Sunday, April 5, 2020

Reaction Time, Sartorial Signifier, Future Cave Woman

Everyone is doing the best they can at the hospital, but things are changing constantly, new information is coming in at a dizzying pace, and day by day I never know what is going to hit me. My work life is an exercise in unpredictability. Case in point: After weeks of being told in no uncertain terms not to mask, suddenly everyone was asked to mask. This whiplash change in policy meant I had to enact a big, frenzied communication pivot within the job I am currently doing (managing the Non-Clinical Labor Pool and Entry Control Points) and then the questions, questions, questions: Where to obtain and store the masks, how to distribute, who is the point person for what and how, why, when, where and what about the reprocessing bins and then the next day it’s all different again. All I do is react to change. It is not a time of planning or developing or building for the future It’s a time of war and it is on, my friends.

Anyway, long story short, I am masking at work now, and it’s weird both physically and psychologically. It feels alien to have a piece of material covering over half my face. It’s hot, it’s vaguely itchy, it smells disconcertingly medical, and I am brushing my teeth and rinsing with mouthwash multiple times per day because I can’t tolerate even the slightest whiff of odor on my breath. With the amount of coffee I’m sucking down these days, this is a challenge. I’ve always been very paranoid about my breath as it is, and I’m one of those people who compulsively pop Altoids and breath gums. Now there is no escaping the smell of my own breath. I’m going to have a get a handle on this neurosis because skipping lunch and living on Dentyne is not a sustainable option.

With the advent of the mask, I’ve ditched the lipstick (the masks go to be reprocessed and they can’t reprocess a mask that has lipstick stains on it), and I have decided to go minimalist on the makeup. I just brush on a little mascara and call it good, which saves me a remarkable amount of time in the mornings. I’ve also taken to wearing tennis shoes because I’m constantly running to our Entry Control Points to deal with issues and my normal work shoes aren’t great for clocking miles on a hard surface. No one’s said anything about the tennis shoes. The way things are going, I could probably get away with jeans and hoodies at this point. This same sort of sartorial breakdown also happened during the strike, with senior management all but wandering around in their pajamas towards the end. The near-total breakdown of professional appearance is an interesting signifier of a crisis.

Speaking of sartorial breakdown, I was minding my own business sitting on the couch playing Bejeweled on my phone when Mr. Typist called out from the bathroom, “You’re not doing anything important. Get in here and help me.” I would quibble with his assessment of my chosen activity, but nonetheless, I put down my phone and came into the bathroom to find half of his afore-mentionedmad-scientist hair in a towel on the sink and a set of clippers scattered over the counter. “I need you to get the spots I missed,” he implored. I was very reluctant, but I bravely picked up the buzzer and went to work. I must say, by the end, it actually looked pretty good. It’s very short, but it looks nice. Almost like a normal haircut. I wonder how many other people are doing home haircuts through all of this and how they are faring. I’ve decided let my hair grow as it will, bangs and all, since all other pretense of a polished appearance has gone out the window. By the end of this I expect to look like a full-on cave woman, complete with a deer-skin hoodie. 

For your amusement, here is a gentle funny video from comedian Trey Kennedy on the travails of quarantine. The argument about the make-up and the fat made me laugh pretty hard.

--Kristen McHenry



Dale said...

It's awfully reassuring to know you're one of the people minding the ship. said...

Every week goes by so much better, Kristen, after reading your post!