When the Dust Settles

I sat motionless on my seat, unable to move because I could not believe what I was seeing. My face slowly scrunched up in a silent scream NOOOOOO!!!

Amidst the drilling and hacking noises that were taking out my eardrums, billows of visible particles happily made their way into my flat from the front door. Wave after wave the particles floated in, riding the wind currents, and quickly settled onto any exposed surface in my flat, including me. Soon, I was covered in a thin film of whitish dust, as with anywhere else.

I did not sign up for this, but with the Man blissfully away on reservist, and the Housing Development Board (HDB) conducting mandatory improvement works (Home Improvement Programme) to all eligible units in our block of flats, I became the only available body to be subject to the “coating of dust”. Worker after worker came in and out of the flat carrying out their assigned tasks dutifully from 8am to 6pm daily. I sat quietly in 1 visible spot in the living room, getting up only to direct the workers. And cleaning up after the workers were done for the day.

I limited my water intake, because that was the only way I could limit the number of visits I would have to make to the 1 of 2 make-shift, communal toilets downstairs at the void deck. I shall not atttempt to describe the condition these 2 make-shift toilets that all females in the entire block of flats of over a hundred households have to share during this period, while HDB replaces our old, rusty sanitary pipes and toilet wall/floor tiles.

I count my blessings that my parents opened up their flat for us to stay in during this period, especially the kids, for the dust and noise made our flat inhabitable. A wonderful haven I got to crash out every evening, after I was done cleaning for the day. And my parents-in-law helped take care of the kids over 2 weekends, while the Man (who thankfully got to book out during weekends and help) and I tried to restore our flat daily after the damage, I mean, improvements.

The improvement works to our flat were finally done after 10 days. The workers have since moved on to other units. And I am so relieved to put down the broom/mop/rags/sponge for the time being, and get back to my regular job as an employee, sitting in a comfortable, air-conditioned office in front of the computer.

Sure, there are still baskets of laundry and bedsheets waiting to be washed. The floor still feels dusty. Dust still coats the surfaces of the furniture, although at a slower rate. Every corner I turn, my now-trained eyes zoom in on remnant debris and dust left behind from the renovation works. My sensitive skin and nose are still reminding me of the combined effects of insufficient water intake and prolonged exposure to dust. But I am so thankful of the help I had from supportive parents, every morning I pass by bleary-eyed neightbours waiting their turn to use the toilet downstairs, carrying their toiletries in baskets or pails. There is much restoration to our flat to do, but I am glad the worst is over. And I would know how to better protect our flat and minimise the amount of cleaning the next time. Not that I wish there were would be a next time …


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