The building where I work–although after four months and counting it feels more like the building where I worked–is slowly reopening. There are limits on the number of people allowed in at any given time, and even a form we have to fill out and instruction we have to take before we can be authorized to enter the building. We had a meeting last week to discuss the protocols for coming in. Among other things there was a conversation about restrooms. The restrooms on our floor are multi-person but there are single-person restrooms on other floors, which some people said they’d be more comfortable using. It turns out the building is locked down and everyone’s strictly limited to one floor, which, if he hadn’t left some time ago, would have made life difficult for Jason who liked to go to offices on other floors and steal their coffee, but that’s another story. Also people who go in are only allowed to take off their masks in closed offices.
Most of our office space is taken up with cubicles which means shared breathing space which means masks stay on. Sometimes I used to stand up in my cubicle and I’d remember Les Nessman of WKRP In Cincinnati, and I’d wonder if he’d be satisfied with office walls that barely came up to his shoulders. I’m okay with having a cubicle myself. It’s certainly better than one of my earlier jobs, working customer service for Planetoxic Trucking, where I sat shoulder to shoulder with coworkers answering phones all day.
Anyway after thinking last week about how I missed my commute, and this week I started thinking about something else I miss: being able to leave my office. I’d often go for long walks during lunch, or I’d take short breaks in the morning and afternoon to stretch my legs. I’ve gotten to know the neighborhood around the building pretty well so it’s not like there are a lot of surprises, but still there was something about getting out that helped clear my head and allow me to come back with a fresh, or at least refreshed, perspective. I can still take breaks at home, but somehow the long walk to the back of the yard or the mailbox seems much more limited. From my office building I could walk in multiple directions.
I also wasn’t limited to just what was within walking distance. Some days if I had enough time I could take a bus somewhere during lunch. Sometimes I could take it to the downtown library, and once, on a slow Friday, I did. I picked up a few movies for the weekend and, I think, a book. This was before I knew you could check out a ukulele. The bus was running a bit late so I didn’t get back as soon as I planned, and when I did my boss was standing outside my cubicle. I apologized for being a bit late and said I’d make up the extra time.
“It’s okay,” she said, “but you almost missed the meeting.”
Oh great, I thought, someone scheduled a meeting for Friday afternoon. I’m not sure I would have missed it.