There is a word for working at home. It is a universal word that is widely recognised (as in universal) from the remote Inuit tribes of way up in Canada to groups of cut off Amazonian Indians to those crazy motherfuckers on North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean who are so insular and murderous that basically every day is a work at home day. The word can be used as currency from the wilds of Mongol Siberia to the last Aboriginal outpost and on to some of the more isolated cultures of Tyneside, where even the most advanced of linguists struggle to make out a single syllable. The word, as if you hadn’t already worked it out, from home I expect, is ‘shit’.
Working from home just isn’t the same. On one level it should be easier: no commute, longer in bed, less ironing and so on but if it’s not your normal routine it suddenly makes you pine for a way of life you had taken for granted. I will happily concede that working from home is probably a luxury if you hate your job. I can only imagine what it must be like to have to drag your sorry arse into an environment which you detest every morning, or night, of the week. Then again there will be plenty of people who like their jobs purely because their home lives are appalling; rampant and spiralling with levels of abuse and psychological anguish that are beyond imagination. For those people working from home will be every kind of terrible. The more I think about this the blurrier the lines get.
So working from home is perhaps not so much shit as merely not ideal. I would prefer to be at work right now. I would prefer the hustle and bustle and the conversations and the movement and the laughter (for laughter is what makes almost everything worthwhile). I could spend rather a large amount of time in my own company but being forced to stay at home makes me realise how much I relish interaction with others. Sure you can email and Skype and FaceTime (there is something so gratingly awful about the term ‘FaceTime’ that I have thus far managed to avoid doing it all together) and send smoke signals and pigeons and bottles and pigeons in bottles but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as being able to watch someone you’ve worked with or known for years walk into a room and see their face and know exactly what kind of form they’re in that day.
I’m writing this at the dining table as Wifey dries her hair upstairs and Hairy Mary lurks with a malevolent scowl in the shadows, waiting to get that spot on the middle of the bed. There was no way either of us was going to snooze through a hairdryer and so I got up and boiled the last 2 eggs we have: as someone pointed out yesterday – the hens haven’t stopped laying, so where the hell are all the fucking eggs!!?? At some point soon I’ll start to look at messages and then with a heavy heart respond to every single one and then if I can steal a few minutes in between I’ll get on with a few more of those domestic odds and sods that have been silently screaming for attention for months on end. There’s food in the fridge and wine available (for later, I’m sloppy but I have boundaries) and the sun is coming up already, just like I predicted. I’m working from home but it could be worse; I could be drifting ashore on North Sentinel Island. You should look it up, they really are crazy. Or is it just the rest of us?
G B Hewitt. 25.03.2020