s. This quietness used to be the norm, back when I was a teenager. Particularly as a result of the limited shopping hours on Sundays, as well as very few apartment complexes had been built in the city at that stage.
Most of the people strolling through the mall certainly don’t appear to be in a rush. Perhaps some or all are tourists. Now stranded here in Perth due to the apparent grounding of international flights, which could remain in place for as long as six months. Half the people I see, wear light blue surgical masks.
Initially I am consumed, perhaps even overwhelmed, with sadness at the emptiness of Hay Street Mall. Almost to the point of tearing up, Most of the shops, which I photograph, are closed. Contributing to the ghost town-like feel. Quiet. Dead. Abandoned. I think of all the struggles small businesses already experience. Particularly shops in the city. On top of struggling to compete with ridiculously cheap products sold online, the overhead costs, high rates of rent, power bills, insurance, employee wages and tax to name just a few. They are now closed for an indeterminate period of time.
As of 30 March 2020.
Although some categories of shops don't necessarily fall into what is banned, closed or restricted. As The Guardian state, 'Shopping centres and other shops not specifically told to close, including bottle shops.'
Which would surely increase the already-high levels of stress and fear felt by business owners.
Employees are pretty much in the same boat. More than half a million people are expected to lose their jobs, as the economy suffers its biggest fall since World War 2. Partially as a result of the government's drastic attempts to "flatten the curve," well before we experience anything of what Europe is going through right now.
Thankfully the Government has so far, or at least appear to be, fairly generous with bailouts and extensive financial assistance. Some initiatives include the increased tax exemptions for small businesses, higher rates of welfare income and financial bonuses for specific groups already receiving some form of welfare benefits, including the pension.
The implications of the Government's huge expenditure, on top of January's $2 billion budget to assist those affected by the widespread devastating bush fires, is quite worrying.
It was only a few months ago that many government employees, agencies relying on government funding to continue operating, as well as departments desperately begging for more resources and staff, had their head on the chopping block. It was as if the government was going broke, resulting in the drastic budget cuts and a decrease in government jobs.
So it's hard not to wonder where this funding will come from. The implications could potentially be felt for ten years or longer!
I continue taking photos in Hay Street Mall and reach the Carillon City Arcade. A security guard is walking in my direction and two beat cops are patrolling in the distance. The shops that I can see are all closed, with no sight of any consumers or tourists.
I chat to the security guard, who tells me to go down to the food hall if I want to see how quiet it is. He says I should have seen how busy it was a few weeks ago. I can't help but laugh, as I tell him even on the busiest days and nights, nothing will ever compare to the constant packed out scenes in the late 1990's, especially on a Friday night!
As I take the escalator down, I definitely have to agree with him on how dead it is right now. Predictably, all the seating areas have been blocked off with crash test dummy tape. Something I've recently started to see everywhere.
Two eateries remain open but again, not a single customer in sight. I strike up a chat with a young man working one of the counters. Behind the serving glass, hot food fills every steel pan. He tells me, 'We're going to close up. It's not worth staying open.'
I'm guessing he's just talking about today but regardless, I feel his pain.
I pass a cleaner as I walk over to the adjacent lower level of the arcade. Only the Shaver Shop and The Reject Store remain open. Four people are walking around. Two appear to be workers.
I keep taking photos.
Then it hits me.
This is an awesome opportunity to photograph the entire city without people in my way or walking through my shots.
As I reach Murray Street Mall, I suddenly see so much beauty in everything I look at. It's like the junk, outer layer has been removed. Stripped off. The distracting people in this case. Leaving a unique view of the buildings, trees and well presented walkways.
In particular, it makes the colours and textures of everything more intense. I feel like I've been walking around blind for the past 20 years, as I see things in more detail for the first time.
Since I've been working hard at learning everything I can with a number of software programs including Photoshop, the photos and footage I'm taking of the city devoid of people, becomes even more valuable. I can add anything into a photo or footage, potentially making a movie from nothing.
It makes me realise that anything and everything can have a bright side. Even though we're always being told that anyway. No matter how small or insignificant it may feel at first. Particularly with the fears and stress that comes with, "not knowing," or not being able to take control of the situation currently unfolding before our eyes. Any positive thought or feeling can help us in more ways than one.
We choose our words and we choose our thoughts.