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Opinion

Stay-at-Home Front

Day 28: Essentially displaced

No rings, beeps, buzzes, crunching, crackling or distracting sounds of any kind.

A temperature and pressure safety valve on a household water heater. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
A temperature and pressure safety valve on a household water heater. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Carin M. Smilk
Carin M. Smilk
Carin M. Smilk is managing editor of the U.S. bureau of JNS.

“Shhh, Dad’s on a business call.” He’s upstairs in the younger boys’ bedroom.

“Keep your voice down … ” I say to the fifth-grader in the hallway while the college kid is taking a three-hour exam on bio-informatics.

“Mom!” scolds the teenager as I inadvertently walk by the Zoom meeting/Latin class in progress in the dining room.

“What do you want for lunch?” I whisper to my third-grader in the kitchen as he comes in from the garage. (What he was doing there, I don’t know.)

No microwaving or toasting, though. No rings, beeps, buzzes, crunching, crackling or distracting sounds of any kind. He drank some milk and gave up.

The elementary-schoolers didn’t have stuff to do, so snacking became an activity. It was a teacher-in-service day … right, a subject for another discussion entirely.

Working at home is getting harder on a daily basis. There is no “normal” anymore. We’re tip-toeing around each other from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (my deadlines get heavier as the day progresses) until about 8, we can finally congregate for dinner.

Today was especially hard. There was sun for the first time all week, and we all would have preferred to be outside doing all that beckons at the end of April. Spring may have sprung, but I am sitting at a desk staring at a computer in the basement.

But that’s going to change soon, at least for one morning or afternoon.

Next week, we’re supposed to get a new water heater. It’s needed; ours is 15 years old. Our plumber, who we have known longer than the age of this Bradford White 50-gallon furnace, said that when he comes for the two-hour job, he has one caveat.

We need to vacate the house.

Leave? Where will go? We all have our respective rooms staked out with all our stuff. Devices, ear buds, pens, pencils, books, art supplies, notepads. We’re going to be dislocated again?

My husband suggested that we could sit in the car. After all, it hasn’t been used much lately. Then again, the WiFi might be spotty (and the interior noise level high).

I guess we can go to the yard. But who needs to speak quietly, and who gets to be on the call? Do we show everyone that we’re outdoors? Does that look like we’re not working hard enough?

Kind of like that reporter with the suit jacket who forgot to put on his pants.

Two hours. Is morning better or afternoon? Will he need an extra hour, by any chance?

How do we work out ONE MORE THING?

I’m exhausted. The plumber can pick the date and time. We’ll be amenable. We can each take a chair on our little white-cement patio out back and pretend that we’re on the vacation we have postponed four times now.

We’ll bring some lemonade juice boxes. A bag of chips. We’ll pretend that we’re not six people kicked out of the utility  room by our essential worker, even though it’s all for a good cause.

Afterwards, we can finally take long, hot showers after months of lukewarm water. Of course, we’ll have to make appointments for that, too, divvying up who goes first and when.

Because you never know who’s practicing multiplication tables in the bathroom.

Carin M. Smilk is the managing editor of JNS.

This Reporter’s Notebook will appear starting on March 16 until the end of the month (or when schools reopen).

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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