Friday, June 21, 2013

Up in smoke

Hopefully, by the time you read this, the haze would have lifted and we’d all be able to breathe normally again without hyperventilating from taking short breaths, and obsessing about toxic micro-particles and checking the PSI readings every five minutes.
            In the little flat I share with my crazy flatmates Saffy and Amanda, we get down on our knees every morning and thank God we had the foresight years ago to invest in two hospital strength air-purifiers.
            At the time, Amanda had objected to buying them on account of the fact that they’re the ugliest things she’d ever seen.
            “They look like paper-shredders!” Amanda exclaimed. “They won’t go with anything in our flat!”
            “Like you do, you mean?” Saffy muttered mutinously under her breath.
            Amanda’s head swivelled around. “Excuse me?”
            “I said, ‘I so know what you mean!’” Saffy replied smoothly.
            Now, of course, you couldn’t pry the air-purifiers out of Amanda’s hands for all the Louis Vuitton bags in the world.
            “Thank God we got these!” she said the other day as she knelt beside the machine and inhaled the air. “What’s the PSI, Saf?”
            “Still the same, 400!” Saffy reported, her eyes never leaving the live-feed she was getting on her phone from
            “Honestly, it’s like the end of the world!” Amanda said.
            Just then, Saffy’s phone pinged with a message. “Oooh, it’s from Sharyn!” There was a brief silence as Saffy swiped the screen and read the message, her lips moving as she mouthed the words.
            “What’s she saying? What’s the visibility over at Bishan like?” Amanda asked.
            “She says, ‘I got my n95 mask!! From Quantam safety. Block 998 Toa Payoh north #3-14/15! $48 for box of 10! Hurry got queue!’ Isn’t that like just down the road?”
            “Did she get extra boxes for us?” I asked.
            “All those numbers are giving me a headache!” Amanda complained, though I couldn’t help but wonder if the headache wasn’t coming from all the oxygen-enriched air she was breathing.
            That’s the thing about this haze. It’s making otherwise normal people do all sorts of odd things. Like get excited about a box of face-masks. Sure enough, news soon reached us through Facebook that Sharyn had decided to turn a quick buck and was selling her N95 masks on eBay for $20 each. Within a few hours, she’d made a 400% profit on her initial investment.
            She immediately headed down to Toa Payoh Central – without any protective face mask – and put it all down on 4D, buying the highest PSI numbers of the past few days. The very next day, she woke up with a raspy throat and a low grade fever which kept her in bed for the next 48 hours.
            Of course, when our friend Barry came through Singapore from Hong Kong with a box of N95 masks which he sold to us at cost for $40 for a box of 20, Sharyn threw an uncharacteristic tantrum.
            “Aiyoh, $40! For twenty!” she shouted over the phone from her sick-bed. “I pay $48 you know. For ten! How like that? Some more, I did not strike 4D! Not fair. I must complain! Ay, Amanda, I ask you, who to complain to, hah?”
            “Someone who cares?” Amanda replied, her eyes never once lifting from her current issue of Vogue. She handed the phone over to Saffy just as Sharyn was asking, “Got gah-men department like that, meh?” It was a question that led Saffy to later remind Amanda that such finely tuned sarcasm was wasted on some people. Especially if they’re called Sharyn.
            Meanwhile, the PSI numbers continue to fluctuate between 350 and 400. We’ve been indoors for days now. All the windows are sealed shut and the gap under the front door is blocked with a damp rolled up towel.
            We are, of course, ignoring the fact that some of that hazy air must still be coming in. “Otherwise, we’d all be dead, no?” Saffy pointed out with penetrating scientific insight. We solved the conundrum by placing one air-purifier at the door.
            It’s all starting to look and feel like a scene out of some post-apocalyptic horror movie but without any good looking movie stars in the lead role. Our food supplies are still holding up though Saffy says she wishes our favourite char kway teow stall down the road does home delivery. “I’m really sick of eating that tinned tuna and tinned peaches.”
Amanda said if this haze keeps up, we’re going to start turning feral and eat each other.
“I hope you like gnawing on bones, because that’s all there’s going to be left of me,” Saffy said as she grudgingly stuck another spoonful of tinned tuna into her mouth. 

No comments: