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Office Hours

Office Hours: Looking Forewarned

The future's starting to seem bearable again. But there's still that one thing...

The Art of Noise / China Records, Polydor

As I write this on a Tuesday night, I keep thinking about something Katherine said in today’s Discourse Daily (tell your friends to “Like” and “Subscribe”!) about how “everything is Normal Again™”. And, yeah, I suppose that’s kind of true — we’re slowly letting our brains ease up out of the crouch they’ve been in for the past four-ish years, and are beginning to regard the future as maybe, just maybe, not quite so cursed as it could have been. It’s not “optimism” so much as an exhalation — a sort of tacit permission to internalize the fact that a COVID vaccine is starting to (slowly) make its way out of the lab and into people’s arms, and that the president of the United States might be kind of shitty, but he’s shitty-within-the-agreed-upon-parameters enshrined in the Constitution or that prestige drama, or that Broadway musical. Take your pick.

In other words, things still suck — always have, always will — but it feels as if it’s a suck that’s slightly more tolerable than before. The frog’s still in that pot on the stove, but at least the water’s been lowered from a rolling boil to a persistent simmer.

I guess what I’m saying is: It’s okay to look around, see that things aren’t good, but they’re not getting any worse, and feel…I’dunno? Relief? Comfort? Something like that, only watered down by half, at least. Which brings me to this week’s Office Hours, and the fact that for the first time in a long time, thinking about the future isn’t a trigger for that immediate panic attack it once was.

With that in mind, I’d like you to cast your minds eye a few months ahead — a year, max, (hopefully) — and imagine that you’re on the cusp of getting that all-powerful second injection of whatever COVID vaccine is available wherever it is you are. Life is, in many ways, about to go back to something slouching toward normal, and you can start picturing yourself eating indoors at restaurants, giving people hugs, petting strangers’ dogs, or whatever it is you used to do in the before times. Then ~ BAM ~ a moment of panic. Or maybe a groan of dyspeptic annoyance. Or even the beginnings of an infantile “not gonna do it!” tantrum, as you realize that returning to normal means you’ll have to start doing __________ again. So, what is it? What’s the thing you’re least looking forward to — if not outright dreading — once you’re able to get back out there and stand less than 6 feet away from another human being. Is it having to go back into an office? Or up your student loan payments again? Maybe it’s finally having to shave that Grizzly Adams pandemic beard you’ve actually started to like? Perhaps you’ve even grown to like the isolation and privacy of the past year, and aren’t too thrilled about having to interact with the hoi polloi again. Whatever it is, there’s probably something on the other side of all this that’s gonna suck, even while everything else slowly feeling better. So let’s get it all out there now, while we can still put off these existential Sunday Scaries for a little while longer.

It’s Office Hours, folks. Let’s do it.