Since the onset of the pandemic, the world has become a blurry place to live in. But when the opportunity arose to revive the spirits a little, I ventured outside after months of isolation to a rustic coffee house.
Minutes away from the tiny turquoise blue door, I got a whiff of ground coffee beans. I reached the door and instead of barging in, I was asked to wait.
Thus began the COVID-19 protocols. Temperature check (an exact number, 98.6), hand sanitisation, where I could now smell alcohol along with caffeine – a walking Irish coffee. I was also asked to pull up my mask a little.
I finally stepped into the coffee house and it felt like Alice’s Wonderland, a different world altogether where everyone remained unidentified. The pandemic has brought with it several myths, so I discarded the unventilated room and chose to sit outdoors where the scorching sun played its own tricks.
I thought of Robin Sharma, who wrote in his book The Monk who sold his Ferrari, that a habit takes 21 days to develop. I was accustomed to the habit of social distancing for the past seven months and found a spot in the corner. Away from the hullabaloo of the coffee house, I found solace after months with a new digitised menu on my phone as I placed an order for a cappuccino glazed with golden hazelnut.
As I sat observing people around me, I could not help but wonder how the invisible had affected the visible in just the span of a few months. People stood together but the demise of handshakes and high-fives was evident. A table that could accommodate at least six people now had two seated together and the loud chatter of the past had turned into hushed conversations.
The tables that were usually home to cutlery were now decorated with sanitisers and pamphlets of guidelines. I could see how the red crosses served their purpose on every alternate chair.
A warm cup of coffee where I could see the steam sizzling and froth bubbles forming was soon placed on my table and I politely smiled, thanking the masked and gloved man. He looked at me puzzled, and asked whether I wanted anything else. I then realised that I had my mask on.
Pulling it down, I thanked him again. He said, “It is so difficult to know whether someone is smiling or complaining. The old times were better. At least I could have a conversation with the people who came here.”
I felt gutted thinking of how the world had undergone a dramatic change; a change that was here to stay.
My trip came to a full circle when I got up from the cushioned seat, wore my mask properly and sanitised my hands yet again. Despite the seeming change in the way of the world, which is topsy-turvy, it is only the protocols of 2020 that remain constant.
Rebecca Gerard is a student journalist at Asian College of Journalism.
Featured image provided by the author