The coronavirus has taken over. South Africa has been locked down for three weeks. Canada is under self-isolation orders. I read somewhere that there are something like a billion people staying at home, like you’re supposed to when trying to reduce the global pandemic of a bug more virulent than the flu.

Italy is levelling off, apparently, thank the Smiter. And now the US is number 1 for all the wrong reasons.

I started working from home (WFH) in around 2001 when I registered my company in South Africa. I still had a day job, but in 2003 – 2004 I went full time, much to my detriment. I was living alone and as previous experience has shown, I don’t eat properly, and at the time I didn’t understand that cash flow (a.k.a. liquidity) is more valuable to a business than contracts that have 60-day payment terms, and living off a small inheritance.

When we moved to Canada in 2010 (it was our ten-year anniversary last week), I didn’t have a job, but I was allowed to work because of the conditions of our visa, so I got a retail job at the local computer store, removing viruses from laptops, repairing servers, and occasional consulting. That lasted six months before I got the itch to be freelance, consulting again. I did that until we moved to Calgary in 2012, and registered my Canadian company at around the same time.

And that has been the status quo for me since then. I have consulted in IT (with a focus on SQL Server of course) for many customers, short-term and long-term, all over the world (including Europe, South Africa, Canada, and the United States), and despite a short on-site engagement in 2013 for a few months to help a customer with performance issues in their [redacted] database, I’ve worked from home.

You’d think it would be easy to handle a little global pandemic then, wouldn’t you? Sitting in front of the TV, laptop out, typing away at something, like I do every day. I do online shopping for my electronic needs, and Spouse A, the love of my life, has always handled groceries and household stuff because I’m bad at that.

This is different though, because I feel the mental weight of a billion people working from home. The psychic connection — if there is such a thing — is tangible. Humans are undergoing an upheaval the likes of which is unprecedented. Sure we’ve been in lockdowns before, sure we’ve had millions of people dying from illness before, but not at this psychological, Internet-based scale, where bad news travels fast, and misinformation travels faster. As Marty McFly said, “this is heavy”.

I might be a hermit who only goes outside to walk their dog, but I miss the things I could do before, like piano lessons at the university, or choir rehearsals at the church, or even theatre society board meetings. I’ve done all of these things online (the choir singing thing was a disaster but at least we tried). As someone who generally prefers not talking to people, I miss talking to people.

I don’t have a pithy response. I don’t have a smart reply. I have no idea if another company I own in South Africa will stay in business. I don’t know who in my family and friend circle are going to die from this virus, or if it will be me. I don’t know if a vaccine is forthcoming, and whether it’ll get to everyone in time. I just don’t know. I think that’s what everyone is feeling, and that is scary.

Thank you to the medical professionals who are putting themselves in the front line of this unknown situation, like my husband. All I can do is wash my hands, keep my face touching to a minimum, and physically distance myself from other humans where possible. All you can do is the same.

The least you can do is literally the least you can do.

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