We met two days ago. Why are we doing this again?
The notification feels like a pinprick, and after six weeks of this, I’m a balloon. We are all stuck here — forever? — with our spouses and children and roommates and pets. We are all stuck here alone. We are stuck here with the work. We are very, very excited about our biweekly grocery trip.
I know you want to make sure we’re doing the work. Maybe you don’t know: at this point, the work is all there is. If we don’t do the work, we will have to ask our college students why they’re not finishing their report instead of playing fortnite or make lunch for everyone out of our depleted pantries or help our third graders with their math homework or check what stock market volatility has done to our 401K. After the past five weeks, no one wants that. We don’t want to look. We don’t want to know.
We don’t want to know how the virus works either, but we’re reading articles about it anyway. Webmeetings won’t stop it. Nothing will stop it.
We’re going to know a lot about this disease before it’s over.
But reading articles was probably something we did at our desks at work, too. You didn’t want us to read them, but we did. We read articles. We checked Facebook. We met in the breakroom to do the crossword. We walked to your office to ask a question. We talked to friends. The work still got done.
None of that is possible now, but each day still has the same number of hours as it ever did, so you can be sure we’re doing the work. The work will get done.
We’re pretty sure it would get done without the webmeetings, but we’re having those anyway too.
You know we won’t be watching Netflix: Netflix is for evenings. If we start doing Netflix during work hours too, we might run out of things to see.
Maybe the flood of webmeetings is because you’re worried the parents among us will be spending too much time taking care of their children. And you’re right. Parents of kids and young teens are going to be distracted, because their children are bored. Bored children, as you know, complicate work, and complications distract.
We all want to be distracted, but not by someone crumbling cheetos into our keyboards.
You would rather we weren’t paying attention to our children, just as you’d rather we weren’t reading articles or going to get coffee, but we’re human first. Right now we’re very upset humans, and our children are very upset little humans, and we’re all closed together in houses that often weren’t designed for humans, or at least not for us all to be crammed together like this.
The feeling is the same each time the ping of another webmeeting comes through. Whether it is our tri-weekly check-in for our team where we justify why we are still being paid when so many have been let go, the all-staff meetings that are twice a month now, the morning five-minute check-ins. We feel the same for our after-work webmeetings: PTA and school planning, card games by videoconference, chair yoga.
We feel despair.
A computer is no substitute for a person, and sharing your screen is not the same as sharing someone’s space. You can’t hug by internet, and it’s hard to talk things through when you can’t see the other person’s face.
I know you want to check in on us all, to make sure we’re doing OK. That’s nice of you. We appreciate the sentiment. It’s nice that you care.
Let me save you time: we’re not doing OK. I’m not OK.
None of us are OK.
We’ve been relegated to a place without time, without space, without distance. The future is meaningless. Places are a distant memory. Only the grocery store is real, and the living room, the kitchen full of dishes, and the children, screaming.
And the ping of another webmeeting.