Where are you, Gwen?

My friend, Gwen, is an interesting person.  Interesting as in different or unconventional. She would be so pleased to hear that description. “Oh, Linda, there’s nothing worse than boring people,” she used to say.

We met at work years ago. She was in her late 40s but looked older. Her face was lined and her thick, unruly bob was completely white.  She would never consider colouring it because she doesn’t much care about trends or what others think of her appearance.

Her best feature, besides her quirky personality, is her beautiful blue eyes.  She makes continuous, wide-eyed contact during a conversation. Her blue eyes, magnified by her glasses, are riveting and hard to look away from. Of course, you would only know that if she decided you weren’t boring and engaged with you.

Gwen is curious and always up to try something new.  One evening as we were driving to a concert with her then teen-aged daughter, Gwen announced that she wanted to be an “older model”.  (This was before the industry tried to be politically correct by signing plus-size and older models.)

“But why, Mom?” her daughter asked plaintively from the backseat.

“Well, because the world needs to see older women more and know they have value. And someone has to pave the way.”

Her daughter was quiet for a moment.  Then in a small voice mixed with pride and embarrassment she asked, “Yes, but does it have to be you?”

Gwen used to ride her bike everywhere. Mind you, this was not a light, modern, multi-geared bike. It was a heavy, old-fashioned one, with a little metal basket attached to the handle bars and a rack over the rear tire for a saddle bag. The kind you could picture a sweet, older lady in a colorful sundress and straw hat riding, basket filled with wild flowers.  Gwen was heartbroken to find it gone one day. She couldn’t imagine someone would steal another person’s bike.

That is her downfall. She feels things deeply and, despite her cheerful outlook, this can send her spiraling to dark places. She always bounces back, but sometimes it takes a while.  That’s why I’m sure something is wrong.

I left the company  years ago and she retired and moved to the country, but we meet at least once a year for dinner. Last September, it struck me that we hadn’t seen each other in a while, so I emailed her to set a date. When I didn’t get an answer, I called her cell phone and left a message.  Again, no answer.  I tried a few more times but no luck.  This is not like her. I worry that she is sick or something has happened to her. Without contact information for either of her kids, though, I have reached a dead end.

Today, a year after my original email, I sent a new one. In it, I simply tell her that I understand if she no longer wants to stay in touch, but I just want to know if she is OK.  I miss my eccentric friend and I really hope to hear back from her this time.

Moving cautiously beyond Zoom

https://www.freepik.com/vectors/medical – Vector created by pikisuperstar – http://www.freepik.com

“Do you need chocolate?”

I looked up to see my colleague’s smiling face in my office doorway.

“Always!” I answered, grinning back.

Her question was in response to my groan of frustration when my computer refused to cooperate. Our team is made up of mostly women, so chocolate or wine is regularly offered up as a salve to almost any problem.

“See? You can’t get this banter working from home,” she shot back before disappearing back to her office.

She is right. Like many, our small team has been working from home since COVID-19 forced all businesses to close.  It had its perks like an uber-casual dress code, no traffic and no lunch prep. Meetings were held via Zoom and, as far as business communications go, it was pretty effective. But Zoom can’t hold a candle to the real face-to-face exchanges that happen in the hallways, lunchroom and stairways of a workplace.

Now we are moving cautiously beyond Zoom.  We’re slowly re-entering our workplace on staggered schedules, until we are back to a full, on-site team. There’s chatter at reception, music flowing from the sound system and life in the building again. We are careful to stay the requisite six feet apart and, when that isn’t possible, we wear masks. Gloves, wipes and hand sanitizer are now found in the supply cabinet along with pens, photocopy paper and paperclips. It is, as they say, the “new normal”.

We’re happy to see each other again but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t a little uneasy.  There’s still so much to learn about this virus, including how long it will be among us. In the meantime, we are doing what we can to live as safely and as normally as possible with it.

This post was written in response to the daily word prompts provided by
Jibber Jabber with Sue for Day 14 (learn) and Day 19 (music).

The magic of Zoom!

Written for Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Today’s prompt is the word:  welcome.

I’m an introvert but not a hermit. Still, it came as a bit of an unwelcome surprise when only four days into working from home, I began to miss my routine.  Yes, that routine that I so often gripe about. You know the one:  Wake up, make coffee, hop into the shower, dry your hair, iron a blouse, pack your lunch, have breakfast, get in the car and drive to work. I could and should do the lunch and ironing part in advance, especially since I’m a born planner, but years of having to do it for both myself and my kids in the past have made me rebel against this.

Day one, I felt a sense of freedom. I woke up later than usual and then did my home workout during the time usually spent driving to work. By 8:30 am, I was at my computer and ready to face the day. Day two was similar but the sense of novelty was already wearing thin. On Day three, the isolation of my home office in the basement began to make itself known, even while my husband worked in his own office upstairs. I moved my computer from my office to the kitchen table where natural daylight streams into the room. My colleagues and I stayed in touch by email and by phone. But, none them stopped by while on their way to the photocopier; we didn’t gather in the lunchroom while we ate our mid-day meal or meet up at the coffee maker.

Then on Day Four, we all attended a meeting through the magic of Zoom video conferencing.  We had just bought it the week before to offer remote activities to our clientele. Our boss configured it and boom!  All our smiling faces were visible on each of our home computer screens. “Are you still in pyjamas?” someone asked me because the fleece around the neck of the hoodie I was wearing makes it look like a housecoat. “I don’t wear pyjamas,” I quipped (I was kidding) but it was so nice to hear their laughter.  After a few minutes of exchanging updates, we got down to business but it was a welcome break to the social distancing I am finding harder than I thought it would be.