225. Haze, Haze, Go Away

A perpetual smog seemed to have settled over the Klang Valley.

(I don’t actually know if Klang has a valley, or is a valley. It’s just something I’ve been told my whole life, and I go with it – why would people lie, right? Then again, many things could be said about that…)

I noticed it when I came off the plane 2 Saturdays ago. The hazy smokescreen that prevents you from seeing to far. The faint smell of smoke in the air. The heat lingered on my skin. The dryness in my mouth.

I didn’t pay much attention to it. But determined to get my attention, the haze intensified. As of 2P.M. today, the Air Pollutant Index over Petaling Jaya has risen to 140, which is “unhealthy”.

On the bright side, no outdoor activities are recommended at this time. So I have a totally valid excuse why I’m not outside exercising my excess fats off. Yay!

A little bit of research tells me that the worst haze ever recorded was in 1997, following the Asian Financial Crisis. The Air Pollutant Index over Sarawak was at a staggering 700+. If 140 is “unhealthy”, I suppose 700+ would have read “insta death” or something.

I’ve never been a real fan of haze, but it has become a yearly thing, almost commonplace by now. Like the Chinese New Year drought, or the monsoon season. The haze comes in and it goes out, and we carry on our lives as usual.

I can remember one time I was happy to see the haze though. It was 2006, and my school decided that the best way to prepare us Form 3 students for PMR was to have a pre-PMR exam.

(at the SPM level, they took it to the logical extreme: pre-trial-SPM)

I was sitting in class, waiting for the Chinese paper to be passed around. I knew I was going to fail that exam. Because let’s face it: I am no more likely to properly decipher ancient Chinese text than I am to eat bittergourd. In fact, I’m more likely to do the latter, thanks to the healthy food crusafe my mom has been on since, well, ever.

(have you tasted beetroot juice? That shit is NASTY)

I was ready to flunk the test. I didn’t even care anymore. But then I heard my name being called, and there my elder sister was, standing at the door of my class in her prefect uniform, telling us that school has been canceled for the rest of the day on account of the haze.

She then looked at me. “So? You want to go home or not?”

Hell yes I do.

It’s a little bit like the sickness I caught some weeks back. The haze is at that annoying place where it’s strong enough to cause discomfort, but not severe enough to cause nationwide panic.

I’m just here praying for rain, while at the same time going, “You know, God, either let it rain, or let the haze become so bad that they have to declare a national emergency day off from work”.

God knows we all need one.

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