Getting caught in a ‘Smoggy Holiday’
The diary of a smog watcher stranded in a “fairyland”:
Dec 16, Friday
In the afternoon, I was kept on the edge of my seat, peering outside the window at white clouds and blue skies giving way to a beige pall of smog that blanketed Beijing.
Not everyone shared my mood for Smog Watching that often compelled me to write something in the newspaper. Heeding a red alert from the city, many rushed to pick up their children from schools earlier than usual and stock up on groceries for the weekend. The ring roads were crowded as drivers hurried home before
This Day, That Year
an odd-even license plate restriction came into force.
My son told me, elated: “The school said we’re going to have five days of Smoggy Holiday.”
Dec 17-18, SaturdaySunday
We stayed home. Besides doing household chores, I watched Bruce Willis’ Armaggedonabout an asteroid the size of Texas going to impact the Earth. Air pollution worsened but was nothing of apocalyptic proportions.
My wife noted that I’d been in my pajamas for the whole weekend.
Dec 19, Monday
On my way out during the lunch break, with a mask clamped on my nose, I ran into an American colleague and asked him why he didn’t wear one.
“It doesn’t bother me, Mexico is even worse,” he shrugged.
In the noodle restaurant near my workplace, I thought about disruption of life and work due to the red alert. My son was probably binge watching cartoon films. Far fewer people showed up for work with improvised flexible working hours and the car ban.
It was only a year ago that Beijing issued its first red alert, hailed as a watershed precedent that could force millions of vehicles off the roads, shut factories and construction sites, and close schools and kindergartens.
But people doubt its efficacy as it appears to be a quick fix to the symptoms, rather than treating the root cause.
Dec 20, Tuesday
It finally hit, exactly on the forecast day.
In the wee hours, I woke up to WeChat posts of “fairylands”, a satirical euphemism for city scenes enveloped by dangerous levels of smog. When I went to work, traffic was light on the usually busy expressways. The dim, partially hidden sun added to the gloom of a besieged city.
Dec 21, Wednesday
Smog was expected to be blown away, with something to chew on left in its wake.
Public awareness remained an issue. The police wrote a whopping 85,000 tickets to drivers who defied the car ban in the first three days. They might believe they had no responsibility to battle smog.
It could have been worse without the red alert as a form of transparent and proactive communication. The drastic measure heightened the sense of urgency for everybody with facts and evidence.
Contact the writer at yuan email@example.com