Working from home is a blissful reprieve from the many sounds of the office. The gum-smacking, the open-mouth chewing, the drink-slurping, the hand-sneezers that haunt my nightmares. I live by a tire shop, so now I deal with incessant beeping that I drown out with noise-canceling headphones.
At home, it’s just me and the dog. She’s not a big talker. The most noise my dog makes is a dramatic sigh at 6 p.m. when she wants to be walked. I can’t always hear it because of the headphones, but I can feel that sigh in my soul. She stands at the door and stares at me. I have an hour left in my shift.
But working from home amid the pandemic has its drawbacks. A coworker posted in Slack that he needed a 10-minute break because he found out an old colleague had died from coronavirus.
Less than 10 minutes later, he was back and working. “I’m sorry for your loss,” I wrote via IM.
“Thanks,” he replied.
And that was it. I couldn’t see him. I didn’t know if he wanted to talk or to grieve alone. I couldn’t see his face. I could only stare at a white box with a blinking cursor and wonder. I had trouble sleeping that night.
No one I know has died. All day I edit stories about sickness and death. I double check the daily numbers from each state. I calculate the percent change from one day to the next. No one I know is included in those statistics. I edit obituaries and read about the lives ended by this new virus. I feel relieved to be untouched so far. I feel guilty about feeling relieved. I also feel dread. No one I know has died. (My inner voice adds: Not yet. Not yet. It’s coming.)
I walk my dog a lot more during this pandemic. I see more people walking their dogs, too. We humans wave more. We’re all desperate for community. Our dogs — desperate for playtime with a friend — stretch to the limit of their 6-foot leashes. Who knew a dog leash would be the perfect length to measure recommended distance during a pandemic? More people are outside gardening or talking while I walk my dog. I met a neighbor. I met a few. Everyone is going stir crazy. Everyone wants a chat. I learn the neighborhood gossip. I live for this gossip.
I go grocery shopping with a mask. I bring my own wipes to wipe down the cart. I feel guilty for not having my act together enough to order food online. I walk through the alcohol section on my way to the freezer section. I say a silent thanks that I don’t drink anymore. Five years sober and proud.
But as I walk down the wine aisle, I take a moment to think about the sheer amount of alcohol I would have purchased if this pandemic had hit while I was drinking. I would have posted a photo of all the booze. Everyone would laugh. It wouldn’t be funny.
Thank God that’s behind me, I think as I load four different Ben and Jerry’s pints into my cart. We all have a vice; now mine is ice cream. My consumption of it has skyrocketed under lockdown. If ice cream protected you from COVID-19, I’d be the safest woman in the world.
As I leave, I promise myself I’ll order online next time, fully aware that I will not.
Source: Associated Press – MICHELLE A. MONROE