Recently I have been hooked to my TV screen at home, not watching Bloomberg, mind you, but looking at news about the rising number of people in China contracting the new coronavirus. At the end of the day, I often feel exhausted and frustrated. Things are serious in Hong Kong too — you won’t see a single person in the streets without a mask on, while couples no longer hold hands when walking. And kissing in public is a definite no.
It’s much, much worse in China, of course. Many of my friends from the mainland have expressed to me their nostalgia for life before the epidemic — walking around without face masks, going out for a drink with colleagues after a long day and, mostly, gossiping about bosses during lunch breaks.
A friend from a Beijing-based state-owned bank recently sent me a photo of his bank’s dining hall these days. The young chap is one of those unfortunate traders who still needs to go to the office.
“I feel like I am taking tests at lunches,” he wrote.
I looked at the photo. To avoid close contact between employees, the bank had put out tables two metres from each other on all sides, similar to school classrooms during exams. Everyone is eating in a cubicle of sorts, facing forward.
“The bank also told us to avoid talking to each other during meals,” my friend added. “They say that ‘no business is so urgent that you have to risk your life to discuss it’.”
Well, I’ll give them that. Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. I wonder how Tai Tai will respond if I suggest we do the same at home?