Things I Learned In Lockdown

While it's perhaps inaccurate to call the current Covid-19 crisis "unprecedented" (given that the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 led to many of the same measures), I think it's reasonable to say that it's unprecedented in my lifetime - and I'm not exactly young.

Accordingly, in these heady times, I don't think it's uncommon to discover a thing or two about yourself. Hell, introspection is almost inevitable, given the circumstances.

In that vein, this is my "Things I Learned In Lockdown" post. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

One thing I learned is that I'm not quite the introvert that I thought I was. I mean, don't get me wrong - I'm kind of an introvert. I tend to be subdued at parties and drained afterwards, and if I have a choice between a small gathering and a large one, I'll choose the small one. But I see people in my social feeds who are able to effortlessly go for weeks at a time without interacting with another soul and I've come to the stark realization that I am not one of them.

It's not even that I particularly miss talking to other people. It's more basic than that; I miss just being around other people. I miss being ambiently social. I miss sitting in a coffee shop and being surrounded by conversation and bustle.

It's like, I never fully realized just how much of my need for social interaction and scenic variety was fulfilled by simply taking the subway to and from work every day.

And I've learned that while I can be productive working from home, I don't enjoy it as much as working in the office. In the past I would sometimes chalk up my distaste for remote work to a consistently flaky VPN but my current setup more or less takes that particular issue out of the equation and the result is still the same. This experiment in enforced isolation just confirms to me that I don't particularly like working form home.

To be fair, this is not exactly a controlled experiment. It's possible, for example, that I'd find remote work more agreeable if I could also visit restaurants and bars and friends without any restrictions. While I'm sure there's some truth to this I think, if I'm honest with myself, that it would simply make working from home somewhat more tolerable but not preferable.

One aspect of remote work that I didn't foresee was just how out of touch I would become with everyone. Going into the office every day means interacting with people who are not necessarily on my immediate team. It means having a coffee or eating lunch with people from another floor or department. When you work from home, that sort of random socializing doesn't occur as easily. I would sometimes find myself sending messages to people I hadn't heard from in a while just to see if they were still around.

I've started to hear rumblings that some companies are using the current crisis as an opportunity to become permanently remote to save on real estate costs, and while I do understand this inclination, especially in high-cost areas like San Francisco, I hope it doesn't spread to Montreal.

It would be nice to see my co-workers again on a regular basis. It would be nice to have meetings in rooms with actual whiteboards. It would be nice to feel activity around me as I drink my coffee and eat my lunch.

Anyway, none of this goes away until we get a vaccine, and that's not going to happen until some time next year, at the earliest. In the meantime, to paraphrase Joe Biden, it's going to be a long, dark winter.

I suppose we're lucky, in a way. Can you imagine going through this in 1918? No TV, no radio, barely any telephones. People were literally all you had, except now you didn't. And people got past it, so I guess we should take solace in that.

I think I need to start another puzzle.