And there are the locals here who have different reactions. “It feels like Groundhog Day every day,” one said.
A friend of mine was hosting a women’s Christian church discussion group and nearly everyone was talking about the quarantine. Most of the women complained about loneliness, wanting more social contact, and wished all those closed clothing stores would reopen. But one woman sent my head spinning. She told the group that she felt this was much worse than the Holocaust! She thought this experience of being at home was terrible and she couldn’t take it anymore. Yet how can anyone compare the terrors of those encampments with staying behind closed doors in your own comfortable suburban house?
A nurse once told me she was working with a patient who had a torn-off fingernail. The nurse asked her on a 1–to-10 scale, how bad the pain was. “Ten,” she declared. The nurse tried again. “If a shark bit off your arm, which is very painful, how would you describe your fingernail pain?” “Ten!” she responded.
Everything’s relative in life.
That reminded me of a time when I was managing editor of a Chicago newspaper and my budget was suddenly cut in half by the publisher, who was having some hard financial times. I could fire five of my ten employees or put everyone on part-time. Three of them had no other support than their salaries. I was also going through a divorce and had to appear in court in two days. One of my kids was home from school sick and I kept on calling him every half hour to see how he was doing, and drove home to feed him lunch.
That afternoon one of my staff members called me and said she couldn’t get the story in by Monday because her in-laws were coming to town and she has been so upset the last three days because she can’t decide whether to bake a strawberry or blueberry pie for them. “It’s been a terrible week, she complained. I thought a moment and then said to her, “Let’s talk next week, Julie,” and I hung up.
People create their own problems.
And there’s a 19-year–old I know who said she wanted to go to the beach in Santa Cruz and she wasn’t going to wear a mask because she hated them and just wanted to have a good time. So much for thinking of others before yourself.
The coronavirus has led me to an examination of all that we do. In Sunday’s Mercury, there was mention of halting all public transit projects, because people will not want to use public transit for a long time and maybe we don’t need to bring BART to San Jose or electrify Caltrain. Just five weeks ago those were top priorities on our “improve public transit” lists. Some other article suggested removing the carpool lanes because in this new age of contagion we may not want to share our car with some other rider.
And then there are all the suggestions that perhaps in the near, and possibly the far future, we will all be working from home more. It’s certainly more convenient, the hours are more flexible, and other than lack of social contact, it seems like a pleasant way to work.
Will our proposed new proposals for working at home really work?
So think it through. Can you tolerate the aloneness all day long? Will you be as effective a worker compared to how you perform at work? I found I was always interrupting my work-at-home routine with throwing in a load of wash, and then putting it in the dryer, and running the dishwasher (and then unloading it), and charging off to the grocery store to buy stuff for dinner. Sure, I could work after dinner, but I soon fond myself watching some of my favorite TV shows.
These are things we have to all figure out. Maybe we can become creative and work one week at the office and one week at home, or alternative days. Maybe some of us would prefer to stay home and work, but if I was the boss, how can I be sure they are really working eight hours a day?
It will be an interesting topic to think about as we restructure our lives and our work as a result of this coronavirus. But our lives have changed, and I doubt we can go back to yesterday and the way we were.