When David Tutalo arrived to open the Royal Barber Shop in Queanbeyan on the dawn of Freedom Day, there were 10 men waiting to have their lockdown locks shorn off.
His scissors just didn't stop clicking. Murray Masters in the chair said he had looked like a shaggy dog.
"It's such a relief," the owner of the shop said at the end of two months without business.
"Brittle. Broken. Sad," Kristie Edwards said about her nails before she got them sorted out at the New York Nail Spa.
"I've not been without fake nails for 20 years until now."
"I feel like myself again," Kate Ellis said, flaunting her renewed bright orange nails.
"Awesome. Words can't describe it," Nicole Oakley said, holding toddler Wyatt, as they emerged from Kmart.
"Just being out of the house and with other people."
Stores were demanding proof of double vaccination. None reported resistance. Lots of people learned and relearned their MyGov passwords on the doorstep to get the certificate.
"I didn't know I needed it so I spent five minutes downloading it," Sarah Kime said.
Her two boys were excitable because they weren't used to being outside the home, she said.
"I was quite happy to do it. I can't wait until I get my toddlers to do it," the mother said.
The carpark shared by Kmart and Woolworths was chock-a-block. It was back to the old world of cruising for a space - some of the more jaded shoppers said the return of grumpy disputes wouldn't be far behind.
By mid-morning, Kmart was as full as on a busy Saturday.
The places where you really felt the relief were those stores where human contact was important.
The New York Nail Spa had a full appointment book until the end of the week. Manager Tom Nguyen was so excited about opening he couldn't sleep.
Anglicare was buzzing - and that showed one of the psychological costs of lockdown, manager Nadine Genero said.
People used to come in for the company before the lockdown closed the main part of the store, leaving only the smaller section operating to provide cheap food for those who needed it.
"People come in to shop but also for a chat," the manager said.
"A lot of people felt more isolated. We had a lady who came in begging us to get her books. She said that all she needed was books."
The shop raised money for the needy and that fundraising was halted.
"I was quite excited but also nervous," the manager said. Nobody had been difficult about proving their vaccination status, she said: "I was worried about people being cranky but so far no problem."
The ACT is due to ease some of its restrictions at the end of the week but even then the rules won't be quite the same.
And this week, the border on the bridge into Queanbeyan feels real.
It's not quite like crossing the old Berlin Wall but there is certainly a different vibe on either side. While the Canberra Centre remains ghostly, the shops in Queanbeyan were buzzing. The traffic on the streets was back to its old volume.
In theory, the different rules allow Canberrans to sneak over the border this week and drink a sneaky drink in a Queanbeyan pub, though the ACT government has warned against such defections.
Pubs were checking customers were double-vaccinated and had used the QR code but their home address was not top priority.
Publicans were just plain relieved to be serving again.
"Just earning my own income and seeing the locals is fantastic," Josh Puvinsky behind the bar at the Tourist Hotel said.
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