The Other Place
“Well, if you don’t like it you can go to the OTHER place…”
This piece of advice was often heard when I was growing up. What the OTHER place was, you had to guess. It was a euphemism coined by my mother who was too polite to swear. You might know it as H-E -Double-Hockey-Sticks… or HELL for short.
There was a long list of words tantamount to swearing in my mother’s opinion. This lexicon was largely a mystery except that words like “Brat” and “Fink” and “Frig” all made the list, apparently because they had four words and could be used as an expletive. I once begged my mother to tell me what a swear word was, because how would I know not to say “IT” if I didn’t know what “IT” was? My mother looked vaguely uncomfortable as she pinned up sheets on the clothesline. She proceeded to rattle off some cuss words for my general enlightenment. I gasped inwardly. My mother was going to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks.
Historically, there has always been another place to go to… until now. It occurred to me that I have been inside all week except for a short junket to mow grass. That was my outing. Rain outside, and busy work deadlines inside have kept me on a short chain. I finally decided for the sake of my general mental health, to foreswear the computer this weekend (after this blog) and go to some real and physical place anywhere but here. My shop has traditionally been “the other place” but after a while you feel like a dog… the house… the yard…. a walk… the house… and then back into the yard. Bottom line. I need some OTHER place to go to right now for the sake of my mental health. No. I don’t want to go down to my shop today. I need some cheerful unfamiliarity.
Trips… out of the question. A drive in the car… nowhere to go anyway. Everything is locked down. We are two weeks into the LATEST lockdown and it already feels like a year. Perhaps coincidentally because a year ago they were telling us this would be (promise) the last lockdown. Emails and social media are only a partial cure. I remarked on a Zoom meeting to a work colleague, “Nice digs” referring to the sunny loft that appeared to be his dwelling place. “Sorry, it’s a fake screen” he said. I suddenly had visions of dirty laundry piled in the background, and suddenly wondered if my Zoom partners were all in fact wearing pants. It’s really time to go outside.
Nature seems to be cooperating finally. I will find somewhere to go to. It makes me ponder how underrated “going out” was, when we all took it for granted. We could go out anywhere, anytime, meet anybody, say anything. These basic civil liberties all seem to be on the chopping block now, and no one seems to know exactly why. Trust.. and human connection… these are all going the way of the dodo.
The funny thing about work, is that you only really begin to know and trust somebody after working with them a long time. You have to have a lot of those “how was your weekend” kind of conversations, and also pass the minutia of the office around the proverbial water cooler. I have a few woman who have gained the status of “work wife” because I actually spent more time alongside of them during a working day, than I did with my wife at home. Over a few years that can add up. Back then, we all longed to be home, rather than warming a chair and now we have our wish.
Now I am wondering with business done remotely, how trust is to be formed. Zoom meetings ill afford real socialization. I heard from one guy how his boss has kicked in a 4 to 5 PM hangout hour on zoom for all his employees. You are free to uncap a beer, and usher in the weekend with your work colleagues. The only rule is that you have to talk about anything BESIDES work. I think the man who dreamed this up was feeling what I am feeling. I have people I already trust, but give this particular jaunt in history another turn or two of the wheel, and we permanently may be distanced from those we work with, forever. The place I am working for now, I have never seen the face of any of the CEO’s. I don’t know them from Adam. What we have is an “arrangement” in that vague language that makes me think of mafia or an illicit affair. There is something more human definitely needed here.
My daughter is downstairs teaching a remote dance class online. Now if that is not the very definition of an oxymoron, I don’t know what is. Teaching in person she has a great connection to the kids. It’s hard to replicate that over the internet I think. We live in very strange times, although kids have a way of making do. What I am worried about is that this will in some way become the new normal even when the pandemic is supposedly finished with. There is some social engineering in here, like it or not. You have to train most people to want to be alone, and away from others. It is not our first bent. Look at any newborn baby. They crave touch. A baby who does not like to be handled is considered abnormal.
As reflected in housing prices, there is quite a premium on the home nest right now. If you have a big house fully equipped, an open space or a back yard, even better. You won’t spend your days cooped up in the four walls of a condo. Being in the same place no matter what it is, makes me feel like I am in some kind of deluxe jail with privileges. It makes me think of when we were kids, and the thing from our parents was that we were not to spend the day inside the house. “Go outside and play” they would say pointedly. They didn’t want to see us until the street lights came on and we usually obliged them.
There are many casualties to be had living inside. One thing I noted was the expansion (no pun intended) in “active” wear. Places like Lulu Lemon are selling plus sized goods with elastic waist lines. When I did a Home Depot curbside pickup last week, every single man waiting outside, was in track pants. I looked in the mirror today. I badly need a haircut, among other things. This is all starting to pile up.
Looking outside, I am dying to get out. I just want somewhere besides this place to go to, and to see some real life people who are not sequestered behind a mask and “social distancing”. Right about now, any other place would be a tonic. I am thinking of my Mother’s sage advice... “If you don’t like it you can go to the OTHER place!”
Newsflash, we are already in “the other place”. For all those who claimed that HELL is merely an earthly condition, 2021 might just be proving you right.