Last Monday I went into the office to have my laptop looked at. It turns out all she needed as a blowout (as do I) but I thought going into Philly would be a fun diversion from the usual stay at home boredom.
Until I arrived there.
The pandemic has hit almost everyone very hard, but seeing how empty Center City Philadelphia was at 8am on a Monday morning was jarring. I usually take the PATCO line to 15th & Locust Streets, duck down Sydenham past my Fancy Coffee Friday spot, take my life in my hands to dash across Walnut Street, and wait a few minutes for the office shuttle to arrive.
The Fancy Coffee Friday spot removed their indoor seating. Walnut Street was empty. I stood in the middle of the street. Scant cars. Scant pedestrians. While waiting for the shuttle, I would normally see joggers with baby strollers, dogs on their morning walk, and Fit People leaving a cycling class nearby. The people who lived in Center City. Gone. There were only train commuters and a police officer who stole two unoccupied outdoor chairs from an alcove. Yes, officer, the city’s woes are because of two outdoor chairs.
It was Indigenous People’s/Columbus Day and that likely caused a small dropoff in activity, but I normally worked that day every year and it was never like this. This is a new kind of dead. I waited a while for the shuttle to find that the 4 shuttles that normally run that route have been condensed to one shuttle. You’d think one shuttle carrying 4 times the people would be packed. Yet there were only two of us, and the other rider (a regular) looked at me like I was a ghost. “Are you new? This is usually my private shuttle!”
Public health is more important than the economy, but I can’t delude myself into thinking that a dead business district can be any good for a city’s public health. We clamor for a return to normal, but it’s not coming for a long time because the repercussions of the pandemic will be long.
My laptop was fixed and I had lunch with one of my favorite coworkers. But that experience of an empty city is hard to forget.
Since I’ll be working from home until at least January (and likely 3x/week forever because New Normal) here are three things that I currently enjoy about working from home and one that I’m neutral on.
1) Lunchtime showers. Oh. My. God. Showers feel so much more decadent when they’re not taken in the dark of night or the chill of the early morning. I can take a little more time with my face. And if I don’t have any Zoom calls in the afternoon, I can let my hair air dry. It’s GLORIOUS. Try it if you can.
2) Lunchtime baking. Did you know you can bake an box cake in the course of a lunch hour? You’ll have to frost it later, but this is a very nice discovery. Especially with bread baking season back.
3) This coworker. His ACL is healing and with that comes a return to his much-missed scampy self. He’ll often sits in WM’s desk chair during my meetings and I’m not 100% sure if he does it coincidentally or if he sees me put my headset on.
Neutral: the ease of doing housework. It’s one thing to be able to do chores during the week and not have them wait until Saturday and Sunday. But I’ve let housework creep into what would be my morning commute, my (non-shower) lunchtimes, and the time I would normally just stand up and go outside. This is in addition to what I would do at night and now I’m extra-tired at the end of a workday. I need to get that back into balance.
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