Everyone’s Looking to the Future
Every weekday throughout what blogger and novelist, Chuck Wendig, calls the "Quarantimes," I go to a day job as a front desk concierge at a downtown Toronto Condominium. Socializing when most everyone else is hiding out gives me a catbird seat view of the CoVid 19 fallout and how people are adjusting and responding.
I have some level of personal relationship beyond the mere exchange of pleasantries with a good percentage of the residents. And most people in the building will open up to some degree if I make an attempt to converse. With the quarantine going on and almost everyone working at home, I would have thought people would be eager to socialize, but the opposite is true. Our conversations, six feet apart and through a layer of plexiglass, tend to be marked by an unfailing and sometimes strained politeness. I see most people far less than I used to see them.
We have lots of young people in the condo and I have been surprised about how many have moved in with their parents. There are also plenty who have either moved in with their partners or vice-versa.
Many have new pets - and not strictly as companions; dogs give people a routine and an excuse to go out by prescribing a schedule and a destination – even if it’s not much further than the sidewalk in front of the building ten or twelve times a day.
People used to stop and tell me about their work, school, relationships, the movies and tv shows they’ve been watching and their general philosophies about life. These days, we seldom do more than exchange salutations and pleasantries. The conversations have condensed, because for the most part, little changes from the day before. Some residents know that I write fiction and have asked to read some of my work. I am fully aware that the genres I write in are appreciated and sought out by a mere 15% of the population, so the enthusiasm and positive responses that I’ve received on my horror collection and on the beta version of my upcoming science fiction novel are very much appreciated. I don’t get (too) offended by the people who ask to read my work and then never get back to me. Or by the people who give me an apologetic look and say that its not their kind of thing. I had one guy who read the novel tell me that it is “nice.” Hmm. Of all the available adjectives, I’m not sure it’s the most encouraging or insightful, but it was “nice” of him to offer it. And folks are always getting me baked goods and coffees and generally being…well, “nice.”
All the parcels coming in have turned this spring into an endless Christmas – without trees, lights, candy, Santa Claus, turkey, carols, cards; yeah, pretty much all the fun stuff. Although there is plenty of rum, beer, binging on chocolate, and staying in pajamas. In fact, judging by the number of liquor bags coming in - drinking in general seems to be on the rise; especially day drinking. Many of the parcels contain office chairs, desks, computers, printers, monitors, and office supplies in general. There is also a marked increase in books and fitness equipment. Expect post virus garage sales with incredible deals on treadmills, exercise bikes and dumbells.
Noise complaints are on the rise - especially during the daytime, with half the people working from home and the other half stuck in leisure mode. Apparently loud music of someone else's choosing does not go well with financial projections or virtual business meetings and sales calls. For all that, nobody is particularly grouchy, but nobody has much to talk about either. Our days all blur together. Everybody seems a bit…numb?
There’s a pervasive frustration, especially among the people who have temporarily or permanently lost their jobs, or those who were job hunting before all this happened. They feel handcuffed by the situation – frozen by circumstances and incapable of moving forward, back or sideways for the foreseeable future. Some are taking advantage of the opportunity to take online courses or paint or write or read; but most are simply in stasis – floating in space unable to touch or be touched by anything. Even projects like home repairs are hampered by the difficulties in procuring things like building supplies. Where do you buy drywall in when the retailers are all closed? Can you call Uber Hammer? Garage Door Dash? From the outside, there seems to be far worse things than enforced sloth. But there is an impatience that is almost tangible, for things to not just start back up again, but go back to normal. Depression is a real hazard while all this is going on.
The attitudes of the people who are working from home are quite different. They display much less anxiety and almost to a person have a fatalistic and curious serenity. Most those people are happy to talk about what’s going on and how its changed their routine and their expectations. There is an acknowledgement among them that things will never go back to normal - and they are generally fine with that. The definition of "normal" is mutating on a daily basis. The pandemic has changed the way we all do business, and has made us recognize efficiencies available to us in the future. Meeting someone online for drinks used to seem like a ridiculous idea - but don't be surprised to see people keep doing it even after its no longer necessary.
The differences between everyone’s perception of the here-and-now are remarkably varied. I hope that the anxieties that so many of us now face are alleviated by the new open-mindedness that the rest of us are entertaining; and that we can come up with solutions and new paths to get us all working together toward a future that will find solutions and have a place for everyone.