Front-line workers' masks cannot hide their calm and courtesy

A man exiting the Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test facility at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Feb 10, 2021. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - An organised calm was my welcome home last Sunday night (May 23) at Changi Airport. Go left, join this line, sit down, be tested. Order amid tension is reassuring.

I had arrived from Delhi and was greeted in the terminal by a stream of front-line workers, who spend their days dealing with visitors from disparate lands. I wondered, are they nervous? I would be.

Under those gloves, gowns and masks were humans, after all. They had families and futures. They had read the papers and knew about clusters and strains. Still all I got from them was evenness, generosity and courtesy. They were bound by duty.

One woman swabbed my nostril and another divided us into lines for the hotel. A man escorted us to the bus. Another man drove. A quiet army was in charge.

At Park Avenue Rochester hotel, my luggage was sprayed and my temperature taken. It was late at night, but the staff member who was checking me into the hotel for my 21-day quarantine offered me a faint smile. Maybe she saw my tired face and knew I needed it.

I was grateful to her - and everyone I encountered - and on reflection, they taught me something. What comprises character is a question we are constantly asking ourselves. Perhaps it is partly this: An ability to be efficient, accepting and patient even when under stress.

Singapore is not perfect, but my night mostly was. There was something old-fashioned in the air, a pride in doing a job. I said "thank you" whenever I could and yet one thing will stay with me. I'll never know who helped me because I never saw their faces.

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