By now we've more than gotten used to the additional layers of bureaucracy that comes with acting like everything is the same in these times of everything not being the same. For one, I now instinctively bring out my phone and open my camera the moment I enter the supermarket, so I can scan the QR code that leads to the online health declaration form. Yes, they want your business, now more than ever - but they also want to know that you won't be forcing them to close because of a sneeze you failed to suppress.
All this comes with a few inconveniences. For one, I am slightly annoyed that my whole address is quite long. Well, arguably that's fine, if not for the fact that my phone insists on autocorrecting everything, even if I've typed that particular sequence of characters many times before. At least some establishment allow you to shop while you're still typing (or tapping, as is more physically appropriate) your details in, although that isn't perhaps advisable since some can just, you know, not type anything in at all. The new social contract means not being as anonymous as you used to be, or hoped to be - but then, not everybody believes everybody honors those provisions, so why bother?
Perhaps more annoying, however, is how wildly inconsistent your temperature can be. We know we're not supposed to go beyond 37.5 degrees Celsius - that means you've got the beginnings of a fever, at least, and you're very much well into the path of being a pariah - but if you've been out and about enough times you realize there just doesn't seem to be a steady average for these things. Well, there used to be one: I know I'm normally in the middle of 36 degrees, give or take how hot it is outside and how much I've walked. But now, especially with face shields (still, ugh) being required to get into certain places, you get less consistent readings.
Take today. (Well, yesterday. I wrote this yesterday.) It's a slightly rainy afternoon, so one can expect to be somewhat cooler inside. My reading was at 34.7 degrees Celsius - we forgot to bring umbrellas so we had to go in again.
It's just a ten-minute walk to the nearest Starbucks - yes, we've been going bac, both for a change of scenery and a change of ambient temperature. My reading upon entry was a 36.5 degrees Celsius.
I guess you can argue that my body temperature would go up by almost two degrees on the strength of a ten-minute walk on a breezy, drizzly afternoon. I'm no expert. Before all this happened I only got my temperature checked whenever I'm at the clinic, so I didn't have a mental benchmark of, uh, how hot I'm supposed to be on an ordinary day. I had no idea, is all I'm saying. Well, that, and the readings started to go wonky when places - in this case, my condominium building - began to require those fucking face shields, under thread of monetary and even criminal punishment.
Believe it or not, however, that's not what I'm writing about in this notebook I've forgotten about thanks to whatever it is we're living through right now. I mean, let's face it: you can get more reliable readings when your forehead is scanned unobstructed, but not everyone will ask you to momentarily take off your face shield to ensure just that. (This only happens at the Shang, in my case.) That, and you can always just bow so they can scan the top of your head, which at least gives a more consistent reading. But you also just know the security staff in charge of getting your temperature are getting bored. Scanning everyone's head with a possibly crummy thermometer is a monotonous job, and at some point they'll drop the ball. It used to be that the guards at our building lobby would rescan when they get a reading somewhere at the 34 area. Not anymore.
I've been thinking these past few days about how there are so many rules and regulations to keep track of once the pandemic came into full swing. The summary of guidelines I send out for work is now an admittedly unwieldly fourteen pages long - and I have yet to factor in the new rules for businesses announced a few days back. And I don't expect to factor in the new rules that local governments apply in their jurisdictions, as well as individual pronouncements from government officials that may or may not end up being accurate. That is a lot to keep track of, and between that and the more-complex-than-it-seems task of surviving in these circumstances, we're bound to drop the ball at some point, either be accident or by design.
I guess that works for some people. When someone gets confused and inevitably fucks up, or when someone's had enough and goes his own way, they can simply say the person was terrible to begin with, that it's all because he's stubborn and not because he's confused. You know us. It's never our fault. It's always someone else's. We do everything right and they ruin it all for us because they're selfish and inconsiderate and stubborn and born assholes and fuckshits and, well, you get the idea. Like, it should be easier to have a simple set of rules communicated sensibly and sensitively, but, well, that's just not who we are. Or, more aptly, that's just not who they are.