The New Normal

By Katie

Today I woke up to the smell of smoke in my apartment. I couldn’t see the city. I rugged up for work on this summer’s day and walked out into the rain. The combination of rain and smoke haze is unsettling.

At work, colleagues discuss the need to buy face masks. Officeworks has sold out, as has Bunnings. I order three masks online but they won’t arrive for weeks. My manager has been sending out an email to our team, saying that the smell of smoke is not from a fire in the building. People are smelling smoke in the office and thinking there is a fire.

My workplace runs Disaster Legal Help, a special phone line for people who need legal support related to a disaster. We are inundated with calls today and the wait times reach 2 hours.

In the meantime, my headaches are triggered each time the haze returns. The rain hasn’t been strong enough to wash it away. It reminds me of Beijing, where the only day I saw the sun was after a typhoon.

I see many people wearing masks in the CBD, but most don’t have the proper ones for protection. I see one pregnant woman who has the correct mask. On the tram, visitors from the country are discussing the need to stock up on food and water supplies before returning home.

It’s a relief to get home and inside, although the smell of smoke still permeates the air. Welcome to the new normal.

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