“I Am Not As Well-Suited To This As I Had Hoped”

I wrote this in May 2020, and am publishing it in March 2021. I didn’t publish it back then because it felt entirely superfluous, but I was quite interested to find it just now.

Well, this Covid lockdown business is tricky. I’m in a super-privileged position: at home with family I love and who all get along well; job I can do from home; no pressing money worries; not all that sociable; don’t bore easily. But even then I haven’t settled in to it as well as I had expected. Here, partly for the purpose of counting my blessings, I write down some of the good and bad things about the past weeks of lockdown for me. I’ve included as many pointless, trivial things as I can.

I like Not having to think about clothes. I get up and put on jeans and a T-shirt. If I find I’m wrongly dressed for the weather, I can just get changed.

I don’t like Worrying about everyone. The health and sanity of my parents, who would normally live a more social life than I would, but have reasons to be far more fearful. The stressful constraints on my children, particularly the 18-year-old. The low-level unease about everyone I see out and about.

I like Not having to set an alarm clock for 6.30am to get the boys to school.

I don’t like Getting up and going to work… in our bedroom, the only place I could put my desk in, in our two-bedroom flat with two full-time working adults and two school children in it.

I like The sense that the social contract is open to review, even if temporarily. Ideas such as providing free accommodation to the homeless, removing cars from the streets, and turning upside-down the entire hierarchy of perceived merit in the workplace are up for consideration. Maybe the field is open for more radical ideas about energy and work.

I don’t like Remembering why it matters so much that we consider new ideas about energy and work. This thing is a dangerous current that makes it inadvisable to swim from this beach today. Climate change is the coming tsunami.

I like The coffee. Much better coffee here than in the office.

I don’t like Video calling for work. Oh god, the video calling. I’m beginning to feel a little sick whenever I see a video window. I am bad at video. I will sit in a video meeting silently, unable to imagine that anything I have to say is worth unmuting for. I have trouble listening as well. I’m too aware of my own presence, what I look like, whether my microphone is going to make any weird noises if I have to use it, the fact that I’m transmitting from my desk in our bedroom, the hairbrushes visible on the chest of drawers behind me, the sudden unwanted transparency of our formerly private home. It reminds me of being a school child summoned to a teacher’s office for “a chat” about your terrible behaviour, and sitting there thinking about your own awkward presence in the room, nodding, then leaving with no recollection of what anyone said.

I like Knowing that there is always someone at home and never anything significant to go out for. It’s bizarrely liberating to know that I don’t actually need to remember my wallet, phone, or keys when I leave.

I don’t like The landed-gentry relationship I now have to anyone who is actually doing real work. I’m officially working, but I’m just sitting at home typing at a computer. I might as well be padding around in my slippers sipping a brandy. Then if I decide I’m a bit short on something, I put in an order and someone else, someone who is actually working, delivers it to me. I’m in a separate social plane from the real economy, and it’s a little sick. I am essentially useless, but I get to command people as if I mattered. This is not unlike the way it always was, at least since the last time I stopped drawing the dole to start a pointless web-based software job. It’s just made visible.