• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

2 Earners, 2 Students, 1 House

So far, so good.

March 26, 2020
 
 

The Wife and I are both working from home full-time, and The Boy and The Girl are taking their classes (college and high school, respectively) from home.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the relative smoothness of it, but “relative” is the key word.

On Wednesday morning, for instance, TW and I had Zoom conferences at the same time. Neither of us has an inconspicuous set of headphones, so we both used laptop speakers. We went into separate rooms, which helped somewhat, but sound bleed is a real issue.

Sally (aka The Dog) is having a blast. She has made surprise guest appearances in a couple of Zoom conferences this week; in one, her appearance prompted someone else to put her dog on camera, too. Sally likes having her people around, and now that all four of us are around most of the time, she’s in her glory. And I’ve noticed far more people walking dogs in the neighborhood over the last couple of weeks than I’d ever seen before. As difficult as this is for people, it’s a windfall for dogs.

Evenings are tougher. There’s only so much Zoom someone can do in a day, and it’s more tiring than you would expect. TB and TG sometimes have projects they need to work on at the exact time that the adults want to put together some sort of board game night. We’ve been pretty good about not relying on the TV. I keep hearing people make jokes about binge-watching Netflix during the quarantine, but I don’t know how. They must not have kids.

I had two Zoom meetings with the faculty union earlier this week, one with my president and one on my own. I was surprised to find that they were easier than addressing a crowded auditorium. I think it was partly due to the relative intimacy of Zoom. Although you’re physically farther away, the close-ups (and the fact of sitting down) make it easier to convey nuance. The format also tends to favor one-on-one exchange, which allowed a more conversational style of discussion.

Still, I’m very aware of how lucky we are that this works as well as it does. We’re lucky that we both have jobs that lend themselves to working from home. We don’t have an NYC-style crowded apartment; it’s actually possible for us to work in separate rooms when it becomes necessary. The Wi-Fi is usually good. We have enough laptops that we don’t have to compete for them. We’re all decently healthy so far. We all have our flaws, but nobody is mean, or abusive, or dealing with addiction; the level of drama has been low, even by our standards. The only real outbursts have come when the UPS truck has the temerity to drive by and Sally lets it know clearly that it’s not welcome here. Her loud warnings seem to work; every time she barks at it, it goes away.

The few times we’ve tried to watch television, we don’t get much more than an hour in before someone gets too tired to keep watching. We had to watch Knives Out over two nights, even though we all enjoyed watching Daniel Craig try to sound southern. We all agreed that the house itself seemed pretty cool, what with the secret staircases and multiple spires.

The Boy is struggling the most. He’s 18 and the family extrovert. Cabin fever hits him the hardest. That line about it being hard to keep them on the farm once they’ve seen Paris is kind of true, even though this isn’t a farm and Charlottesville isn’t Paris. He’s thoughtful enough not to get stupid about it, but I can see the strain. The first day the social distancing thing is lifted, there will be a TB-shaped hole in the front door.

Routine has been a sanity saver. It provides punctuation to the day.

Wise and worldly readers, how are you holding up under home confinement?

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