“You say yes, I say no, you say stop, and I say go, go, go. Oh no – You say goodbye, and I say hello. Hello, hello – I don’t know why you say goodbye I say hello,” are lines from a song popularized by Paul McCartney.
In tune with this song is the coming back of my eldest son who had been away and stranded in Manila since March, and the going back to the States of my sister-in-law and her son and cousin. They were also stranded here since March. Hello son, adieu sister, nephew, and cousin.
A lot has happened in the past three months. We have grown closer and wiser, learned and played new games, exercised, shared meals and stories together longer than planned.
Manila became so far instead of so near with the completion of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway. Crossing borders and municipalities became an arduous task. The lines that divided municipalities, cities, and provinces that we only used to imagine in maps, became vivid with Covid (nag-rhyme pa). Oh Covid, you made strangers out of neighbors and friends out of distance acquaintances. Group chats became frequent. Zoom chats became popular. Family activities made us closer and more appreciative of each other. Strangers extended helping hands and support. Frontliners became our heroes.
The months passed by so quickly. Was it because we wanted to do so many things all at once? Was it because we watched too many telenovelas? Was it because we did so many chores, the hours ticked faster? Hair, beard, and moustache grew longer and messier. Skin became whiter and waistlines bigger. And so, as the days of goodbyes came closer, we realized there were still so many things to do and say.
People have reinvented themselves. Teachers became cooks, performers became teachers, senior citizens became the protected, owners and professionals became food messengers. The new look – pajamas with masks and visors became fashionable, baking became the new hobby. Learning online became manageable, we can learn fast after all. Noon became the new wakeup time and midnight the new sleeping time.
As we sorted up the material things that we had, fashionable clothes, jewelry, high heels became non-essential. Medicines, food and groceries, fruits and vegetables, vitamin C, alcohol, Lysol and toilet paper became the essentials. Washing of hands and wearing masks also became essential.
I was sorting out my training modules on customer service and reception techniques. By golly, I thought to myself, the things I taught were no longer needed – a big smile to welcome visitors, a good and firm hand shake, and eye contact to show sincerity – they are all nada. Nowadays, you cannot see a smile, you can just imagine it. You cannot shake hands, only elbow to elbow or foot to foot greeting. A better greeting is a low Japanese or Korean bow or a “sawadi-ka” (for females) and “sawadi-krap” (for males) hands together bow.
An eye-to-eye greeting is no longer needed with visors and PPEs. The new normal to welcome visitors is with a hand sanitizer or alcohol and a sanitized door mat.
Even the mask has evolved. Before, when you see someone wearing a mask, you think of illness. Now it’s part of the new wardrobe, though some experts say you still need a filter in between to go with a fashionable mask.
The mat outside our doors has been replaced with sanitized door mats. Instead of buying mats three to a peso, now it’s P300 a mat. As I watched Korean movies, I admire that part of their house design and good house practice is to leave your shoes in the ante room and to wear a house slipper to go in.
Hello best practices and goodbye old habits.