HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRIPEVINE: OUR NEW ABNORMAL
It may seem like it’s not asking for much; but given how things have been going, and because of our track record, perhaps I am asking for too much when seeking for reason, logic, and the rational in this slowly-emerging “pandemic under control” world. Even the use of slowly-emerging may have to be qualified and called an understatement – as having had the chance to visit a mall last weekend, it would seem like we’re acting as if the pandemic never happened.
And I get it, we’re all suffering from quarantine fatigue. So the moment the fetters and shackles have been loosened, we’re all so “gigil” to reclaim the freedom we lost for over a year and eight months. Of course, COVID hasn’t disappeared. In Germany and Austria, the cases are rising again. But if our lucky streak of declining cases continues, who am I to be Mr. I-Told-You-So; when just like everyone else, I’m sincerely hoping to bask in that light at the end of the COVID-tunnel.
So excuse me for noticing; but can someone explain to me what’s the crucial difference between sitting for dinner in a restaurant, with someone seated two arms lengths away, but beside me – and being seated, squashed between two persons in the economy section of a flight to Bohol, Davao, or Cebu? Because the dinner scenario in a restaurant is still prohibited per IATF Alert Level Status 2, while the airline scenario is already happening, social distancing be damned.
And I’m not saying I’m strongly rooting for one or the other – maintaining social distancing rules or foregoing with them altogether. What I’m batting for is some consistency and logic in how these rules are applied and enforced.
This is what gives rise to how our food and restaurant industry feel they’ve been singled out, made the “whipping boy” of the pandemic. Let’s be honest, even at 50 percent capacity, unless they’ve developed a very strong and cost-efficient home delivery service, these restaurants are barely surviving. When it was mandated at less than 50 percent, I know several restaurants stayed open just to keep their staff employed and to hopefully, save their investments – but it was far from being a scenario where they could hope to turn even a minimal profit.
So I’m just wondering why airlines are given the green light to fill up their flights with no regard at all to social distancing protocols, while our restaurants are still tightly monitored? One can make the argument about how more testing and conditions are imposed on those who fly on our domestic flights; but I’m sorry, aren’t these same protocols just as easily mandated for the restaurants to use when accepting customers?
What’s allowed for one industry, like the airline industry, should be the same standards applied for all. And maybe I’m too dim to be aware of all the implications, the process by which this disparity in what’s allowed across industries has come to be; but from where I’m standing, it doesn’t seem all that fair.
Talking about the implications of our coming out of COVID lockdown, I’m reminded of the story Issa relayed to me the other week. She was at a studio for the taping of a hybrid event, and the head of the production team had brought his two Corgis. One was super-friendly, gallivanting around, seemingly with no care in the world. But the younger one, just eight months old, was the opposite – cowering in a corner, and fearful if anyone approached him. The owner explained that it was literally the first time the 2nd Corgi had stepped out of their apartment; and apparently, the noise, the hustle and bustle of people, were all new to the dog, and was disorienting him.
Now I’m not saying that all dogs and puppies will react this way to the prolonged quarantine we’ve undergone; but it got me thinking that if domesticated animals can be put under this kind of mental stress because of having been quarantined, I wondered if some parents have infants or toddlers who are going through a similar disorientation phase.
So many of us are just relieved things seem to finally be normalizing, and the sooner and faster, the better. But just like that 2nd Corgi, there are young children who don’t know anything but our community quarantine – if they’re an only child, they may not have interacted with other kids their age, and have no concept of sharing.
Food for thought there, as we slowly come out of the COVID-tunnel. Child psychiatrists and counselors should be researching on this – and while they’re at it, maybe they can explain the infantile discrepancies and illogical reasoning that form part of our COVID-response.