Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A storm. A call. And Faulkner.

When my wife decided we would evacuate the city, she asked me for some help in finding a place we might call home for six weeks. I'm not much for the rental home finding sites. I find their search mechanisms awful, the photos on their sites even worse, and a near complete lack of useful information.

(In fact, I find all search woeful. It's all been ruined by companies buying prime positioning. We were better off with the Yellow Pages.)

Even so, the first house I found seemed to be very nearly perfect. A little run-down, maybe, but with expansive views of the Long Island Sound, and yes, Long Island itself. That's Mattituck across the water some 15 miles away. On a good day, with the wind blowing just right and the moving south, it's a good bet I could skip a well-tossed stone from the beach here and hit a fat man on a beach over there. Ouch!

We looked around at some other houses just to be on the safe side and just to make sure nothing should ever be easy. But in the end, we wound up in the first place I found. Saturday and Sunday were glorious days, chilly but with deep blue skies and bright sunshine. Spring seemed just over the horizon.

On Sunday night, however, I woke up hearing the wind and rain lashing at the plate-glass. The waves in the usually placid Sound are white-capped and large. They broke over the seawall and sent seawater across walkways and onto the streets. 

The rain and wind have roared all day, howling a gale, as Popeye might have acked. Gorshk, Oliff. That were quite a storm.

When we had departed New York, I had left my ancient Gloucester oilskin at home. I had reckoned, wrongly, that winter was done and spring was in the offing. I didn't want to bring two coats so I opted for a thinner, lighter one.

A mistake.

Today, amid the wet and wind and bluster, we walked along the water with Whiskey a good three and a half miles. We were out early, long before the press of near-incessant conference calls. 

What I've noticed more and more about conference calls, especially as I have been out of the office for nearly two weeks now, is how strange meetings sound once you stop the toxic IV-drip of Korporate Kool-Aid. They have an urgency and a hyperbolic language all their own as if the world will collapse if such-and-such a banner doesn't get out. The gravity of stand-up meetings isn't much different from Mission Control trying to bring home safely a damaged space craft. Except you're doing things of very little consequence.

Now that we've seen the world actually teeter on its way to actual collapse, the banner-induced self-importance and fear-mongering of missing-the-delivery-of-something-resolutely inconsequential seems very much less real. The gravity of the thing has been replaced by near weightlessness.

I suppose we have to regard this nonsense seriously, or what's the point of it all? It's perfectly normal even during the end times when millions might die to have 16 people on a call every half-hour and have every call virtually the same as the one before it. 

We start with people saying they're sorry they're late but their previous call went long. Then we ask if Jennifer is on. Then we ask if the Diamond Team should begin, like they did yesterday. Then someone adds something to what the Diamond Team spokesperson had to say. Then someone says, well, if there's nothing else we can all get a few minutes back in our day. HAHAHA. People laugh at that with an obligatory chuckle--it's the only thing that approaches humanity. In fact it's about as human as the hold music and canned voices we spend our days listening to. It's as if these calls are gifts from heaven itself. Then there is something else that comes up and the call that was meant to be short goes over. Starting the next call a trifle late and the whole thing starts over again.

But, we go on.

As Con Ed used to say back when I was growing up in the Kodachrome years of Amerika, "Dig we must." We work. We listen. Conference Call We Must.

No one knows what will happen, in the US or in any other country. No one knows how long this will last and if the effects of this crisis will be worse or less grievous than people are predicting. No one knows.

I guess in a pre-apocalypse world in a post-apocalypse industry, this is how we'll endure.

I hate to make Faulkner a liar.

He's right. We will endure. 

But I doubt we will prevail.

We're on back to back calls.

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