I am worried about us, about how we interact with one another. Especially after 17 months of being apart, many of us are craving being together and at the same time we need to work on our togetherness skills. Let's face it, it has not been an easy 17 months, it is not like we were all on a dream vacation, a slow luxury cruise around the world. We were home, trying to stay safe, and healthy, and employed, and sane. Trying to find toilet paper, and flour, and yeast (I always have yeast in the freezer.) We had to learn new survival skills, how to wash our hands, how to not get too close to others, how to sign up for a waiting list for vaccines, how to work remotely, how to navigate Zoom, and Teams, and other mysterious platforms. Some of us might need some time to return to socialization. Time for kindergarten or preschool for all of us.
The subway has decided now, just as we are starting to return to the office, it is time to fix a 40 year old ventilation problem on the line that runs under my office, so they will be single tracking for 6 weeks. To avoid the chaos, I am riding an alternate line to station 10 minutes walk from my desk. I need to get exercise so in the morning I am getting off one station farther away and walking. It is a nice 15-20 minute walk, a good start on my 30-60 minutes each day. That is a long way around to get to someone I am seeing often. There is a man at the corner of 15th Street Northwest and K-Street Northwest, right in the heart of lobbyist land, who comes out every morning, sits on a folding chair on the corner in front of a coffee shop and wishes everyone a "GOOD MORNING!" He shouts, he blows a whistle to get people's attention so he can shout at them. People avoid him like the plague, I can just imagine the lawyers in the office tower trying to find a way to move him from that sidewalk. Maybe he is homeless, maybe is mentally challenged, or mentally ill, maybe he is lottery winner who has devoted his life to wishing the world a good morning. I don't know but people are avoiding him, and that worries me.
The first morning I kept my distance, he looks - well not entirely normal - whatever normal would look like. But then he is sitting on a busy street corner in the heart of a major world capital bellowing out GOOD MORNING to passers by, what can I expect him to look like. The second morning, I went closer, close enough to make eye contact and I said, "GOOD MORNING TO YOU, You have a great day!" And he said, "thank you, you too."
I am worried about us, worried that we would avoid a dear soul who only wants to wish us a Good Morning, a good day! Maybe I will join him when I retire, wishing the world a GOOD MORNING! Everyone needs something to do, some purpose in life, his is to wish the world a good morning.
At the end of our department meeting, the boss asked if anyone had done anything interesting, or heard a good joke. A colleague said she could certainly use a good laugh. Then the Zoom call ended. I thought about it for a minute, and went to YouTube and looked at clips from some of my favorite feeds. Everyone of them was potentially offensive to some sensitive person. I thought about the mandatory training on workplace harassment, and hostile workplace and couldn't find a roll on the floor laughing clip that wasn't potentially offensive to someone.
I am worried that we have lost our sense of humor in the workplace. Too many things offend someone. I recently was asked to take the word "vulnerable" as in "vulnerable adult" out of a PowerPoint because someone was offended by the term (it is used in many state adult abuse statutes to describe a person covered under the statute.) To quote a line from a Jimmy Buffet song, "if we can't all laugh, we all go insane." Oh sorry, that might offend someone. Laughter is great medicine. Certainly the ethnic and blond jokes of the past are no longer appropriate, but there has to something funnier than Seinfeld that we can share. I never understood the humor in Seinfeld.