The Haze: What happened between 8.30 & 9 p.m. on 24 Sep 2015

The Haze is here and we’ve all gained new knowledge on surviving it. I mean info on which is the best mask, how to read PSI, using a wet towel with a fan etc… these weren’t stuff that our mothers taught us. Yet I learnt something else from this haze, and from the Social Media realm that we are all living in. I realised there’s a new definition to the word PATIENCE.

24 Sep (Thu)    This was the day when the PSI hit the hazardous range. From the late afternoon at about 6 p.m. there were some whispers of schools being closed. Then at about 8.30 p.m, on many whatsapp chat groups, someone from some very reliable source says school will be closed the next day. Of course there were a few different someones. The messages were either copied and paste LONG text or a simple one-liner. In any case, everyone was eager to pass the message, and add a disclaimer that the official announcement would be out soon.

There were those who would just blindly copy and paste and inform the whole world. And there are some who would check MOE website, FB page etc to see if there’s any information that corroborates with this reliable source.  Needless to say, there were none. For half an hour, the Singapore social media scene was abuzz with the most enthusiastic self-proclaimed reporters… parents were wondering and asking each other for confirmation, and it was really quite exciting. (Don’t ask me why, this no-school business would only give me extra hour of snooze. Yet there was a strange anticipation for a confirmation. And trust me, at that point, it wasn’t because of the very high PSI number!)

At 9 p.m., Channel News Asia broke the news. The various news agencies all posted this breaking news on their websites and social media platforms. It was confirmed.

So why were all of us so anxious to pass the message along? Why were we so upset there was nothing official from the ministry? Looking back now, I think I must have been quite mad too. It was only 8.30 p.m., even if the kids were tugged in to bed thinking there’s school tomorrow, the parents were all still awake. Was I afraid I would be left out of the information chain? That my poor kids would be the only ones locked outside the school gates? Why was there an urgency at 8.30 p.m.? What happened to patience to wait for the information?

I recall when SARS broke out and school was closed for 10 days in 2003. I was a teacher then. There were no whatsapp chats to copy and paste rumours. Not everyone had email access. So all we had was Channel News Asia. If there were any leaks from the ministry or from the press conference, the information just couldn’t travel fast enough for anyone to be anxious over.  I can’t recall what we did that day. But I remember going back to school, getting all the phone numbers of the my form class. And we spent the next day just calling and calling every single home, or parent or guardian. Of course there were those who missed the message and still turned up in school. Yet, no one was frantic or upset about the dissemination of information.

Alas, in 2015, things have changed. Technology has decreased our patience levels. We want the info fast, and we want them accurate. We forget it’s ok not to be first to be informed. We need to realise that in this particular case, no lives or money will be lost if we find out even at 6 a.m. the following day.

Can you remember what happened between 8.30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on that 24 Sept evening?

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