It’s pretty astonishing how much has changed in just two weeks.
Two weeks ago, my wife and I were in Manhattan visiting my parents. They remain there, despite everything, in order to continue my mom’s immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatments. We arrived late on Friday night and by Saturday, the cases of the COVID-19 had already doubled (or tripled, I can’t keep track at this point) and NYC was in a “state of emergency”. But we wanted to see my parents and spend time with my dad for his birthday.
Life seemed to go on as normal while we were in NYC although when we had to go to our local CVS for toilet paper, there were only a few single rolls left – no packs. That didn’t really alarm us because it’s the city and there’s a lot of people. Perhaps that particular store was just not as conscientious about inventory.
In that time frame, we’ve returned home to a world changing fast. Too fast. Will we be able to keep our jobs, our homes, ours and our family’s bellies fed? Maybe I’m getting too ahead of myself but really? The lack of toilet paper and other paper products here in Niskayuna heightened the state of alarm. It causes a ripple effect – we’re normal people, going about our normal lives the best we can, but when others are stockpiling up on one particular product, it makes it so when NORMAL people go to the store for their NORMAL things – they can’t get it. So what do we do? We grab it while we can, even if we don’t need it for another week or so, because we aren’t sure if we’ll ever see it again. Last weekend when my wife went to the store she sent me a picture of the empty paper product shelves* and indicated that there was no ground beef – hardly any meat at all. She grabbed what she could, which wasn’t a ton, but apparently this aisle had also been ransacked.
[*We try to limit our use of paper products anyhow, but toilet paper is something we can’t really get our minds around ~ this we don’t want to have to replace by using recycled cloth. Kinda ew.]
(Not really) Little by little, Courts, office buildings, businesses are closing their doors for the unforeseen future in an effort to keep the virus from spreading. I am a paralegal (I work in the field of estate and trust administration) and when I got a notice that the Dutchess County Surrogate’s Court was shutting down without a projected re-opening date, it was like – wow, this shit’s getting real. I work a lot in the Surrogate’s Courts in general (and yes, this particular closure does affect some of my files) and while I can continue to work and submit things, it will take a long time for those things to be reviewed and addressed. Which means there are going to be a lot of people out there in limbo.
Talk started around our office about what we would do. Plans were made and then hastily changed because the guidelines on what businesses needed to do changed – so no one got a chance to even get used to what our new “normal” would look like before the coin was flipped, yet again, and we’re on a new path. I don’t envy the leaders in my office at all for what they have to do and the decisions they’ve had to make. People whose hours were cut or, worse, temporarily released because things needed to be trimmed up and kept to essentials. It’s harder because jobs will be harder to come by in the next coming months with so many places closed. A lot of businesses won’t be “booming” enough to be hiring. It’s going to be a very rough time for a lot of people and no one knows how long it is going to last.
The talk around the office wasn’t just interior, it was also with clients, too. My clients have been clamoring for me to tell them how it’s all going to work – how it is going to affect their cases. All I can do is advise them that they can certainly expect delays but that we are doing all we can in order to keep things moving along. In many ways, sometimes I feel like I’m still a kid – I’m only 36. I’ve never been through what we’re all going through now; this is all unprecedented for me and I’m certainly not in charge. The older I get the more I realize I don’t know about the world.
When it came to staffing, we were on Monday “all systems go” on a pretty normal level. We were practicing social distancing with clients, taking extra precautions for cleanliness of common areas but by Wednesday, the more serious talks about some of us working remotely came up. For me, I said I’d prefer to work a hybrid in/out of the office type of scenario, as there’s a lot at my job that does make what I do easier. Now, I will admit, I’ve wanted to work from home for years now because I’m kind of a hermit, but for whatever reason, I really wasn’t too excited about this prospect given the circumstances. It is more of a crisis mode than a decision made freely, without duress.
Management was scurrying to cut down staff to 50 percent, then 75, THEN 100%. That took me from working in/out of the office to what’s projected to be entirely remote, except for stopping in to exchange/drop off files. Thank GOD I work close to home – there’s so many decisions I’ve had to make over the years that lead me to exactly where I am that I am becoming so very gratefully aware of.
Friday was crazy as I was packing up the important things in my office and all of the “on fire” files. My wife was an amazing help, bringing banker boxes out to her car. I have an office set up now in my home in an alcove in my upstairs and it’s bright, clean and sunny. As of 6 p.m. that night or so, I have remote access into my office computer, but it’s apparently going to be a very slow connection. I don’t know what to expect come Monday morning but I told our tech guy to expect problems because that’s just how it all goes.
The staff in the office is being staggered in such a way to comply with the guidelines set, but this new “normal” will take some getting used to. If we even have a chance TO get used to it.
It’s not even the COVID-19 that’s the scariest part, it’s the falling out of so much because of it that is changing our world minute by minute. It’s shocking how fragile our entire system seems to be ~ it feels like a big wake up call.
I will say one thing positive, because I don’t want this to all be sounding all apocalyptic – but when I asked people what they had going on this weekend, most of the answers were “not a goddamned thing.” THAT is amazing. NOT A THING. We really having nothing important to do and that’s pretty awesome in a world that has taught us to be busy, busy, busy. Friends of ours are going to come over today and help us install a new toilet and then we’ll make dinner for them as a thank you and just visit. No time crunches.
Maybe time can slow down a bit, now that much of the extra distractions going on around us are beginning to quiet down. There’s no extraneous shopping to be done, no movies to go and see in the theater. No bar hopping to do. Most everything will be done at home and online. I bet you we’ll be seeing some super clean yards and stellar gardens this year. I bet you we’ll be seeing an increase of bicycle traffic and people enjoying the local trails and footpaths. We will need entertainment and we’ll have to find it in a more simple way ~ I’m here for all of that.