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Air quality agony is the new reality

  • 17 January 2020


There wasn't much I could say about the children running around in circles in the library. Outside had an air quality index (AQI) reading of 400 or 'hazardous' (but who needs ratings when you can look outside and feel like you're suspended in a cloud?)

Clearly the kids didn't care about the AQI, and since they were being very cute, it was hard to resent their noisy indoor antics. One said to the other, 'You come to my house so we can play together,' to which the other said, 'You come to my house so we can play together!' This went on for an interminable amount of time (by adult standards) until one ended the debate with, 'No, you come to my friend Susie's house so we can play together!' 

It was my first time at this library. I'd come to escape the heavy smoke which was permeating Melbourne and my old draughty apartment. Approaching the service desk upon arrival, I admit to looking deliberately pathetic in the hopes of avoiding a laborious sign-up process to access the wi-fi. I only wanted somewhere I could work safely, breathing in non-toxic air.

Earlier, when my partner kissed me goodbye as he left for work, I'd blurted out, 'Don't walk in this morning!'

'What?' he said, halfway to the door. 

'Don't walk. The air is bad.' I'd checked my air quality phone app while half asleep about 20 minutes prior (even my subconscious is obsessed with the AQI) and noted a new and effectively-alarming colour rating. 'I'll get the bus,' he said as he left. 

There had been a solid plan for my day. Being self-employed and at the tail end of a big project, there were still plenty of loose ends, and I wanted to get tying. Yet my mind was consumed by smoky air. The burnt orange colour coming through the windows, muddying what would have been a sunny summer morning. The crusty smell and gross taste coating my throat. The app telling me to 'wear a mask', 'stay indoors' and 'keep windows shut'.


"As I sat there negotiating their slow wi-fi, the place began to develop a smoke haze."


Our apartment is old. And not in a built in the '60s and hasn't been renovated for a while way, but in a Multiple wall vents in every room to avoid asphyxiation from fireplace smoke kind of way. It's an old 1920s art deco apartment, and aside from desperately needing