An Unexpected February

In the blink of an eye, almost 2 months have passed since the start of the year. But while January was a relatively slow month, with projects stalling in the lull between Christmas and Chinese New Year, February has moved at an almost frenetic pace.

Of course, this was not just because of the projects that came in with extremely tight deadlines, nor the big shoot that we had with a major celebrity (watch this space for the video!). The biggest event that shaped the pace of February was instead… the Virus.

Like all responsible business owners, we endeavoured to follow the Government’s advice to conduct temperature-taking twice a day when the DORSCON alert was raised to orange on 7th Feb. However, this is when the saga started; it was almost impossible to locate thermometers for our staff at regular retail outlets. Acting on a tip-off, we headed over to Mustafa Centre, unaware that the night of Panic Buying had arrived.

At Mustafa, we were fortunate enough to locate a Braun in-ear thermometer, but that was when the next hurdle arrived. Disposable ear caps were out of stock, and the thermometer itself only came with 20 pieces. After a flurry of calculations (how many shoots do we have up ahead, how many pax per shoot etc), and going through alternative scenarios (what if we issue a fixed number of caps to each staff and ask them to disinfect them between uses?), we finally formulated a game plan: get the thermometer, order more ear caps with expedited delivery on Amazon (thanks Amazon Prime free trials!), and pray that Fed-Ex performs as promised.

Over the weekend, we continued to try and procure more supplies, while working out business continuity plans (Send the editors home with their computers? Is everything ready on external drives?). Thankfully, we already had things like masks, disinfectants and hand sanitizers on hand as we used these on normal days. However, the one thing we needed most urgently was thermometers. We had to account for both shoots, and the staff working in the office. One ear thermometer was thus not enough, but two, without sufficient earcaps, wasn’t much better.

And so we pulled out some old oral thermometers, got new batteries, and managed to revive at least one of them. An ancient batch of 48 oral thermometer sleeves were discovered somewhere, which meant that the thermometer could be shared safely – for now. It would just be a matter of returning to the strategy room, figuring out how to deploy the limited resources, and plotting our next steps to stay ahead.

Amazingly, our order for the additional 200 ear caps, although only placed on Friday night, arrived exactly on Monday morning – taking just 2 days to travel the globe! However, our joy was short-lived. The shop had run out of stock and we could not place a new order. Then, there was more bad news – there would potentially be two shoots running concurrently in the following need, which meant that we would need a third thermometer.

Knowing that any form of temperature taking requiring disposables was likely to be unsustainable (for multiple reasons), we scrambled to get our hands on a forehead thermometer. We hoped that Amazon’s expedited delivery would pull through once again. However, when the device arrived, it seemed flimsy and unreliable – soon, it had stopped working and we had to send it back.

Then 2 pieces of good news – the second shoot had been cancelled, and we found a supplier on Lazada with ready stocks of Braun forehead thermometers. Expensive, no doubt, but branding works, and so we went ahead. And just like a repeat of 2 weeks ago, an order was put in on Friday night, and by Monday, we had it in our hands!

While that closes a chapter of this little saga, we are under no illusions that it’d be the last. That said, we are lucky as compared to some of our fellow production houses and freelancers who have had to deal with various shoot cancellations. While we’ve had some postponements (especially with government clients who have more urgent matters to deal with!), and a couple of scares (like the rumour of a case at 18 Taiseng!), our projects have largely proceeded as normal.

So even though we now find ourselves the proud owners of 2 Braun thermometers (and an Amazon Prime membership) that we probably will not use much a few months down the road (hopefully!), most importantly, we are now more prepared if and when this situation occurs again in the future. We were only in secondary school when SARS hit, and in university when there was H1N1, so in many ways, this has been a rite of passage for both of us, as well as the rest of OHBOY.

— Ash & Jeremy

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