The question that’s asked a lot these days by our staff when we chat on Zoom or a Hangout is “When will we be able to get back to the office?” It’s a question no one has the answer to right now.
I was out for a walk the other day, and came upon a couple of young girls, maybe 10 and 6, flying a kite on a beautiful, breezy day, happy and proud of their accomplishment. Then a gust of wind pulled the handle out of the older girl’s hand, and away it went. Fortunately, the handle dragged along the ground before getting caught in some nearby brush. I was able to wade into the brush and spot the handle, stuck securely on a small branch, but stopped well short of grabbing it.
Instead, I asked the girls to go and get their parents. A few minutes later the dad headed toward us, late afternoon beer in hand. His first order of business was to reprimand the girls for losing grip on the kite. Then he noticed me. I told him I was near the handle, was carrying an antiseptic wipe, and could 1) grab the handle and return it to his daughter, 2) grab the string and return it or 3) leave it alone. Whatever he preferred. The conversation went this way.
“What do you mean you have a wipe?”
“The wipe is to keep the handle clean. And I wasn’t going to just grab it and give it to your daughter without you being aware.”
“Do whatever you want.”
So I returned to kite to the girls, and they couldn’t say thank you enough. Meanwhile, dad came closer to where we were standing, and here’s how the rest of the conversation went:
“What’s the big deal with the wipe. This thing is being way overblown.”
Typically at this point in a conversation I would have simply walked away. But this time I couldn’t.
“Well, I was out for a walk, sweating, likely touching my face.”
“Yeah, so what.”
“So what? Do you know what’s going on? Do you think I was just going to grab the kite and hand it to your daughter.”
“Yeah, whatever. Thanks.”
And that folks, is why the question of when we can go back to the office is so hard to answer. Our governors and public health officials are not managing to the vast majority of us who are doing what we’re told. They’re managing to the lowest common denominator, the people like “dad,” who are oblivious to the harm they can cause not only to themselves, but so many others around them. According to a recent a survey, 35% of people are only moderately concerned about the coronavirus and of that group more than 10% are barely concerned.
When will we able to get back to the office? Unfortunately, the answer lies with dad.