BRANDON J. WEICHERT | THE WEICHERT REPORT
Try to have fun during these unpredictable times…
You’re sitting at your home at 12:27 pm on a weekday. A week ago, you were stressing because Karen in HR was up your ass about an off-color joke you made at the recent office party that offended Marie (who went to Oberlin, of course) and Harold, your supervisor, was blowing up your email about whether you got his email this morning demanding to know about the state of your project (which hasn’t gotten off the ground because the patchy bearded, snarky IT guy couldn’t get the program you needed to do the project on working properly).
Now, here you sit at home, the kids are climbing on top of you; your wife has decided that she needs “time” for herself, and Harold is yet again blowing up your email about the damn project. You’ve got a teleconference set up to present the details of this project to your bosses who’ve decided to hole up in one of their gilded cages, or mansions, rather than sojourn to the office themselves.
Naturally, Eric can’t get the teleconference to work. So, he’s called the company that created the program for tech support in India.
Of course, this is all fine with you because, in the rush to take everything needed to work from home from the office on Friday, you were compelled to get to the nearest grocery store to stock up on supplies for the coming quarantine.
When you got there, though, you ended up waiting hours to get into the store, where you then waded through desperate soccer moms and persnickety yuppie Liberals, only to find that there was a run on toilet paper earlier that morning and there was nothing left.
Gone also were pretty much any paper product; household cleaning products; hand sanitizers; and onions.
Why onions? You had wondered to yourself as you noticed tranches of meat still sitting on the shelves and other, more palatable, vegetables nearby.
As if reading your mind, a crunchy, Liberal mother of three trundled past you as you stood staring at the empty bin where onions usually were housed and exclaimed, “They’re saying onions will help fight coronavirus!” She then admonished you by saying you, “Should’ve gotten here sooner.”
Who is “they”? You want to ask this strange woman, but you’re too tired and annoyed to inquire further. And she appeared far too manic to have a reasonable conversation with.
You couldn’t help but notice that the crunchy mother wearing her “I’m With Her” shirt and carting around her kids also had a stack of toilet paper and hand sanitizer in her shopping basket.
What about the planet? You wondered ruefully to yourself.
After spending nearly three hours in the store on Friday, you ended up picking some stuff you had needed for home anyway.
The line to check out wrapped around to the back of the store, placing you in the same aisle as the baby products.
There you saw your snarky colleague, Eric, the IT guy with the patchy beard and the soy boy-like features on his iPhone, Facetiming with his wife.
Or, at least she sounded like his wife.
When you got a peak at the image of who he was talking to on the screen, she had that “Me Too” haircut (you know, the one that Scarlett Johansson had a few years ago: the partial buzzcut with the longer hair to the side? Very cyberpunk).
Anyway, she had been screaming at poor Eric about how much of a lout he was (at least she knew what she getting into when she married him, you joked to yourself) because there weren’t any baby wipes left and now, apparently, there had been a run on the baby wipes too.
As you approached to stand in the line for the checkout which was all of the way to the baby aisle, Eric screamed a rather high-pitched sound of agony–frustration, really–and he slowly moved his cart in a passive-aggressive manner to blockade you.
“Excuse me, Eric.” You had said politely.
Eric shook his head. “Do you know me, bro?” He said in his typical nasally voice. It was an attempt to sound tough, but instead almost evoked a laugh from you.
You had nodded dispassionately. “Eric, it’s me from work. You were just helping me on my system before all of this started.” You explained, realizing that the creep never looks you in the eye whenever he’s come to fix your system. This was strange, you thought, since he was such an obnoxiously tall individual.
“Yeah, well I need these baby wipes!” He said angrily, reaching in to the nearly empty shelf and pulling out the last small pack of baby wipes from the back.
They were, of course, the Earth Brand all natural wipes. Funny how no one wanted any of the Lefty-type foods to get through the end of the world.
You shook your head. “I don’t need baby wipes,” noticing the supposedly desperate Eric had been holding a medium-sized bullshit Frappuccino drink from the nearby Starbucks in his hand.
The end of the world was supposedly at hand and here Eric was, being publicly emasculated by his wife–via FaceTime, no less–struggling to hold back the hordes from taking the last Earth-friendly baby wipe while maintaining a perfectly manicured grip on his overpriced coffee drink.
“So just back off, man!” Eric exclaimed, throwing the wipes in his cart and huffing off.
“Talk to you on Monday for the conference.” You said coyly.
Eric shook his head and wandered off into the chaos of the store around them.
It went downhill from there.
By the time you had made it home on Friday night, the wife had informed you that she was going to “need help” from the kids. Naturally, you would help. After all, your wife assumed that working from home was the equivalent of a paid vacation.
But, of course, this is the United States. Paid parental leave is for socialists…or something.
No, your soulless, life-sucking paper-pushing job would ground on even as the world collapsed around you. You heard the elected officials telling all but the most essential workers to stay home. Working sales was important at a time like this? Maybe if you worked for Charmin.
If this was just for a few weeks, why not just give everyone a break?
Spend time with your family? Don’t make the corporatist overlords laugh!
So now, here you are, at noon on a workday, waiting for Eric and Singh to figure out why the computer program that was supposed to unite all members of the multinational firms’ staff from around the world into one, virtual conference room kept getting a denial of service response.
Maybe the Chinese were hacking the network.
You had heard that the company had spent a hefty sum of money investing into the program. In fact, they even had to lay off some of your coworkers a few years ago because the new system would render their jobs “redundant.”
We’ve used the internet as a society for decades. Yet, no one can seem to figure out how to make teleworking actually work.
“Not gonna work.” Eric mouth-breathed into the conference call. “Sorry.” He said. But he wasn’t sorry. Neither were you.
“Does this mean the meeting is canceled?” You asked, trying to contain your excitement at that prospect. This was great because you hadn’t showered yet. You stood up to take the suit jacket and tie off that you were wearing above your boxers to replace them with your pajamas. You wondered if you could have a beer instead and hang out with the kids.
“No!” Harold thundered, sounding like Charleton Heston from Soylent Green. “We’ll just do it over the phone.” He added officiously.
You resisted the urge to retort, “OK, Boomer,” into the phone.
“Life does not stop just because of the fucking flu!” Harold added angrily. Poor Harold wasn’t taking being pent up in his posh home on the water with his third wife very well. He rarely saw her, after all. He always had to “work.”
The news had said this was more than the flu.
Maybe it was the statistics class that your state university had required you to take in order to extract some extra money from the federal government before you could graduate or the double-feature of Outbreak and Contagion that you and the wife watched last night on Amazon Prime, but you knew this wasn’t just the flu.
THERE ARE R-NAUGHTS INVOLVED HERE, DAMN IT!
As Harold huffed into the phone, you heard your oldest toddler scream, “Oh no!” as water came flooding out of the bathroom near where you sat. You jumped up and ran in to see that your youngest daughter was covered in poop and had used an entire roll of toilet paper and thrown it into the basin and flushed it all down…which was now coming back up!
With the phone in one hand, you attempted to stop the water from flowing over as Harold began his long diatribe on the importance of accountability and always being dependable. That’s when the handset plopped into the overflowing toilet as you yelled in anger, taking the plunger to the swirling liquid mess heap surging forward from the toilet basin.
You looked over at your toddler, who had also managed to tie herself and her sister up in a web of toilet paper and shook your head. You would need to call a plumber to fix this. But you looked down at the flooded bathroom floor and saw the handset for the phone lying lifelessly there. You’d have to find someone online and have them come.
As you logged onto the laptop, you looked up the contact information of the nearest, best-rated plumber only to see a flash across the website saying that the coronavirus was forcing them to discontinue service until further notice.
I thought the president said all essential work must continue? You thought annoyed to yourself. Your work email started blowing up. It was Harold. He demanded to know why you had hung up on the meeting. As you replied, your news feed had another press conference of the president’s running, indicating that “we would be fine” but that more quarantine measures were in effect.
That doesn’t sound fine, Harold. You thought angrily to yourself as you feverishly typed out a response to Harold’s manic inquiries.
You shook your head. How is it that all of the money our society has spent on technology to make us “modern”; how is it that the freest, most successful democratic government in the world, is barely getting by before the major outbreak of this disease gets going? And why are so many people living in abject denial about the seriousness of the threat we’re facing?
Harold’s email indicated that he was most displeased with you and concluded with “We need to talk” when office hours are restored. According to the president, though, that wasn’t happening anytime soon. And until then, they were going to have to pay you. Perhaps if Harold’s generation hadn’t spent the last 15 years fighting the computerization of society, you’d not be in this position. Alas, here you all were. You saw that bars in your local area were shutting down…Harold’s day was about to get a lot worse.
You then realized that you were now down a toilet and a phone. To compound matters, you needed to get more toilet paper from the store.
Welcome to modern America, you thought to yourself.