Ah, yes. The pursuit of the almighty dollar. Even your humble blogger, a progressively-leaning, socially distant, chardonnay-swilling, Dr. Fauci-loving, and about whom the six of you out there know and love: yes, me! I too couldn’t resist the opportunity join the rest of the maddening crowd and dip my toes back into the ‘ol workplace. Blame it on herd mentality; it seems we all have a price.
I went back to work last week.
Well, I should be a little more transparent: I went back to a job that puts a few shekels in my wallet for “walking around” money, plus takes care of the odd utility bill.
As the coronavirus’ first wave shut everything down this past spring, so too did my part-time job. I maintain lawbooks at some area law firms.
A key part of my early-retirement strategy was to find a job that would help defray enough of our living expenses where I wouldn’t have to touch any of my retirement savings. Well, that and also my lovely wife’s insistence that she have at least one day of the week with me out of her hair. Charm only gets you so far in a marriage.
But starting in mid-March, that job abruptly stopped. I instead became a couch potato-cum-armchair epidemiologist. One has to adapt.
We are fortunate. I remind myself of that daily. Millions remain out of work and are struggling to make ends meet. But we have thankfully been able to meet our obligations and also have food on the table, and plenty also in the cupboards. I’ve been donating regularly to a local food bank since April and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future (btw, you can find one in your area by clicking here).
As I said, we are very fortunate: I receive my pension annuity on the first of every month. Gorgeous continues to work full-time from the comfort of her home office, and she has experienced only a 30% decline in her business. She considers herself lucky. We are both lucky.
I thankfully haven’t felt much of an impact with the missing earnings from my job. Nearly all of our discretionary spending (i.e. restaurant meals, gas, etc.) for the most part ceased during those early months of the pandemic. Except for groceries, we actually spent less money.
Well. I speak mostly for myself on that point. Someone else in the home is exceedingly grateful for a stable Internet connection.
But as more and more businesses have reopened in our state, I received a recent query from one of my accounts asking if I was interested in returning to work. Shipments of lawbook updates apparently had been piling up, and they wondered if I was comfortable enough to venture in and get the library current again. Conveniently, it was mentioned that a majority of the firm staff remain working from their homes, which means that I’d have to be around very few people.
I read the email aloud to Gorgeous, who at that moment was next door to me sitting in her office. I asked for her thoughts.
There was no response, but I swear I could hear faint whispering.
My only great concern was to make sure that I could stay within six feet of everyone. My work in these offices is nearly all solitary and without much interaction with others, but for an occasional brief conversation with someone. There is, however, a tiny bit of lawbook material located in attorney offices, so I decided to ask for guidance and reassurance about that specific aspect. I got it from a secretary who wrote me back with the following: “I think it will be fine. If you just wouldn’t mind wearing a mask when walking the halls and entering the offices. I have copied my crew so they will know you will be coming by.”
Perfect. We’re good. I’m ready to do my part in restarting the working economy.
Traffic was extremely light on the I-95 leading to Jacksonville, and I arrived at my usual parking lot in record time. While walking to the job, I bumped into an administrator for another firm I also support (Hi, A.). It was good to see her, and we socially distanced with a bit of a “how’ve you been doing?” conversation. She mentioned that material is piling up at her office too, and that only a small percentage of staff are presently returning to the workplace. She said would rattle the cages to see about my restarting work there.
CHA-CHING! “Federal Reserve Chairman Powell on line three, please.”
I ended up working a full eight hours that day and still couldn’t finish with the backlog. Just as I had been told beforehand, there was very little staff present. Those with whom I did come into contact remained at a safe distance.
Most of the time, I worked in my usual private area, which in turn allowed me to remove my mask. The only confusing moment was when I went to the men’s room while wearing said mask, and I got into a brief conversation with someone. I realized I had no idea who the man was, yet he seemed to know me; I know this because he said, “Hi, Marty,” which I think is a pretty good indicator of recognition. He might have been an attorney, a paralegal, or a custodian. I really have no idea because unfortunately my glasses were completely fogged up and rendered me unable to make out any of his facial features. It dawned on me later that this might make our next family get-together more palatable (wearing a mask that is, not meeting in a bathroom).
Feeling full of accomplishment for the first time in weeks, I later arrived home with a purposeful gait and a heightened sense of joie de vivre. As we sat for evening cocktails, I regaled Gorgeous with amusing and interesting anecdotes about my day. G-d love her, my bride wore the earnest expression of a woman who has total interest in her librarian man.
“Which mask did you wear with that shirt?,” she asked during one of my infrequent pauses. “Um, the one I usually wear,” I responded. “[audible sigh] You have a solid one, green even,” she said. “Why didn’t you wear that one? You clashed horribly.“
There’s still much we still don’t know about the coronavirus. States such as Florida, which probably opened up too early, are now seeing a rise in infection numbers. This is a concern for health officials who are monitoring for a likely second wave. It remains crucial to practice physical distancing if you do go back to work. Continue to wash your hands frequently too.
But most important, take it from me: think hard about how you accessorize.
Until next time…