Are you an office weenie?
Tropical Storm Isaias rolled past my stretch of the Florida coast Sunday, promising to leave offshore winds and clean surf on Monday.
Going to sleep the night before, my brain’s neural pathways fired excitedly. Yes it would be a Monday, and yes I had to finish up and launch an ad campaign for work that was due Tuesday morning, but I was — and I assume other formerly office-trapped surfers will understand my joy — I was working from home.
Working from home, baby!
One positive from the virus is that it’s forced the big corporations to shift their butt-in-your-chair-from-nine-to-five mentalities, thanks to nature (or whoever you want to attribute this virus to).
As humans, we’re excellent mimics. And the C-Level suits at my plant are mimicking the C-Level suits at bigger plants and trusting their workers to get their shit done from wherever they want like responsible adults, without a middle manager peeking over their shoulders every other hour.
Excellent news for the office-job-holding surfer.
You get your work done on your time, and you surf around your work.
Feels like nature, via this virus, has shunted me into a dreamy version of leisure capitalism straight from Aaron James’s Surfing with Sartre.
I know I’m lucky.
Lucky to have a job when so many others don’t.
Lucky to be decent at said job.
Lucky that it’s the type of job that I can do remotely.
Monday morning and the high-tide was killing it; but by lunchtime it felt excellent, especially for the middle of summer on the U.S. east coast.
Florida at close to its finest.
I stayed out until the evening high-tide killed it again.
There’s no point in me trying to describe my ecstasy. I was full on like the end of The Art of Believing in Nothing, in which an anonymous 18th century French skeptic concludes: “Let reason vanish. Let language vanish. Let certainty vanish. Let nature return. Let’s stop talking. Let’s feel, live, and be ignorant about everything in tranquility.”
By the evening, I felt pretty ignorant about everything in liquid, groomed offshore tranquility.
And then came Tuesday, with lightning storms and the offshores knocking it all down.
My entire day was spent “getting pinged” on microsoft teams and being yakked at by pudgy heads inside little boxes on video calls about how to leveraging synergistic business strategies in order to provide disruptive solutions for the customer’s pain-points.
Speaking of pain-points — let me take you inside our “video alignment meeting” on Thursday.
There are two other surfers in the (now-virtual) office.
The first doesn’t concern us.
The second is an older, bald, possibly bi-polar guy we’ll call Jerry.
He’s a fine dude, but he doesn’t keep it on the down-low.
In fact, he’s very talkative about all things surfing, and has the tendency to monologue.
Half-way into the video call, he got onto the topic I’d been praying he’d avoid.
“Hey man, surf was great Monday! Did you get out?”
“Uh, not really. Pretty busy with the campaign launch.”
As he yammers along, the eleven other heads in the eleven other boxes begin to zone out, checking their phones, tip-tapping on their keyboards.
Except, of course, for my boss, who’s listening … with interest.
“It was so good all afternoon!” Jerry says. “So good!”
I try to deflect.
“Yeah, after work I went out for a little bit.”
He continues, detailing the intricacies of the swell and giving me a play-by-play of the cams he checked, the models he consulted, and the reports he read, until finally, he wraps up his monologue.
Done and dusted, right?
Awkward moment over, right?
So I say that I hope we get some more hurricanes, good and big ones, and it’d be great if they could plan themselves so that the cleanup day falls on a weekend, hoping — once again — that Jerry takes the hint.
But at the very mention of “hurricane,” all eleven boxes zone back in to the conversation and start yammering with a fury.
Fingers are wagged at me. Juju is mentioned. Accusations that it will be “all your fault if there’s another hurricane” are laid against me.
(Which, hate to break it to you, Tina from customer service, is going to happen.)
Finally, I’m asked why I can’t just get Kelly Slater to build a wavepool nearby?
And then — and then! — my boss shares his screen, goes to youtube, clicks on a wavepool video, and starts playing the clip for everyone in the virtual meeting.
Just me, my non-surfing co-workers, and my boss, watching a wavepool clip in our virtual meeting.
“Have you seen this before?” he asks me.
The clip plays for a full five minutes — the wave peeling off, perfect again and again, various pros ducking into that barrel — during which people talk about wanting to learn to surf, and people talk about sharks, and people talk about these cool things called hydrofoils that they’ve seen, and Jerry talks about wavepool technology.
Then, it’s over.
My boss un-shares his screen.
He goes: “Norris, you don’t look that happy!”
It’s sweet, because I think he expected that playing the clip would make me happy?
And I appreciate the sentiment.
But also, I’m disturbed.
How can I tell him how I’m actually feeling?
I say, “Oh, it’s just jealousy” — which isn’t a lie — and the meeting returns to people bloviating about ideation workshops for content strategies that will engage the first-time-buyer market and position the brand brand brand and its innovative technologies in this way or that way.
I feel supremely incapable of communicating with these people, with these eleven humans in their little boxes inside the glass screen of my little foldable laptop box.
I understand why I feel this way: the phenomenon of Wittgenstein’s Lion.
But I also feel like turning the memory of a really good surf into cheery, virtual-office small-talk zaps it of its ineffable joy.
I would have preferred everything left unsaid.
I would have preferred my Monday afternoon, the perfection that Isaias left, remain a secret.
Yes, I recognize the irony in writing about all this; but the difference is, I felt like y’all might understand.