It has been almost 2 weeks since BC went into snooze mode due to the pandemic. During this time, I had to go for grocery shopping since, well, I’m a big eater. Here are some of the “sights and sounds” of Vancouver just before the stay home order and well into the Big Snooze.
On the Streets
Some chat groups I was in shared grim news and images of shops in Vancouver downtown being boarded up, because mobbers saw the chance to break into shops that were closed following the close down orders. However, it was nothing like the scene of an apocalypse movie. Yes, the streets were almost deserted, but there was no one hiding in a corner waiting to rob me.
Outside of Vancouver downtown, the scene was livelier. Everyone could have been out on the streets after being trapped in their homes due to days of rain (and taking the chance to grab some essentials). However, physical distancing measures had already taken root. I had to queue up in the parking lot, with spaces marked by boxes on the ground, to get my fried chicken fix.
On the Bus
Just before my school campus closed for online learning, buses were already taking measures to protect the drivers. We had to board from the back of the bus and the seat nearest to the driver was cordoned off.
Bus rides also became free for all – there was no need to tap in. In the past, in order to alight the bus, we had to push the door to trigger it to open. Now, the driver opened it from his end, so that we minimise physical contact with public objects (I think this was very thoughtful!). Of course, it was still hard to refrain from grabbing the poles and seat handles when moving through the moving bus. However, the golden rule applies: Wash your hands frequently and especially after returning from a trip to public places!
A week into the stay home order, the buses even cordoned off seats so that we would not be seated next to each other – not that there were many people taking the buses though. Compared to the past, I think ridership has more than halved. In my short trip to the grocery store, there were barely 5 people on board. It might seem like a futile effort to try physical distancing on buses, since passengers are inevitably squeezed into a confined space. However, I still appreciate the effort to help us keep our distances.
To Mask, Or Not to Mask?
In my latest trip out last week, there was still not a lot of people wearing masks when they were outside. Oh well, the general advice was not to wear one if we’re not sick, anyways. Most of those wearing masks were Asians; through my discussion with my peers, compared to the East Asia, there is this stigma in the West for wearing masks in public places. In East Asia, one wears a mask to protect themselves and from others; it was almost an accessory like wearing a cap. In the Western world, however, people wearing masks are assumed to be sick and they should not have been out and about in the first place. This could also explain a lack of mask wearers in Vancouver.
Did I wear a mask? No, because I could not get one before the panic buyers acted…
Is There An Outbreak of Racist Acts?
A lot of Asian media grabbed the chance to report any racist acts or assaults that happened in the Western world, and to some extent, sensationalised it. I think it is inevitable that many Asian parents whose children are studying in places like UK, US and Canada are affected by these reports and are worried about their children.
I personally did not encounter any acts of racism. It could be because I’m big sized (i.e. fat) by Asian standards, so people don’t pick on me. But I also think Canadians’ immigrant culture also played a big part. I mean, in Vancouver, about 15% of the population are Chinese, followed by 12% South Indians. And I’m not including people from other parts of the world like Africa and South America. Most of us are friends or neighbours with many people of other ethnic descents. Therefore, I would say the general sentiment is of acceptance, rather than hostility.
The closest thing to a race-targeted act I saw was vandalism on an ad at a bus stop. At the start of the pandemic, one of the ads at the bus stop on my way to school was defaced. I took a picture of it as I happened to talk about vandalism for my school presentation that day. However, I didn’t take heart since I was used to seeing graffiti around town.
The following day, the glass on the ad space was broken and cordoned off. That extent of anti-social act was quite rare, especially outside of downtown Vancouver. In the 2 weeks to come, I noticed that no other bus stop ads suffered the same kind of damage. When I relooked at the image, it dawned on me why the ad in particular was targeted.
That was the closest to a “race-based” hostility I had encountered. And I hope I never had to encounter it.
That was it… the situation in Vancouver as the fallout from the pandemic unfolds. Canadians in general are rather chill about this and taking everything in their stride. Unlike the hysteria portrayed on media of the Western world, at least Vancouver is not falling into chaos.
At best, it was business as usual, albeit at an even slower pace. It was as though the metropolis is stuck in a constant early morning mode.
Till then, sing while you can.