March 23rd, 2020

mom walk

getting back on the horse

Last Friday we got notification that from March 23, the office would officially be reopened without restrictions. For the past couple weeks the office had all kinds of wack shit like mandatory facemasks, mandatory roll call and temperature checks, staff split into shifts who were not allowed to come in on the same day, no sitting at the same table, you name it. But from Monday all restrictions would be dropped from mandatory to recommended. No more shifts. No more nonsense. Monday would be a normal day.

I pulled up my big kid panties and went the fuck to work.

I didn't want to go to work. Yesterday's discovery that not only was my village still under lockdown, but my house had been put on the wrong side of the checkpoint really stung. I woke up still in a bad mood. But i figured 2 months is long enough. I know sitting at home all the time is not doing my mental health any favors. So i showered, changed into shorts, hung my lanyard round my neck and got on a share bike to see the sea.

It was a very good decision. I knew it already, just 5 minutes into the ride. Since they opened the greenway along 大沙河 (Big Sandy River), my commute has gone from a hectic shitshow of cycling across construction sites, sidewalks and fucking freeways into a peaceful, tree-lined cruise to the bay.

If y'all going stir crazy, 45 minutes cycling along a river will set you straight. But it wasn't just the nature that made me happy - it was seeing all the people outside again. Cyclists, joggers, parents pushing prams, kids skipping around (school's still out)... It was like... finally. Finally the fucking city is back again.

Now that the facemask restrictions have been loosened, about 1 in 20 people had theirs round their neck or not on at all. It was so good to be able to hang mine round my neck without being made to feel like a diseased barbarian. It still got completely soaked with sweat and having to put it back on my face to go through the checkpoint at the office was gross as hell, but 10 minutes a day to cross the checkpoints, i can deal with that.

When i got into the office the reality dawned, though. For the last few weeks there have been lots of upbeat posts about how everything is getting back to normal, but you guys. It is not back to normal. Our Shenzhen office has over a hundred staff, but there was only about 10 of us in the office today. I know a lot of parents are still working from home to look after their kids, but that's still a ton of folks who should be back at work who aren't.

It seems the problem is that half the people aren't coming back because they think that coronavirus is flying around the city like a swarm of locusts, and the other half just doesn't want to wear a mask all day and kinda got comfortable working from home.

I took my mask off, hung it on the side of my monitor, and enjoyed the sheer fucking luxury of having a chair.

I was pumped to get lunch too. I took a bike up to my favorite 老成都面馆 Old Chengdu Noodle House, and sure enough they were open. 凉面, spicy cold noodle, so good. My village is mostly Cantonese so it was awesome to eat some food from outside Guangdong again.

Something funny i noticed around the area where i work, which is a conglomeration of brand new skyscrapers filled with tech companies... there were people sitting out in the park eating lunch.

During normal times, no tech worker would ever go sit out in the park to eat lunch. They all too fucking bougie for that. No one goes outside - God forbid you let the sun kiss that pristine porcelain skin! During normal times, no one walks the 1.5km from the subway station to the office either. They all stand around for 20 minutes waiting for the free shuttle bus. It's pathetic. But now all these middle class folks are scared shitless of catching the coronavirus, they're venturing into the great wide open. Welcome to the real world, y'all, where the peasants hang out. There's more to life than fucking air conditioning, buddy.

Anyway, i did my part for trying to spread the good news. I gushed on Slack that the restaurants were back open and no there isn't any coronavirus seeping out of the walls. If the government is to be trusted there isn't any coronavirus anywhere in mainland China, period. Now it's only dirty foreigners bringing it in. Then again, if that were true, you'd think they would've lifted all the lockdowns, huh?

Whatever. I'm confident that even if there are still a thousand or ten thousand secret infections walking around Shenzhen, the chance of me stumbling through their cough droplets on any given day is vanishingly small. The difference between my confidence of 2 months ago and my confidence of today is that this time the government is on my side, trying to encourage everyone back to work.

Not that they're doing a very good job. Dropping shifts and mask restrictions on workplaces was a start, but dropping the damn fences around the poor neighborhoods would also help. Humans gotta remember that their neighbors are human too, not just plague-carriers. All that fear-mongering has worked a little too well on the middle class, it seems.

All i know... It's after 10pm now. Shit. I forgot what it was like to only get home after 8pm, then still have to cook dinner before i can even begin my evening. Sleep deprivation gonna return, but at least it'll be because of exhaustion instead of the emotional stress of lockdown.

It's good to be back.