EDITORIAL: What is the New Normal in the New Normal for Me?

WE hear of the new term “new normal” every time we read our news or when we have conversations with family and friends. There are so many interpretations of what a new normal is or will be. While there are some new normal practices across the board for everyone, I started to ponder what a new normal for me will be.

Just about a week ago, I took the bold step (now I know what the new world discoverers felt when they found new territories to colonise) to dine in at some of my favourite neighbourhood coffeeshops. Ever since March 18, I had not ventured out of Subang Jaya preferring to stay home to stay safe, apart from having to make skirmishes out to bring news to the community. As such, my first foot forward was into local eateries to have a feel of what the new normal is like dining in.

The coffeeshop owner was very happy to two of us entering his shop. He ushered us to the two-seater table and spent the next 10mins telling us how he had spent his two months at home and what he is now doing to get his shop up and running. The regular stalls in his shop were open; busy taking orders for dining in and also for take-away. The number of tables and chairs has been reduced by half and there’s more space between each table, giving more distance between one customer to another. The bowl of noodles was good when it arrived and I could once again partake in my habit of taking photos of my food. The shop appeared cleaner and the social distancing was good.

I compare this to my regular visits to the wet market in SS15 for work as well as for picking up my groceries to cook at home. The market has not changed much. The crowd was still present as they merrily went around picking and buying their groceries from the different stalls. Crowd control at peak hours is carried out by officers from MPSJ and they control the numbers allowed in at any one time. Police officers will regularly make their rounds in and around the market to ensure compliance with the Health Ministry’s SOPs.

Why do I say the market in SS15 has not changed much? Well, the crowd is still present at the market and at times, people forget to exercise social distancing in their frenzy of buying things. The elderly folks appear to be less compliant with the social distancing SOPs or maybe they forgot about it when rushing to buy their daily necessities. While the poultry section appears to be more organised, the vegetables and dry goods stalls are packed with people who seem to be not too bothered about how close the other person is to them. They push their way in and the only time they realise they are being watched is when I take out my smartphone to start taking photographs of the scene. People frown at having to line up to enter the market but I guess they don’t have a choice so long as MPSJ personnel are on site.

So what is the new normal in the new normal to me?

I expect the new normal to give us a chance to press the restart button. Dirty markets and eateries will have no place in my new normal. I will not compromise my health and wellbeing for a favourite plate of chicken rice if the operator continues to be haphazard and unhygienic in the preparation of his food and when serving it. I will look at how clean or dirty a stall is before I decide if I want to order some.

At the wet market, I will pick and choose which stall I go to for my vegetables, poultry or fish. If the stall owner does not practice basic SOPs, I will shun the stall and move on to the next. As a consumer, I have the right to choose and choose I will in the new normal.

For me the new normal opens up doors of many possibilities and potentials. An old worn out wet market can be revived and refreshed to embrace the new normal.  What’s to stop us from transforming a wet market into an air-conditioned facility with more state-of-the-art facilities in the new normal? Consumers are willing to pay a bit more to be assured that SOPs of the new normal are adopted and carried out. A coffeeshop can take the cue from the new normal to innovate and make it a new and safe environment for their customers.

Shopping malls have started innovating to reach out to their customers. I am still waiting to see how cinemas will adapt to the new normal. It’s been months since anyone had a chance to treat themselves to a movie with a box of popcorn. Would two-seater cubicles at cinema halls work in the new normal?

More new normal practices will no doubt be introduced as we go along. The list will get longer in the public domain. My personal checklist is short to keep life simple without having to risk my safety and health. I can adapt and so can you.

Embrace the new normal while staying safe. Have a good and safe month ahead Subang Jaya.