Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Lockdown, Scmockdown!

Today (March 24th) marks a somewhat grim milestone— it's the one year anniversary of the Covid Lockdown here in Indiana. Remember how the authorities assured us it was no big deal, and it'd only last for two weeks? Heh. What innocent babes we all were back then.

I have to admit I never imagined I'd STILL be wearing a mask everywhere I go an entire year later. 

Fortunately I was one of the lucky ones who got to keep my job and work from home— something for which I will be forever grateful. I honestly have no idea what I'd have done if I'd been laid off like so many others. I'd probably have lost my house and been forced to move in with my Dad, I suppose.

Anyway, for weeks before the lockdown we heard rumors and rumblings of a virus spreading throughout bigger cities. No one gave it much thought at the time though. Why would we? Whoever expected a worldwide pandemic was about to happen?

Then I noticed they started mounting dozens of hand sanitizer dispensers in strategic locations in the corridors at work. That seemed... ominous. Suddenly this whole pandemic business got a little more real.

By mid-March the concern began ramping up, as we began hearing reports that cities on the East & West coasts were closing schools, restaurants and movie theaters, as well as canceling sporting events. At my job, management began urging those who could work from home to do so.

Most workers in our building could simply take their laptops home with them and work there with little or no problem. Unfortunately it wasn't that simple for my department. We all have desktop Macs that are loaded with expensive software, and our files are located on a large server in the IT Department. Working from home just wasn't an option for us. 

I was fine with continuing to come into the office though, as the building would be virtually deserted and the danger would be minimal.

Then on March 23rd the Governor announced that the entire state of Indiana was going on mandatory lockdown. Suddenly my department didn't have a choice anymore— we HAD to start working from home.

Fortunately we found an app called Team Viewer, which allows you to connect one computer to another over the internet. It took a while to get it up and running properly, but eventually I was able to connect my home computer to my office one. I could see all my work files, use all our software and access our server— all from the comfort of home!

I set up a makeshift office on my kitchen table— the only place I had enough space to work. We then officially began working from home the next day on March 24th.

I won't lie— the first couple weeks were pretty rough, as it took a while for us to figure out how to work remotely. The biggest problem was communication— ordinarily if I had a question about a project I'd just get up and go ask someone about it. Couldn't do that when we were all sittin' in our individual houses! There were thousands of emails, texts and phone calls flying back & forth between everyone.

Somehow we eventually got the hang of it and it actually worked out. We managed to get all our work done, and on schedule too. Even better, the company's sales were surprisingly great! At times they were even higher than projected! 

Of course the lockdown ended up lasting far, FAR longer than the promised two weeks (which I knew would happen). In fact it stretched on for months and months, as the pandemic raged across the country. I have a feeling the authorities knew from the start it would last way longer than two weeks, but feared we'd all freak out and riot if they revealed that. So they dribbled the news to us a bit at a time, constantly extending the lockdown by an extra week or two.

Many people couldn't handle the isolation and solitude of the lockdown. Fortunately I didn't have a problem in that area. I've always been a loner, and have been living by myself for decades now. In a sense, I'd been training for this lockdown my entire life! Other than the fact that I was no longer driving to the office, little or nothing changed for me. In fact— at the risk of sounding perverse— I actually kind of enjoyed it!

For one thing, my house was far more quiet than our hectic office. For the first time in years I could work in peace without having to overhear dozens of banal and distracting conversations. It was heaven!

Even better, I got to sleep in an hour later each day, since I didn't have to drive to work. I had a lot more free time after work as well, since my evening commute consisted of getting up and walking out of the kitchen. That may have been the biggest perk for me.

Plus no commute meant less wear & tear on my rapidly aging car. And I spent much less on gas, as I went from filling up the car once a week to once a month— if that! Gas prices plummeted in my area, falling to under $2 per gallon at one point. That was great, except... I couldn't really take advantage of the low prices, as there wasn't anywhere to go!

Early on in the lockdown I would just roll out of bed, eat breakfast and then start working at my makeshift desk— often in the clothes I'd slept in. I found that whenever I didn't bother to get dressed or cleaned up, I was much less productive and... well, lazy. So I started treating the situation like a normal job, and showered, shaved and put on regular clothing every morning. I didn't necessarily dress up, mind you, but I wore something better than a t-shirt & boxers. I found that doing so increased my productivity and attitude quite a bit.

There were a couple personal downsides to the lockdown. As readers of my blog know all too well, I used to go see a movie once per week. Suddenly I couldn't go at all, which was a big adjustment. I missed going restaurants too, and eating every meal at home soon became a drag. On the bright side, I saved a sh*t ton of money by staying home.

And then there were the numerous shortages. The second the lockdown was announced, panic-buying began. It was a good two months before I saw any toilet paper in my local grocery. Luckily I was smart enough to buy a couple extra rolls right before the lockdown, so I had plenty to last me.

As a lifelong germaphobe, I'd accumulated a large supply of hand sanitizer long the pandemic began, so I was all set for that. Good thing too, as it was a lonnnnnnng time before any stores around me had any in stock.

I didn't wear a mask in public for the few weeks of the lockdown. Not because I was one of those "But Mah Freedoms" wingnuts, but because it was simply impossible to get one at first. I couldn't find them in any store, and on the rare occasion I found them online, they were ridiculously expensive. 

I ended up cobbling together a makeshift mask out of a bandana and rubber bands, and wore it to the grocery a few times. After that I finally found a website selling masks for a fairly reasonable price and ordered a box. After that I made sure I was always masked up whenever I went out.

We ended up working from home for about six months, from March 24 until September 8th. That's when management decreed we return to the office. I have no idea why they were so dead set on us coming back then, as the pandemic was still in full force at that time. In fact it was still raging wildly out of control in Indiana. I was NOT happy about going back to the office and needlessly risking my life— especially when working from home was going so smoothly.

They implemented all sorts of safety precautions in the office when we returned. Everyone had to mask up of course, which wasn't a problem, as I'd have done so even if it wasn't required. Even though I'm a militant proponent of wearing masks, I have to admit it became quite a drag after a while. There's a big difference between wearing a mask for half an hour while shopping for groceries, versus wearing on for a full NINE HOURS in an office. Phew!

We were also encouraged to constantly disinfect our desks, keyboards, phones and hands. Plus physical meetings were outlawed, the break room kitchen was closed, and on and on. The sheer number of safeguards and protocols seriously made me question why were back in the office in the first place. 

We continued to work in the office until mid-November. That's when management anticipated another spike, fearing that people would go home for the holidays and bring a big ol' load of Covid back to the office. In order to prevent that, we then went on a second lockdown and worked from home again.

Then for no good reason we returned to the office in mid-December. I questioned the wisdom of this decision, and predicted another holiday-fueled Covid spread would send us back home. And that's exactly what happened. We went on a third lockdown right after Xmas!

We eventually came back sometime in January, 2021. Then in February we were hit with a big ice/snow storm, which made traveling dangerous. So we were ordered to work from home a fourth time!

We're back in the office now, seemingly for good this time. Unless the virus mutates and cases spiral out of control again.

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