Place of Business

Routine’s a good thing. Economic stability is a really good thing. You can put up with a lot in order to have those things.

My routine work life occurred in a rabbit warren of hallways and cubicle alleys jammed into a badly repurposed 1920s factory in Allston-Brighton-Watertown-Newton, a directional mess that was so confusing that I still got turned around, even after 9 years. The building was unhealthy and we all knew it, but no one dared object seriously. What, you afraid of a little black mold? We could all see the suspended ceiling tiles above the stairwell, inconvenient for the maintenance guy to reach, that would gradually turn brown, a process that took many months, before they would finally be replaced with tiles that would immediately begin the same transformation. We had a pretty good idea, too, why the roof was not repaired. Why would you do that when you are hoping to make a killing on the real estate market in just a little while? A little black mold isn’t going to hurt anybody!

The long concrete hallway, painted a shiny institutional grey, with labs on either side:

The materials lab.

The testing lab.

The high-voltage lab.

The heat lab.

The engineering department, still as death, peopled with silent men sitting in cubicle after cubicle, and a few silent women, too. The occasional squeak of a marker on a whiteboard, or, more rarely, a low conversation. Once in a while a chatting group of people walking the length of the room, on their way to a conference room.

All of it visually grim. “Engineering companies … ugh. I’ve been in a few of them on projects. Not places I’d ever want to work.” Who said this? My brother, a guy at home with numbers, but of the financial kind. He didn’t mean the cheapness and ugliness of the building, though; he meant the anxiety, gracelessness, dullness. Coldness.

I’ve stayed because the stability is good for me, and there are good people all around me, even though the organization is unhealthy. Working from home full-time is terribly isolating, and it’s also the best thing that could have happened.

November 29, 2020 COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

WorldUnited StatesMassachusetts
Infections61,866,63512,957,430224,964
Deaths1,448,990252,08510,722
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