The upside of living in a world of plague and financial-markets chaos? We have computers now. Note: This is also the downside, but let’s think positive.
Unlike the people who suffered through the Spanish Flu, we can telecommute. In 1918, people who worked from home had to conduct their business with messenger pigeons and semaphore flags, which wasn’t very efficient. Your boss sent you a message via bird, and as you walked to the window, you saw the pigeon smack into your window hard, fall and end up three stories below in the trash bin. “Aw, it went to my junk folder.”
There’s a popular belief that you’re safe from infection if you stay home, but only if you stay off social media. If you hang around Twitter and Facebook, you end up thinking that COVID-19 can be transmitted by looking at Chinese takeout menus, or Italian travel packages, but it can be cured by essential oils. Do you have an essential oil? You wonder. Are there nonessential oils? What if I rub a little 3-in-One lubricant on my pressure points?
Then you remember that part of working from home — a very important part, your boss might say — involves “working,” so you call up your e-mail and leave the window open.
Everyone’s working from home, it seems. Here’s where I envision that ending up:
I need to get the oil in my car changed, and the shop has a sign that says they are all working from home. Addresses are listed. I drive to one of the places — it is an apartment — and he does the oil change in the living room while I sit in the kitchen and read old magazines about shooting birds. He says I need a new oil filter; good thing he has a closet full of them.
After that I need some gas and milk, so it is off to the convenience store. Same thing; the clerks are working from home. I have to go to two places. The first house has the gas — the clerk had filled up his bathtub with EcoBoost Regular, and we use a siphon to get it into my car. “Hey, what about my grocery store rewards?” Oh, right. I tap my phone number on his forehead, and he thinks for a few seconds and then calculates the discount.
The milk run is about a mile away. On the way there, a car almost hits me when it blasts through a red light. But, wouldn’t you know it, there is a police officer working from home on the corner, and he runs out and gives the guy a ticket.
The convenience store clerk is working from home like everyone else. I get some milk out of her fridge. The chips and candy bars are stacked up on the sofa. I tell her this is all an overreaction. “I mean, what are the odds we’ll get it? Oh, and one lottery ticket, please.”
Later that evening, I am cooking dinner and a dish towel gets too close to a burner and catches on fire. Before I get it doused, some sparks hit the napkin rack, and before you know it, the kitchen is a conflagration. Dang! I dial 911 before I think: “Oh, yeah, right” — So I drive to the 911 operator’s house, get the address of a fireman, then take my kitchen to a townhouse downtown, where a guy hoses it down with the spray nozzle from his sink.
“It’s nice to work at home, isn’t it?” I say. “I don’t know why we don’t do this all the time.”
He gives me this strange look, like I am some guy who thinks all jobs consist of sitting in a chair and moving your fingers on a keyboard. Obviously, that’s not so. But the important jobs, sure. I mean, without people sitting in chairs and moving their fingers over keyboards, what would get done?