The Worst of the Haze Isn't the Haze

The barista clasped his hands over his head as he looked outside. “It looks like 490,” he said. The cashier taking my order replied, “You can see just how bad it is.” Then she looked at me. “We’re gonna die,” she said, jokingly.

I looked at her with a smile. “In that case, can I get my coffee free?”


The barista wasn’t too far off the mark. As at 11am this morning, the 3-hourly PSI average hit an unprecedented 400 here in Singapore, and it’s set to go higher. The last 3 days, Facebook was inundated with status posts about the haze, including before-after pictures showing the daily worsening of our weather conditions. Last Monday (when the PSI reading was at the mid-100s), people were staring at me like I was paranoid for wearing a respirator mask my father gave me. Today, the N95 masks are all but sold out, and I was told a black market had emerged with N95 masks being sold at $3 a piece.

The wife and I managed to get our batch of masks off a friend last night, but it’s our boy that we’re worried about. The standard sized N95 masks are too large for him, and this morning, we had to make do with teaching him how to hold a wet handkerchief to his face before sending him to school.

Online, I saw a status update from someone who was surveying the streets at mid-day yesterday, that construction workers were all diligently donning their masks while they work, but the general public were being more careless with their breathing. She noticed a mother and father walking with their masked child, themselves without masks, and remarking that it was a case of “do as I say, not as I do”. As a father, I wouldn’t be too sure. Given the limited availability of masks the last few days, I’d rather my son wear one and I go without if that was the only mask we had.


The situation has all of us getting really… irritated? Annoyed? Angry. Angry with the weather, with the Indonesian government, with our government, with each other, with ourselves, as though something in the air triggered a mass change in temper. Some, like the dear barista and his cashier counterpart, are feeling helpless. Some take to judgmental rants over other people’s reactions to the haze, as though the more they rant, the less the haze will bother them. Others are taking activist approaches, telling stories of construction workers and how a stop work order needs to be issued (which I don’t quite agree with, but will withhold comment until I have a better grasp of what’s going on). And for people like me, my wife, and my son, life goes on. It has to. We have work to do, people to feed, bills to pay.

The world doesn’t stop turning, even if we issue a stop work order against it. We just deal with it.

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