Is it the Office, or Science Fiction?

I recently had to go to the office for the first time in 20 months to get a new laptop. The machine is lovely, but the overall experience was unsettling, and led to a string of epiphanies.

During the 20-minute drive there, I was amazed that I used to commute five days a week, burning time and gas. The office’s atrium, with its indoor ficus trees and glass ceiling four stories up, was still, nearly silent, a ghost town — instead of bustling with conversations and lunchtime “track” walkers. My time with the IT guy was mundane but abnormal: masked, distanced, a little stilted.

On my way home, I realized what the experience reminded me of: the Upside Down from Stranger Things (without the Mind Flayer, unless you count doomscrolling). The flipside shadow world of working from home is where I live now, and the old normal is an alien realm.

I’m very happy working remotely, but it’s stunning to stop and think of how different my work life was 20 months ago. And amazing that it took a little trip to the office to make me notice the sea change that became normal to me long ago.

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