Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts after winning against German tennis player Alexander Zverev during their single match at Adria Tour, Novak Djokovic's Balkans charity tennis tournament in Belgrade on June 14, 2020. - The ATP and WTA Tours have been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will not resume at least until the end of July 2020. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP)
How do you live in a bubble?
The real new normal is to be paranoid about the human touch. Everyone and everything is suspected to be a virus carrier— even your hand, especially your hands
You can’t. You try, however, but then toothache happens.
Your dentist of many years doesn’t want to open the dental clinic just yet. After a good referral (thanks, Kat Dalusong, our advertising head) and research, you find a dental clinic in your suburb. It follows a thorough protocol—after your phone inquiry, it sends you a text questionnaire on what your tooth problem is and health questions. Then it emails another questionnaire related to the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), if you feel the symptoms and all.
On your appointment day, you’re advised to wait in your car—so no patient lingers in the reception lobby—and they text you when it’s time to go in. The clinic does disinfection after each patient, thus the waiting time. We learn later that the clinic, which could have an average of more than 30 patients on a weekend, now limits the number to three or four a day, thus the waiting for appointment date, and on the day itself, for the appointment hour.
Before you enter, you step on the disinfecting foot mat. The receptionist opens the door for you, apparently so you don’t touch the door and the clinic lessens the touch points of visitors.
Aside from your face mask and eyewear, for your procedure (cleaning the teeth and gums), you’re made to don a light PPE (personal protective equipment), hair cap, foot covers before you walk into the cubicle. The dentist and assistant are in full PPE gear with hair cap, double face masks, face shield and eyewear, and gloves.
After your procedure, you shed all that gear right in the cubicle even before you walk through the office corridor. As you step out of the clinic, you’re reminded again not to touch that door!
It’s a cumbersome procedure—but that’s the price of feeling safe and secure.
Tennis as solitary exercise
Not only is that our new normal, our friend Jackie Aquino pointed out, it is also the real new normal.
I never thought I’d see tennis as an almost solitary exercise. But I am experiencing it as such. Doubles are not yet allowed in our club, only singles, and only if you both belong to the same household. Since I don’t have a tennis buddy at home—my sons flee away from my sport and interests—I now hit again with a trainer who’s on the opposite far side of the court, way beyond the physical distancing required. Now I don’t need to pretend that I don’t hear his instructions; I really don’t, since he can’t come close anyway.
I use a fresh set of balls, which I don’t touch or pick up (not that I picked up balls pre-pandemic era), the ballboy does with his gloved hands. I wear a face mask (club requirement even during games) which I pull down to below my nose the longer I hit. I choose to play out in the open court early in the morning so I get the sun and the fresh breeze.
Since this is reentry into the sport after a long layoff (a valid solid reason), and this is not a match, I rally only as long as I want, run only when I want, and stop when I want to. I can finally prove my earlier point to my past coaches/trainers and tennis mates who suffered me that—in tennis, running is optional!
Seriously now, the world’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic testing positive for the virus proves that this pandemic doesn’t respect athletic invincibility. You can’t get a higher immune system than Djoko’s, who’s on a gluten-free diet and does the toughest workouts I’ve seen on Instagram. Former world No. 1 Andy Roddick tweeted ruefully, “Apparently, there’s a pandemic.”
Apparently. The grand slams could figure out a way to migrate the sport to a digital platform with a paying digital audience the way BTS did with its biggest virtual concert (more than 700,000 paying global audience) last June 14. Unless that’s done, Wimbledon, Roland-Garros, perhaps the US Open and the Australian Open will not be part of our new normal this year or even next year.
This new normal yields the sad reality that you can’t physically condole with family and friends who lose their loved ones. God forbid that you yourself lose one in these times. Tech apps try to approximate the experience of a physical gathering.
The past month I’ve attended the virtual funeral rites and tributes of the loved ones of friends: Perfecto Yasay Jr., whose wife, Chelsea, is a friend from school; Feliciano Rodriguez Jr., whose son, Lian, is our contributor; Amadeo Perez, whose daughter Tet and son-in-law Bong Naguiat are dear friends. You listened to their kin and friends retrieve the memorable moments of the lives of these dear departed and caught precious shreds of their character.
I had never been to as many funeral tributes as I had the past weeks (the deaths weren’t COVID-related, by the way), without having to leave the house. Virtual meetings are that convenient, and the collective hug—even if it could never substitute for the physical touch—was comfortingly warm.
As done every year, we marked the 21st death anniversary of Geny Lopez last June 28 at a virtual Mass, and for the first time, even those based in the United States were able to join. Indeed, the new normal is how you make technology make up for some very basic deprivation—that human touch.
The real new normal is to be paranoid about the human touch. Everyone and everything is suspected to be a virus carrier—your family, even your hand, especially your hands. The young and the able-bodied in the household, whether they like it or not, have shared vulnerability with the rest. A strong immune system is a good start, yet it’s no guarantee. Research on this pandemic is a work in progress.
Acceptance of the real new normal will perhaps lessen one’s anxiety. It’s accepting and understanding that life as we knew it will not be back in the near future—instant meet-ups, concerts and theater, even and especially jobs. People are losing jobs. And the little that’s left for us will have to be virtual.
The arts, like almost anything, must migrate to the digital platform. The audience will not be built instantly; it will be a slow burn. But in the end, it will be a borderless experience, with limitless possibilities.
It’s said that the pandemic is the survival of the fittest. Even if that is so, one hopes that it will not be strictly the law of the jungle. We like to think that the human race has reached a measure of civilization where the fittest cares for and protects the less fit. Even if a government does not, at least the sense of human values remains.
On this page is how some people adjust to the new normal.