Really, truly maddening

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - June 7, 2020 - 12:00am

Maybe just for today my column title should be “From My Maddening Heart.” I don’t really know how this began. Someone gave me a small bottle of pili oil, saying it was good for healing anything. Should I want more, just call her. She would give me more.

I had noticed a small swelling on my leg. I decided to put pili oil on it. It has improved tremendously. Last night I noticed I was running out of oil. So I thought to call and ask for more but this time I offered to pay. She said she wasn’t selling. Now my problem became, where do I look for it?

Someone told me he saw oodles of it on one of the shopping malls on the internet. I decided to check it out the next morning. But this morning began with trips to the bank. We live in a condo with three banks on the first floor. I thought that, since we are in June, the beginning of halfway through the year, and the government seemed to sound like it was beginning to loosen up on the quarantine, it was time for me to move my bank accounts.

You see, I used to live in San Juan. I opened an account at the bank closest to me. Everything went well but I never expected I’d get married when I did that. Then, after a few years, I met my husband and got married and moved house. Now I live in Mandaluyong and, coincidentally, there is a branch of the same bank on the first floor. I liked that. I could do my banking by just going downstairs. But now I have lived here for two years and, with the quarantine and all, I thought it a good idea to ask if I could just move my bank accounts over.

Masked, I went down to the first floor. There was a line outside the bank but the guard looked at me and said, “Senior?” I nodded. He sprayed my hands and took my temperature. No fever. He let me in. I was shocked by what I saw inside. The tellers were behind a clear plastic curtain with just a little slot for you to put in your details and payments. At the desk for New Accounts there was a tall, thin Plexiglass structure with just a little niche for you to transact business. When I looked at the people in the waiting area they were far from each other, everyone with masks on. We all stared glumly at each other. I don’t know why but I felt suffocated and estranged — like I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing in that strange place, even if all the plastic and Plexiglass was clear. I walked out — dutifully placing my feet on the rubber mat soaked in disinfectant — and headed to the entry of our condo to yet another mat soaked in disinfectant. I came home feeling totally disoriented and drop-dead exhausted.

Why? I just went to the bank. It must have been the total strangeness of the environment. Everything covered with plastic. All those eyes staring questioningly at you like you knew each other, when actually you don’t.

In this state of bewildered exhaustion I went to my computer to try and establish a relationship with this shopping mall on the internet. Omigod, is this what happens to old women? I am sure my grandson who is in his teens would have signed up and gotten done in five minutes. It took me forever.

My phone has a Chinese name. The shopping mall has a site. I couldn’t get past registering my email address and password. I would finish fastidiously typing in my password to make sure it was correct and it would prompt that either the user name or the password were unacceptable. Then I remembered my phone password was numbers. So I typed it in. It sent me another “unacceptable” prompt. I got fed up. I exited that site.

I went to the main site. I got my registration done. I got the address done but not without a struggle because Mandaluyong City was down on their list and kept escaping my notice. But I finally managed. I found not quite the same pili oil, but something I was willing to try. Then I checked out — everything going more or less well — but in the end, they said I had not chosen my mode of payment. Okay, let me look for the prompt that says “Mode of Payment.” Here, I should really put in a series of curse words for my inability to find the “Curse Word Mode of Payment” prompt. So, curse word, I just gave up.

You know what? Every time I play a game on my phone the invites for that internet mall keep showing up, reminding me that I had thrown them away. And that’s why this column is written from my desperately maddening heart!

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