I got a notification on my phone on Monday.
For most people this would be an unremarkable occurence. For me it’s quite unusual. I’ve written before about my relationship with notifications:
If I install an app on my phone, the first thing I do is switch off all notifications. That saves battery life and sanity.
The only time my phone is allowed to ask for my attention is for phone calls, SMS, or FaceTime (all rare occurrences). I initiate every other interaction—Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, the web. My phone is a tool that I control, not the other way around.
In short, I allow notifications from humans but never from machines. I am sometimes horrified when I see other people’s phones lighting up with notifications about email, tweets, or—God help us—news stories. I try not to be judgemental, but honestly, how does anyone live like that?
The next version of iOS will feature focus modes allowing you to toggle when certain notifications are allowed. That’s a welcome addition, but it’s kind of horrifying that it’s even necessary. It’s like announcing a new padded helmet that will help reduce the pain the next time you choose to hit your own head with a hammer. It doesn’t really address the underlying problem.
Anyway, I made an exception to my rule about not allowing notifications from non-humans. Given the exceptional circumstances of The Situation, I have allowed notifications from the NHS COVID-19 app.
And that’s why I got a notification on my phone on Monday.
It said that I had come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and that I would need to self-isolate until midnight on Friday. I haven’t been out of the house much at all—and never indoors—so I think it must be because I checked into a seafront bar last week for an outdoor drink; the QR code for the venue would’ve encompased both the indoor and outdoor areas.
Even though it wasn’t part of the advice for self-isolation, I got a lateral flow test to see if I was actually infected.
I did the test and I can confidentally say that I would very much like to never repeat that experience.
The test was negative. But I’m still going to stick to the instructions I’ve been given. In fact, that’s probably why testing isn’t part of the recommended advice; I can imagine a lot of people getting a negative test and saying, “I’m sure I’m fine—I don’t need to self-isolate.”
So I won’t be leaving the house until Saturday. This is not a great inconvenience. It’s not like I had many plans. But…
This is why, for the final day of UX Fest, I will be performing my hosting duties from the comfort of my own home instead of the swankier, more professional environment of the Clearleft studio. I hope I don’t bring the tone down too much.
I also had to turn down an invitation to play some tunes with two fully vaccinated fellow musicians on Friday. It felt a bit strange to explain why. “I’d love to, but my phone says I have to stay in.”
I feel like I’m in that Bruce Sterling short story Maneki Neko, obedientally taking orders from my pokkecon.