Shalla had dinner with some of her colleagues a few days ago, and that got me thinking.
It's been - let me see - twenty months since we first went under lockdown. I've kinda stopped counting, not out of cynicism that we'll ever really recover, but because saying "eighteen months" felt more convenient from a writing standpoint, and that meant failing to capture facts on the ground. Twenty months. That is a long time.
In all that time, I haven't been at the office. Well, I have, but in those handful of instances I was by myself, and I was only there to get some things and sort a few others out. Obviously there haven't been any events, with everything being done online, and will still be done online for the foreseeable future, if you ask me. (Except for a couple of weeks, when the bosses finally take the plunge and calling for an in-person dinner.)
I haven't seen a lot of people. Just my girlfriend, her family, and my family. No, I'm not saying I'm looking forward to any family reunions - there are things I do not want to deal with. It can just feel claustrophobic, just seeing the same people over and over again: the security staff, the folks at the meat counter, the folks at the laundry, you get the idea. (There is one exception: last year I was invited to speak at an MBA class, and a week later one of the students - who happened to live in the condominium complex right next to where we were - personally delivered a thank-you tin cake.) There are conversations but they, as is standard, remain small.
I talk to friends. Occasionally they go on for hours, but almost a hundred percent of the time they're just check-ins. I'm not complaining about that - I'm used to it, I guess. I'm used to not really being in anybody's immediate circle.
Surely to some all this has been a boon. The self-declared introverts - the sort who have the urge to yell that fact out loud to the world, in defiance of what "introverted" really means - may be happy to not have to deal with anyone, to just curl up in a room with a book or a video game or something. That isn't me. Shalla articulated it all a few days ago. I'm not a solitary person. I still need to talk to people, somehow. In these circumstances - where chance encounters are rare, spontaneity is banned, and everything else becomes like clockwork - I am, to use a term that was popular at this point last year, languishing.
It's difficult to be unable to connect. You have all these thoughts in your head and you have to keep them to yourself. And more often than now the people I spend time with either have their own troubles or are not ones I'd trust them with. Yes, I know I'm not really just supposed to dump these things on my supposed friends because not everybody is ready to deal with things. And yes, that's still the case with those chance encounters in trade shows and meetings, but being able to talk to someone actually there relieves the pressure a bit, even if all you do is small talk. I haven't really had that opportunity for most of these twenty months. Keep it all in, and even if it gets too noisy, keep it all in.
Well, at least I'm not physically alone, right? Be thankful and all that. You're lucky and all that.
I've had a talk radio station in the background for the past month, and especially when I go to sleep. It's been that noisy lately. Considering recent developments, I can't just unload it all on Shalla. And part of me thinks that even if things go back to normal, well, you know, it'll be back to normal - only a few people will check in, and nobody will care enough to go further. All I know is, at some point, this pressure has to be relieved, no matter how urgent - or not urgent - this all looks. Nobody likes a loud popping sound.