It’s been awhile

Today I returned to my office at McGill for the first time since February 2020. There was stuff in the fridge that I’d left in 2020. The most frightening thing was some store bought hummus that had not developed any visible weird molds on it. I did not taste it–it is almost more disturbing that it just looks fine than if it add all sorts of funky colours on it. I will also not be buying that brand again anytime soon. It, and everything else in the fridge went in the trash, along with expired medications, print copies of journals that I don’t want (when will they learn?), and so much mail.

There were letters and books that arrived in 2020, 2021, and 2022; I took a little time to write thank you notes (and belated congratulations) for some complimentary copies sent by authors.

And there was dust, oh so much dust everywhere. The office had been cleaned, but not fully and mostly in the areas that were being regularly used. I think McGill now employs a single porter per three buildings, so I don’t blame them.

I spent most of the day cleaning, decluttering (a bit) and putting things right. My museum of quirky/obsolete communication technologies is looking a bit worse for wear and may need some refreshing. The walls definitely need some new decorations. I need a new desk chair.

I was in because I had an appointment with an instructional tech person to try out tech in a classroom because it looks like–Covid willing–I will be teaching on campus in the fall. I also needed to check out the classroom in case I had to address other access needs before the term starts. My approach to dealing with the pandemic is simply to follow my doctor’s instructions. I outsource my thinking to him, because he seems to have a good balance between “be careful” and “live your life.” He thinks I can do it and that I won’t be in serious danger (though of course I could get sick and probably will).

It’ll be me and 200 undergrads in a crowded lecture hall, so I wanted to make sure the lecture recording system works with the audio setup I want to use. I want to be able to tell students not to come to class if they are feeling sick, which means providing decent recordings.

Campus is usually pretty deserted in July. In fact, I almost never go in during July, but it’s been a weird month. We pushed off most of our vacation to August, and that’s meant an uncannily busy summer with only 10 days off to go see family (plus nights and weekends). I have never had so much to do in July. I don’t know if it’s because I lost a month to Covid in April and feel like I’ve been playing catch-up ever since (another reason why this space has been all crickets), or if it’s something about the outside world.

The office visit was so incredibly banal, but also somehow punctuated time for me. Things were really different in so many ways when I last set foot there. To say I didn’t know what was coming was an understatement–not just the pandemic but so many other things. I catch myself talking about pre-pandemic time as if that’s “normal” and everything since then is exceptional, but people have started and finished master’s degrees in the time since I last walked in that room. They’re different, and so am I.