Being mandatorily placed on Stay-Home Notice upon arrival back home after 9 months away was originally a horrifying thought. I’d just spent 3 months in lockdown in Madrid, and had a hard time being there, due to various personal reasons.
After picking up my luggage at Changi Airport, I was ushered off with about 12 other people onto one of those 40-seater buses and whisked off quickly to JW Marriott South Beach, where I was to serve my 14-day quarantine.
Dear COVID-19, thank you for letting me win the Hotel Lottery.
I’d never expected the JW Marriott to be my new transitional home. My toilet was bigger than my bedroom in Madrid. The bed was a king-size one and I had a TV. There was space in the room to do yoga. I knew I had to do a documentation of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The SHN process is simple. As an at-risk individual for COVID-19 returning from an area with a high number of cases, we were to be isolated for an incubation period sans contact with other people. Housekeeping would not be entering our rooms for room service. We were not supposed to leave the room for any reason, except for the swab-test on Day 10. It was going to be a quiet, lonely time, especially hard for an extreme extrovert like myself.
A (strangely) heavy door separated me from the rest of the world. Meals were delivered 3 times a day where staffers would place a disposable tray of food on a chair purposefully placed outside of your door, ring the bell, knock on the door, and basically run away. This was the same process anytime your laundry came, or if someone delivered something to you.
Place on chair, ring bell, knock on door, disappear. It was like you were being assisted by ninjas.
By Day 4, curious and perhaps desperate for human interaction, I started to observe these visible and invisible ninjas, and document all the humans passing my door.
I started taking photos through the peephole in the door.
The folks who came by the most often were definitely the catering team. 3 times a day without fail, feeding us like zoo animals. Sometimes you’d get to see them in the corridor if you responded to the bell quick enough.
Then there’s the concierge team that brought you your deliveries. If you chose to get GrabFood or Deliveroo; or if family or friends chose to drop stuff off for you, it had to be handed off at a reception desk at the JW driveway. And someone from the team then brought it up to the chair outside your room. They were quick and stealthy, often disappearing into the same lift that brought them upstairs. You’d get to catch them if you get tipped off by friends and family that they’d just handed something over.
The most elusive was the housekeeping team. The most silent of them all, they would collect and return your laundry on a daily basis, and hand off fresh sheets for you to change on your own on Day 7. It took me days to monitor and track them, and finally snapped a photo of them via the peephole.
Most days, a pair of officers from ICA would come by to check that you’re in your room as well. They were always polite and cheery, and a welcome human boost to the day.
And on Election Day, the most amazing thing happened. The polling booth came right to my door. I felt like royalty.
Dear COVID-19, thank you for reminding me about human connections.
Thank you for reminding me how blessed I am to be surrounded by a plethora of loving, caring, and generous friends and family. In the last 2 weeks of contact-free isolation, I was never REALLY isolated. Not a single day went by without someone coming by with some snack, or tea, or noodles, or books, or flowers, or just waving from the sidewalk across the street, 14 levels down; and I’ve never been more grateful.