So. I’m going back into the office tomorrow.
Not full-time. It’ll probably just be for a couple of days a week, working from home the rest. One of my coworkers asked me how I felt about coming back, and I replied, “Pretty good, since it was my idea!” Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. Not because I’m afraid of going out in public and worried about germs; I just really don’t want to put pants on again.
At least not ones that have a zipper.
But Ye Olde Media Company has been totally chill about the whole thing and never pressured me into coming back. Last week I started to miss the vibe though, and it’s impossible not to feel a disconnect—especially when you see social media posts about cool things happening in the office and you are not there to experience them. Plus, I miss the popcorn machine, if I’m being honest.
Oh, and the people, too.
It’s been something like 67 days since I’ve been in the office now, so the novelty has long since worn off. I’ve been in regular contact with my coworkers, either via Slack or Zoom or phone calls, but it’s not the same as seeing them in person. So I reached out to Jenna on Friday and said, Hey, I’m thinking about coming in a couple of days a week and working from home the rest; would this be okay? It took her all of two seconds to respond, Yes, of course, let me clean your workstation for you, SEE YOU MONDAY! I had to force myself to hit send because I knew I would just keep putting it off and finding excuses not to go in. Five minutes later she reported back that she had moved the junk off my desk (the fact that it had turned into a staging area for wayward office supplies contributed to the disconnect) and sanitized it, so it was too late to say “just kidding!” I’m committed now.
But that’s okay. This weird existence that began in March has never felt real to me. It’s almost been like a vacation, but one where I have been working, so not at all like a vacation. But it did motivate me to set up my home office and buy a monitor, and taught me just how productive I can be from home (occasional cooking-while-on-the-clock notwithstanding), so it’s set the stage for what I envision as a “new normal” where I’ll work in the office some days and WFH others. Tara says it will do me good to get out of the house, and while I haven’t quite devolved to the point in Mr. Mom where Michael Keaton’s character, Jack Butler, whiles away his days watching soap operas and gossiping with the neighborhood housewives, she isn’t wrong. So tomorrow I’ll dust off those dormant social skills and venture out into the real world again.
For one day, anyway.
At least I’ll look presentable. Like so many people, I’d gone months without a haircut. I was looking pretty shaggy and it was starting to bug me. Meanwhile, Tara said I should grow it out, and even had the nerve to suggest I fashion it into a ponytail. WTF, woman. That look reminds me too much of Mr. Sensitive Ponytail Man from Singles, Linda’s on-again/off-again college boyfriend who is hopelessly bland, and I just can’t. I’d want to slap myself every time I looked in the mirror.
Fortunately, I won’t have to. Our Great Clips salons have reopened, so I went and got a haircut last week. The whole experience was surreal; when I arrived, a masked woman at the door was wielding a clipboard and checking people in. All customers were required to wear masks and wait outside until their name was called. To be honest, I feel like the power was going to her head a little, almost like she was in charge of the velvet rope at Studio 54, picking and choosing who to let in based on some set of obscurely random merits, though that illusion was shattered the minute I was granted access inside. The lighting at Great Clips was fluorescent rather than disco-ball, there were zero celebrity sightings, and nobody was snorting coke or having sex in the corner. I was escorted to a chair, given hand sanitizer, and then proceeded to have a conversation while wearing a mask, which isn’t the easiest thing in the world. My only prior experience with that involves the phrase “Trick or treat!” Plus, the stylist frequently had to unhook the mask to trim around my ears. It was quite the balancing act for her. Just my luck, she was a chatty one, too. After being holed up for 67 days, I am not used to conversing with other humans. Totally worth it though just to have reasonable-length hair again.
Saturday was pretty much the perfect day. Tara and I headed out for an adventure, beginning with a very foggy drive through the Black Hills.
Our destination was Custer State Park; we needed to buy new annual passes, and also wanted an excuse to check out the baby bison and burros. Mission accomplished on both counts.
We also ended up exploring a brand new hiking trail in the park, Barnes Canyon. It’s a 9.5-mile out-and-back hike if you do the whole thing; we didn’t have time for that, but still managed to cover 3.5 miles. Pretty cool trail; it follows an old road used by miners, loggers, and homesteaders. Everything was lush and green, and because it’s located just off Wildlife Loop Road, you share the path with any animal that happens to wander over. At one point we came across a couple of bison; they were a good distance away, but it was still a little unnerving to be on their turf miles from the safety of the car. Great hike though; we will totally do it again. The whole thing someday.
Afterward, we stopped at a restaurant in Hill City for a late lunch, and it felt like the land that time forgot. There were actual paper menus and, aside from a handful of customers, no face masks. How refreshing. Also, the food was delicious, as was the wine. So much so that we brought a couple of bottles home with us.
We may be seeing my parents for a visit soon. I hope so. It would do them good to come out here, where there are wide-open spaces and fewer restrictions and adorable baby animals.