Many believed that things would return to normal. It went on like that for weeks and weeks, then months and months. Oh we did finally return to work, but something had changed. The old camaraderie, the joking around the water fountain, the smirking and cat calls, whistles and jibes had gone silent, never to return. We all sat in our cubicles like rats in a trap, unable to speak or say anything. We sat there like ghosts of our former selves, our eyes glued only to our screens. It was as if the world had emptied itself of the last vestige of the human spirit and replaced it with this “thing”: an indefinable absence; a listless, lifeless, insubstantial void. We all felt it but were afraid to admit it even to ourselves. Something had died inside. We had died inside.
New rules had entered our lives. We no longer had those morning stand-ups, debriefings, or round table discussions about our daily quotas or activities. Instead we had screen ops, team-speak or discord meetings. All part of the new social distancing regulations that had taken over all our lives. Oh sure there were many who rebelled against such things at first. People who bucked the system, but most of these had fallen by the wayside long ago, sickened by their own solitude, ostracized and left to fend for themselves in empty rooms. One could find such creatures talking to themselves, taking on the role of this or that conversational tone, playing a sort of musical chair routine with themselves as the multitude in and endless dance of meaningless chatter. These had been isolated cases. Most of us just continued pretending that face to face discussions were a thing of the past and that now and from now on humans would exist in isolation. We accepted the inevitable.
We accepted the new normal.
Whether in the office, the call center, the service counter, in the creative industries, the retail show-floor or the backroom warehouse, life seemed to be far away. We’d always known our daily jobs were part of a system whose only benefit was to accumulate ruins, our lives a part of a receding value plan that would leave us broken at the end like so many dolls left on the shelves of forgotten childhood dreams. But what had now become evident was the sheer pointlessness of our daily endeavors. A shifting journey without end or rationale, slowly poisoning almost every aspect of our lives on the job, even lingering in our slow withdrawal at the end of our grinding days. But, of course, it is never over. The grind and circle of our endless apathy and degradation continue… even after the plague.