Telecommuting, for better or worse

On days when I telecommute from my home due to the coronavirus, I sit in my first-floor office, with the computer on the right and a window facing the street on the left. This setup presents an interesting dichotomy: the real world on the left and the world of work on the right. I’d really much rather be back in my real office, but at least I don’t have to wear a mask at home.

My day starts early in the morning, when I simultaneously open the window and boot up the computer. I usually have the radio on as well, either news or classical music (the early morning waltzes are really great, they make you feel like dancing).

Since I work in information technology, a lot of my job entails what is euphemistically called “putting out fires,” i.e., fixing stuff that is broken. Fortunately, things run pretty smoothly for the most part so that’s good.

There are still meetings and all the other tasks that make for a work week but, if you just stare at the screen, for all practical purposes, it’s like being at work, minus the small talk, doughnuts, water cooler, and the myriad other sounds and smells of office life. I never wanted to mix home and work like this, but it is what it is, at least for the time being or until I retire.

Then there is the window, my portal to the outside world. Surprisingly, things in the neighborhood happen in a very predictable pattern. In fact, it’s so regimented and repeatable my neighbors should be happy I’m not a thief, haha.

First, there are the dog walkers. In some cases, the dogs are so big it looks like they’re pulling along their person, who is acting as a brake. In other cases, the dogs are so small — some the size of cats — that they have to run to keep up with the person who is just walking.

There is even one lady who carries a small brown dog in a kind of harness, like a purse with dangling legs, a wet nose, and a tail. I don’t know what that’s all about.

Sometimes one of the dogs will pee right on my front lawn. When that happens, for the rest of that morning, every other dog that passes by will stop right at that spot and often add a little pee of their own.

Imagine what that’s like: “Hey, Mary was here, and she had asparagus last night! Let me congratulate her.”

What a different world dogs live in. I would love to have a dog, I really would, but trailing behind an animal with a plastic bag filled with its poop is just a leap I’m not willing to make at this time. What I’d really like to know is why it’s taking so long to invent Pampers for dogs.

There are a lot of couples that walk past my house on a regular basis. Many of them are neighbors I know. Interestingly, when they walk they just walk. It doesn’t appear they are talking at all.

When I walk with my wife, she is constantly telling me to lower my voice, because it’s naturally loud and she doesn’t want me to broadcast our family business. Maybe I should try not talking. Seems to work well for everybody else.

Of course there are bicycle riders. Some of them, all leaned over with their forearms on the handlebars and decked out in brightly colored clingy spandex, look like they made a wrong turn at the Tour de France. When I find time to ride my bicycle I’m sitting up straight and wearing sweatpants.

I like the idea of riding to get in shape, but I’m not sure I can handle “the look.” I know, if you ride 50 miles those duds wick away sweat and prevent chafing and all that. But you don’t need a helmet when you go running, so there.

One day a week, the guys in the big truck come by to take the garbage and the recyclables. One guy drives the rig, the other hangs off the back like a cowboy riding a horse side-saddle.

Then they both hook the pails to the big arm on the truck as it flips them to ingest the contents. You would think this was automatic, but the guys are there as this happens, moving stuff around, making sure the pails empty, and sorting stuff as it falls (lets face it, we all put stuff in the recycling bin that we hope is recyclable but is probably not).

I was so impressed watching these guys work — something I never saw when I was commuting to work — that I got them each a gift card to Dunkin. They do good, honest work; they work hard; and they deserve it. Any time someone does a good job for you, at a minimum, let them know how satisfied you are.

I live on the side of the street where the mail comes early, so that’s good. Yes, it’s mostly bills but I get magazines and packages and the occasional letter or postcard, so it’s always something to look forward to.

UPS is different — they are always in a hurry, hyper even. I like them, but I think their policy of not allowing facial hair is not right. Nicely trimmed beards and mustaches make a guy look handsome. And why are there no UPS ladies?

Sometimes we get FedEx. They’re more laid back than UPS but more intense than USPS. How interesting that they all have their little quirks.

There are a lot of kids out with their parents since the schools closed. Sometimes it’s like a mother duck or bear, with the kids trailing along in single file.

When they’re on bicycles, however, the parents usually ride sweep, so they can keep an eye on things from the rear. Whatever, it’s just good to see the kids getting outside. There is always time for TV and video games in the house (and reading if they know what’s good for them).

My wife doesn’t have a lot of free time, but she has been getting out for walks with several friends lately. That’s good. Wish I could join them. I have to wait until my work day is over, when I can use the saved time from not commuting to do something fun or something around the house.

Not a lot of traffic where I live, but there is some. Fortunately, in my neighborhood, the cars that go by generally adhere to the speed limit. This is good because there are no sidewalks and a lot of folks are out on the street as I’ve described.

You can often tell by the sound when a car is going too fast. Big trucks are easily noticed by the roar and the rumble in the ground. And when the riding mowers, leaf blowers, and weed whackers all start up, switch to the rock station and turn up the music!

There’s one guy who runs by every day in gym clothes. I call him “Rocky” because he looks like he’s training for a boxing match.

Then there are three ladies who always walk together in a row and talk nonstop. They’re the coffee klatch. And there are a lot of pretty young runners who fly on by. Some of them even pass me when I’m out jogging, the nerve of them.

It’s all good though. Nice to know there is life in the community.

The neighbors’ houses I can see from my window are all quiet during the day, except when the kids visit. Then it’s a flurry of activity as the flock returns to the nest, often with their own flock in tow. Busy, busy, busy! The cycle of life continues.

I didn’t ask to be a telecommuter; it was forced on me due to circumstances beyond my control. I’m slowly adjusting to it. Life goes on.