What follows is a series of observations and ramblings. You have been warned.
If only there were something for us to discuss – some paradigm-shifting, traumatizing event that we’re all experiencing together. Oh yes, that’s right, working from home, quarantined (stuck?) with our families.
I’m afraid you’ll have to forgive me, as I’m a bit exhausted with all the heavy, depressing articles that abound during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for that reason, let’s lighten things up a bit.
If you’re looking for explanations as to when your 401k might recover, the expected death toll in your state, the myriad ways in which your liberty might be violated, or if your favorite restaurant is likely to reopen, then you’ve come to wrong place.
No, we’re going to talk about working from home – together, with our families … all the time. I admit that it’s somewhat difficult for me to work from home, at least it was, initially. While some minds approach problems with a singular focus, like a sniper’s bullet, my mind works a little bit differently.
“Differently” as in if some minds are a sniper’s bullet, mine is more of a shotgun, or a stick of dynamite – as in, close enough is good enough, and let’s move on to the next one. The home environment provides many problems that need to be solved, and my mind likes to solve all of them, simultaneously. I have become a master “sock picker-upper while also sending an email, starting the Roomba, and procuring a dog treat.”
From wondering if the dishwasher will turn in its two-week notice (Would it really be such a faux pas to eat steak on paper plates with plastic forks and drink wine out of a red solo cup? NOT IN THIS HOUSE, IT’S NOT) to several daily visits to the mailbox, working from home amid a quarantine does provide unique challenges for the easily distracted among us.
Barely two weeks into the quarantine, my wife asked very politely, but very resolutely, if I could “go quarantine somewhere else for a while.” I wasn’t offended, as I was, indeed, being somewhat obnoxious and distracting in my behavior, but it was all done in an attempt in make her laugh or smile. I’ve heard that no matter how old a man gets or how long a couple is married, his desire to impress his wife or make her laugh never goes away. I’ve known my wife nearly five years now – married for 9 months – I see no cessation of that desire any time soon, though I do need to work on its manifestation, I suppose.
It’s been interesting observing my neighborhood, as well. As crazy as the outside world feels right now, it appears as though my neck of the woods is, somehow, in a good mood. Maybe folks are simply trying to put on a happy face, but I’ve seen more people out and about, walking the dog, pushing little ones along in the stroller, more family bike rides, and a bit more smiling and waving.
In a weird way, it feels like we’ve all been waiting for something like this – a collective reason to slow down and exhale. The slow buildup of political tension and cultural stress over the past several years has worn folks down and though surely no one wishes a coronavirus crisis as the proximate cause, on some level, people are glad to have an excuse to slow down, savor the breaching spring, stroll, sip, and smile.
While no one knows exactly how society will change in a post-COVID world, one can hope that this niceness and relaxation can stick around for a bit. While almost assuredly naïve, a man can dream.
With that in mind, I’ll leave you, dear reader, with this profound observation … as soon I start this load of laundry and fix myself a sandwich. And please do say a prayer for my wife – she’s stuck here with me.
Garrett Ballengee is the Executive Director of the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy.