Siege Diaries 5/26/2020

Working has an element of the surreal these days.

My days, in terms of what I actually do at work, aren’t all that much different—in fact, in many ways they are busier than they were for the last couple of months leading up to switching over to full time work from home status. I spend my days mostly working on a project to integrate a new piece of business—including over 70 employees—into our company. Oddly enough, the switch over to a mostly-remote workforce actually helped smooth some of the cultural differences between our company—who had gone mostly paperless—and the workforce we brought on, who had still been reliant on older processes. Suddenly there was no reason to drag out the adoption of new models—even though we had to do some of it on the fly. I’ve also been finishing up a project I’ve been working on for a year and a half, and trying to finally get another project that I’ve been working on for a year off the ground.

Doing all of this, sitting on teleconferences, preparing reports and meeting minutes, you can go for hours without any mention of the fact we’re all sitting in our houses in the midst of a pandemic. There’s plenty of work to be done. We do hear cats and dogs and kids in the background on calls fairly frequently, but otherwise, it’s strangely normal. My department has hired three people since this all started, and the project manager who used to sit beside me just came back from mat leave. But my Facebook memories feed reminds me that this is the time of year we normally do a departmental meeting to a Jays game. Last year, we were all cheering on the Raptors—I’d pass by Jurassic Park on the way into my office building.

And yet, work continues. Companies continue to hire people—and not just grocery stores needing to pump up their staff. The Women’s Initiatives group at work had planned a day at the end of March with an employment agency catering to new Canadians; yesterday, I conducted the impromptu speaking workshop I’d planned to deliver via Zoom instead (and am making plans to repeat it in July). The group I was working with are looking mostly for customer service jobs—and those positions are still out there. But there’s that missing middle of service-industry jobs—hair stylists, restaurant servers, the hospitality industry, and most forms of entertainment (theatres, sports facilities, concert venues, and the like) that are still on hold.

It’s almost like living in some kind of a virtual simulation of reality—even though we know that lurking out there is the real life we are trying to escape—the one where there’s an awful disease that’s killing people and forcing everyone to stay 6’ apart.

Maybe that’s why I almost like the weekdays better now. Work hasn’t really changed all that much, and that’s comforting. I’m not counting the minutes until I can get away for a concert or an event or a party—even though I’m still enjoying some concerts, events, and even online parties, they’re mostly diversions rather than goals in themselves.

But I look longingly at New Zealand—an SCA friend from there joined our Zoom call this evening and told what life was like in a place with a negligible number of active cases—or even some Canadian provinces who have likewise dialed down their transmission rates and are starting to enjoy a little more freedom to see a friend or two. Ontario remains stalled in neutral, seemingly unable to take the next step towards a more comprehensive testing and contact tracing strategy, continued reluctance to wear masks, and signs of isolation fatigue culminating in thousands of people packing Trinity Bellwoods Park last Saturday. It’s certainly nowhere as bad as it is in some US states, but it’s frustrating to have done an OK job but not quite good enough.

So for now, I make a couple more masks and order others from friends, I spiff up the backyard a bit with some container perennials, oddly enjoy the social contact with the appliance repair guy, and just keep trudging along. We’re 70 days into this siege now. The enemy is still at the gates, but in my basement office, toiling away on making sure approved signer and recipient lists are properly set up and other exciting tasks, I can almost forget.

On this day in history: The coronation of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, in 1896. Things, of course, did not end well there. Incidentally, the leader of the Bolsheviks who despised him in 1917, Vladimir I. Lenin, suffered his first stroke on this same date in 1922. He would suffer two additional strokes before eventually dying in January 1924.