“So, how is working from home going?”
If you happen to be one of the millions like me who has been stuck working from home, chances are that you’ll have been asked this question quite often lately. And even if you’re totally dying inside, you just say “fine,” so everyone can go about their day, right? When you’re entering your third (3rd!) month of working from home (that’s nine weeks for you folks who after childbirth reflexively insist on telling us that little Bryan or Alexia is 30,4 weeks old and not 7 months) it’s a question that while innocuous on the surface can actually incite deep bouts of self-reflection, which in turn can make you understand your life is a total, complete and entire mess spiralling entirely out of control towards an absolute state of total mental entropy. But so is everyone else’s. So cool. Coolcoolcool.
A colleague I don’t often see was the one who asked me this very same question last week. It’s funny because I only gave it serious thought when she asked it, even though my direct colleagues and the members of my team and I often ask ourselves that very same question. But chatting and videoconferencing with my immediate colleagues on a daily basis has made the question itself redundant in some way. Or at least it’s rendered the answer to it superfluous. We know how we’re feeling about it. We know how bored we are by it. We know not a single one of us still has an idea what time or day of the week it is. We know none of us has seen the inside of a gym for over 90 days. We know we’re using that as an excuse to avoid morning push-ups. Those are all givens when you spend so much virtual time with each other.
But when an indirect colleague of yours prompts the question, things change. They’re not privy to your daily whining on the subject and they’re no recipients of the secret email chain where you dish about management. They actually want to know how you are. Well, kind of. So on the one hand, you want to reply with just enough courtesy to indicate that you in fact appreciate your coworker’s inquiry as to your mental health and other dealings, but on the other hand you also just want to get it over with so you can both start whatever it is you’re supposed to do, like a Zoom meeting (which BTW nobody cares about anymore. No-one. The fun is over. What we dreamed about ever since seeing episodes of Star Trek for the first time where they communicated visually across ships spread out all across the galaxy has now become terminally tedious. Not even a random house-pet jumping onto the screen can change that anymore. Get down, Felix, your fifteen minutes are over) or writing a legal note that will be surpassed by recent legislative events before the board has read it.
In Belgium, good governance and quality legislative work during Corona seems to be as unattainable as electricity in winter or water in the summer. But even by their close-to-nothing standards, they’re really outdoing themselves during this pandemic. The quality of the hastily-written legislation that is served to us is about as shoddy as a used rubber in a brothel, and trying to interpret and adapt complex payment deferral schemes, financial asset recovery processes and others WHILE IN THE VERY MIDDLE OF THE PANDEMIC itself is kind of like driving 120mph down a road only to realise just before the turn that your steering wheel has come of. Sure, you can still try to plug it back in and turn the car around, but I’d be more worried about making sure my seatbelt is strapped fast and tight because I read the chapter about Newton’s Law thoroughly in high school. New regulation is shot at us at quicker intervals than new variations of fit detox tea hit the market for influencers to promote. On the topic of influencers I have to say that the Corona pandemic seems to have finally resulted into something positive : influencer revenue streams have pretty much dried up since the start of the outbreak and as such a great number of influencers have thrown the towel into the ring. All of this is amazing from a medical point of view, because it would appear it’s the first time that a virus has decimated a cancer.
But I digress.
Going back to the above-mentioned point that this question can actually incite real bouts of profound self-reflection is something I’ve found to be very true.
As I’ve professed numerous, numerous times on this blog before, we humans are not a smart bunch. Individually, we’re capable of the greatest achievements. We landed on the surface of the Moon merely 66 years after our first attempt at imitating birds and taking flight. But as soon as you pack us together like wolves, we invariably revert back to a near-neolithic stage. And unlike in science, there’s no need to conduct empirical tests to assert this neolithic return. You just have to observe people. Last week I observed two women in my local supermarket put on face masks, apply disinfectant hand gel, put on surgical gloves only to proceed a couple of minutes later while browsing the produce aisle to removing said masks and sniff an unripe peach, put it back, pick up another and sniff if, put it back between the others and then repeating the process a couple of times. I didn’t have it in me to explain to her why she might as well avoid the hassle of her supermarket-entering-routine if it’s to smash unwashed, contaminated produce in her face minutes after. She might as well have been licking the door handle to an infectious disease ward at the hospital if she had any hopes of staying clear of bacteria. We’re not the smartest bunch, but we try, and I guess that’s all we can hope for?
And in the meanwhile, as we continue on our evolutionary adventure, the real answer to your question is : terrible, thanks for asking.