Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The New Collecting Normal

I remember it quite clearly, it was Thursday March 6, 2020 and I was sitting in my office looking forward to the weekend. As usual, I had plans to go to Manila’s toy mecca, Greenhills shopping center to pick up some pre orders that arrived and just make my rounds to see what else was there. And then the news broke that the first positive COVID case was identified from a man who was known to have regularly visited a Musilm prayer hall in.you guessed it, Greenhills.

Like many people, I had no real grasp on what this news actually meant. At this point, Information about COVID was sketchy at best, you didn’t know what was real and what was fake news. I don’t think many of us had any idea of how this virus would actually affect each and every one of us, and unfortunately just how badly our own Government would handle...no bungle this situation.

Anyway, using better judgement, I opted not to go to Greenhills that weekend and just book a rider to pick up my orders for me. And then a little over a week later, the country went into Enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which basically meant that most offices and pretty much all commercial establishments were closed down and we were told to stay home.

It wasn’t long before things escalated into a full blown pandemic which basically affected and changed our lives and how we went about our daily activities….including toy collecting. Now before I go any further, I hope I don’t come off as a superficial and shallow individual who only thinks about toys in these unfortunate times. Of course I know that in the greater scheme of things, toys aren’t what you would call essential. But eventually, life has to go on and a big part of my life is toy collecting. And yes, this IS a blog about toys, so I just decided to write about what changes and adjustments I went through in order to keep my own hobby going during this pandemic.

Pre-Covid, I used to joke with my wife, that while most husbands spent Sunday mornings on the golf course, I spent mine in Greenhills. Covid put that weekly activity to a grinding halt. Obviously initially this was beyond my control as the malls all closed down. However, months later, when quarantine measures eased up and malls reopened, I barely set foot in them at all. And for those few times that I did go..boy was it a production, with double masking and mandatory faceshields (an idiotic govt policy in my opinion). I likened going to the mall like a sting operation, no side trips, just get what you came for, in and out. Go go go! With the overhanging spectre of the possibility of infection, It was quite stressful to say the least.

So with actual physical toy hunting out, how did I get all my toys? Well like pretty much everything else my shopping went online. And I got my toys through rider pick up and delivery. Aside from vendors on the FB Marketplace, the major retail stores like Toy Kingdom and Toys R’Us ramped up their customer service efforts on Viber to maximize their sales. The same went for any toy selling on my part. Gone were the face to face meetups as they were also replaced by my buyers also booking their own riders to get their items from me at my house gate.

But getting the toys was only half of the story...what exactly did I do with them when they got to the house? Well that was a whole other production in itself.

While the risk of contracting COVID through contact surfaces is quite low, there was always that occasional story of someone who never left their house getting sick...so that risk, however low, was always on my mind. It didn’t matter where the toy came from...as long as it came from outside, it had to be cleaned and disinfected one way or another.

The easiest to clean were basic action figures; Marvel Legends and Star Wars Black Series. Since they were primarily all plastic, each one of them was subjected to a mandatory soap bath before joining my shelf.

The trickier toys were the Transformers, which were more complex with the occasional diecast parts, metal screws and pins. Initially I would just lightly wipe them down with some alcohol but this was too risky as it could damage their paint, so I had to come up with another alternative.

Enter my makeshift UV lightbox.

At a suggestion from a fellow collector, I went the ultraviolet route. This basically involved getting a sizable Light Sterilizer UV Lamp and a large enough plastic bin container. This became our household’s first line of defense against the virus. EVERYTHING that came from the outside that wasn’t edible was subjected to at least 15 mins of UV treatment...including my toys. No matter the size, big or small, they all got the UV treatment. Now I am not an expert in ultra violet disinfection but I’ve been told that it works and that’s good enough for me and my peace of mind.

And so here we are, close to finishing up our 2nd full year with this pandemic. While life isn’t completely back to normal, like many, I have adjusted to and come to accept a NEW normal (I used to hate that term). Regardless of how we cope with our new reality, what I think is vital for our mental health and well being is to find a way to continue doing what makes us happy. And for me, a big part of that is my toy collecting hobby. So yeah, while I had to make major adjustments, my toy shelf continues to grow and evolve and hopefully the stories will keep on coming!