Today I had the most epic “the chaos of working from home” moment of this entire pandemic.
Before you can appreciate the chaos of the experience, let’s take minute to envision my typical day working from home. I have office space in our spare bedroom, while Ian retreats to his own man-cave office for the workday. Benji interrupts me frequently, particularly during school days, but also I often get 30- to 90-minute stretches of uninterrupted time when I can focus.
During those stretches, I really appreciate the superiority of my home office compared with my cubicle at work. Most of all, when nobody interrupts me, I work in a fairly quiet environment, not hearing constant distracting background conversations nearly as much as in the office. I play music on speakers, sparing my ears the experience of eight hours of earbuds.
If I lived alone, or without kids, or even with a kid who’s in school all day, I’d feel like working from home in my office was indeed my ideal situation.
Okay, now shift to imagine today’s work from home melee.
First, Benji and my Uncle Gerard planned to watch a movie in French with English subtitles for Benji’s French lesson. I had previously tested out using Google Meet to stream the movie from Hoopla, and we planned for my uncle to run the meeting so he could pause for discussions. But technology issues intervened — he uses a Mac, screen sharing issues cropped up that we couldn’t troubleshoot in the time we had.
That’s okay! We’ll improvise! We’ve gotten really good at that. We just ran the video on my computer, with strict agreement that Benji would pause when asked. But I also kept Benji in my office so I could monitor him and enforce the pauses if needed.
Unfortunately, I had a meeting at the exact same time. I got out my headphones to listen and muted myself so the sound of Benji’s French video didn’t come through. I really needed to focus on this meeting, so I tried really hard to ignore everything but my computer. It wasn’t great… I could hear the video, but I could ignore it most of the time because it was in French. The occasional discussion got a bit distracting, but I did my best.
Then my mom walked into my office. She’d previously asked to borrow cooking spray with flour in it, and naturally she arrived in the middle of the movie-watching/video conference meeting. “Where’s the PAM?” I think I suggested, without tearing my eyes from the screen, that she check the pantry, but I can’t remember because I was trying to focus on my meeting. I needed to absorb that information! But I had to stop and remind Benji not to go back to my mom’s house, because he had other stuff happening in the afternoon.
My meeting went overtime, right up to the time when a guy was scheduled to come and measure our window for a replacement pane. Right before that, on my screen I saw Ian wander through my office, possibly looking for something or to tell me something.
Meanwhile, Benji’s call with my Uncle ended, but Benji had gotten so absorbed in the movie that he wanted to just keep watching. I agreed, but I might not have if I’d known how many exclamations of “This is great!” and “I love this movie!” he’d automatically blurt out. On the other hand, I much prefer those exclamations to the other kind.
Eventually the meeting ended. I probably absorbed 1% of what was said. I finished feeling frazzled and a bit wild-eyed, but also thankful that wasn’t my daily normal.