As someone with a little bit of OCD, dining out during the era of COVID-19 is like navigating a minefield. You become hyper aware of your surrounds and micro decisions are required almost every step of the way. For instance, when approaching the entrance to a restaurant, there’s the door handle: use one’s elbow or fish out a piece of tissue paper to touch it? Or perhaps wait two seconds and someone will hopefully open the door from the inside?

Once seated, I notice the cutlery placed on the table, resting on but a flimsy barrier of paper napkin beneath. I wonder how long it’s been sitting there, and if it has picked up possible pathogens on the tabletop left by the previous customer. Is it terrible to ask for a fresh set? “I get inexplicably happy when I see forks, spoons and chopsticks individually wrapped in plastic these days,” says a colleague whose most pressing concern at the moment is not waging a war against single-use plastic. After a lengthy scrub at the toilet sink, I return and panic a little when the waiter hands me a greasy menu. Damn, should’ve washed my hands after ordering. I eye the raw items on the menu: sashimi, salad, and wonder if getting some is akin to dicing with death.

And then, the server fills my water glass. To my dismay, he picks it up by the rim — where my lips would soon touch. Should I throw caution to the winds and drink it anyway? My equally fastidious friend laments, “just the other day, a waitress stood too close over my food and took forever to explain every single dish. I couldn't help but think of all that saliva.”  

Many of these fears are born from paranoia, but some are legitimate causes for concern. Still, if one wanted to be almost 100% virus-free, the only way is to never leave home and eat all three meals cooked in one’s own kitchen. But because this isn’t possible for most working Singaporeans like me, it warms the cockles of my germophobe heart when I see the various safety measures painstakingly taken by many eateries during this fraught period. Especially when restaurants and even famous hawkers are seeing significant dips in their business as Singaporeans avoid crowded places. 

It’s tough enough cooking and waiting on people for a living, but imagine having to do that while constantly disinfecting tables, chairs, (even menus), having to take one’s temperature twice daily, washing one’s hands nonstop and trying to breathe through a surgical mask. It’s both touching and reassuring.

Compiled below are a few of the steps employed by restaurants to help curb the spread of this virus. Now, go forth and dine out. Have a good time, support these hardworking folks and keep our makan scene alive. Just don’t forget to wash your hands.