I’ve come to realise that it was a lot easier to get used to wearing masks again than it was to get used to not wearing masks. The last time my city went into lockdown, it was mandatory to wear masks in hospitals and medical centres, as well as in workplaces where it was not possible to “social distance”. Having been through this before, it was easy enough to go back to that routine.
Once the lockdown was over, masks were no longer mandatory. Hardly anyone wore them anymore, but it felt so weird to walk into the building at work not wearing one. I’d approach the glass sliding doors in the morning, and the thought would occur to me that I didn’t have a mask on, and my hand would automatically move to my bag where my mask was kept, and … hold on, is the lockdown really over?
I had to glance around me at other people also not wearing masks to reassure myself that I wasn’t breaking any laws by not wearing a mask.
I just think it’s strange how I got used to it so quickly, and then going back to what I’d been doing for the vast majority of my working life was harder. Such are the times, I guess.
I remember there was a time in my university days when I had this realisation that I could no longer say “see you tomorrow” as a standard thing when leaving for home. The chance of seeing someone on any given weekday during semester depended on what classes were on, when we were going to have our lunch breaks, and which buildings they would be in during the course of the day.
During uni, I still hung out with several of my high school friends, even if they were studying different courses. During high school, it was just about certain to see each other each day and the next, so it was easy enough to say “see you tomorrow” at the end of any day, Monday to Thursday. Hence the change during uni made an impression on me.
There was a report on the news this morning about some study on climate change. A woman was saying that people probably think this last decade was exceptionally hot, but with climate change, the next decade will be much hotter such that our current temperatures will seem relatively mild.
When I heard this, my first thought was, “why is this still being reported like it’s some surprising news that no one considered before?” But I was in the middle of doing other things, so I continued on with my morning without thinking much more of it.
That is, until just a moment ago when I was reminiscing about how relatively carefree life used to be, and lamenting how troublesome life seems to be right now. Pandemic aside, I feel like this year has brought a lot more “responsible adult” tasks for me.
(Is there a point in adulthood when there is no more to learn about being an adult, and you can just get on with life i.e. relaxing, doing nothing, etc? Probably not?)
I have found an unexpected benefit from this whole lockdown situation, and it involves coffee.
Prior to lockdown, I would get coffee from the hospital cafe on most days that I work. When lockdown rules came into place, they no longer allowed use of keep-cups. An understandable rule, but this has been one of the greatest disappointments of all.
At first, I continued to get take-away coffees, now in disposable cups, but eventually the guilt got to me. I decided to cut back.
A few years ago, I drafted a blog post about how I sometimes hold my breath when I walk past bins or smokers or people who, for one reason or another, look like they might smell. I never finished writing this post, and never published it because I thought it was too weird.
(But I don’t mean to be judgemental. Sometimes it’s obvious that someone has just been to the gym, or maybe I’m out running, and there are other sweaty people out running. And it’s not always body odour — sometimes people who exercise wear too much deodorant.)
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared an article that detailed the findings of a Belgian study on the kinetics of exhaled air/vapour during exercise. Specifically, the study looked at walking, running and cycling; and the aim was to determine whether or not it was safe to walk/run/cycle behind or beside someone, with a view to minimising transmission of airborne viruses.
As it turns out, you probably want to stay at least five metres away from other runners, and stay further away from other cyclists, if that is your exercise of choice.
Recently, I’ve noticed that I hold my breath more and more when I walk past people — perfectly normal-looking people with no suggestion of body odour or excessive fragrance usage, and not even a cigarette in hand.
The other day, I happened to walk past a man in the street, and he turned his face away from me as we passed each other. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, and perhaps he happened to see something interesting across the road, but maybe he was holding his breath too.
Who’s the weird one now, hey?
Being unable to go out to borrow or purchase a copy of my book club’s current read, my only options were to resort to buying an electronic copy, or otherwise miss the next meeting (which I suppose will be done online, considering current circumstances).
Speaking of current circumstances, my book club’s current read is The Plague by Albert Camus. It’s quite a fitting read at a time like this, although it is about a fictitious plague set in a world several decades in the past. But it makes one realise that we are doing quite well in comparison. (Well, I’m speaking only for the country I live in, and the people I know.)
In the novel, the plagued city in question, Oran, closed off their borders as the epidemic worsened, and forbade travel in and out of the city, both by locals and foreigners alike. The story being set in pre-internet days, the inhabitants do not have the option of video calling each other, nor can they even send letters due to fears of transmitting pathogens via paper. If I remember correctly, the only option left to them is the use of telegrams.
Moreover, the treatment for the plague must be sourced from Paris, and of course there are supply issues, and of course the treatment does not always work. Continue reading