Back in the Saddle, Again

Terryl Rushing

Article by Terryl Rushing Featured Author


More than a year ago, on March 24, 2020, to be exact, employees at the Cochran Courthouse in Jackson were advised to snatch up their laptops and head home to telework. Since then, as so many of us have done, I managed to set up a pretty nice home office. It started out in the dining room, right in front of the bay windows. Yeah, I knew that was the only place where the Christmas tree would work, but who knew we’d still be doing this December? Then my base of operations had to be moved to a spare bedroom, which had to be painted. And decorated. There was only one small window, rather than a large bay window with a southern exposure. The lighting was so bad, I had to install some more fixtures, so that I would look 30 on Zoom calls. Okay, 40. Ish… So what would happen just as I put the finishing touches on my home office?

As the numbers of COVID19 cases began dwindling, this past Monday, March 15, we were advised to drag our laptops back, along with ourselves, to the courthouse. So, Sunday night, I began gathering supplies for the first day back. The essentials — coffee, cream, sweeteners, snacks, TUMS… Oh, better pack up the laptop. And shoes; I’ll probably need those. And real clothes, with appropriate undergarments. No more Jammie Justice. And the badge, without which entry to pretty much everything is denied.

Monday morning, I crept in quietly before 8:00 to avoid one of those awkward, stay in your corner, elevator rides. Well, as quiet as you can be with four full bags of absolutely essential items. After the bags were dumped on the floor, I re-introduced myself to the Keurig. I hit the power button, and its green eye stared at me, unblinking, as if to challenge my return. At least my favorite coffee cup was still there.

The next stop was the fridge (notice I haven’t actually cranked up the laptop yet). Thankfully, I had tossed all the perishables during one of my quarantine visits, so there were no “It’s either very old meat or very new cheese” decisions. The freezer? There’s some frozen lunches up there that I’ll wade through, but I’ve discovered that even frozen stuff can deteriorate in a year. The food cupboard has some items that are, no doubt, sketchy at this point, but I’ll save the expiration and best-by date review for another day, although I have learned that soft drinks, like beer, can get pretty skunky with age.

When I walked into my office and flipped the switch, the lights blinked at me before coming on, as if annoyed to be awakened. Okay, to the desk, which is surprisingly clean-the product of another quarantine visit. My office phone is apparently unplugged from some vital piece of equipment and not working – a fact that I had noticed months ago and refused to report, so that I wouldn’t have to learn how to check messages remotely. Guess I’ll have to call — wait, email — about that. Finally, I could sit back in my chair to assess the new situation.

Things have changed.

The return to work directive is not universal, so many of the people who would normally be at the courthouse are still working from home. The parking lots are only half-filled, and the hallways are pretty empty, as is the “smoker’s lounge” on the south side of the building. A couple of my work buddies retired during quarantine, so there will be fewer distractions up here, but a lot less fun. My battery powered wall clock died, neglected and alone, while I was gone. My office plant would have joined it if I hadn’t snagged it early on and taken it home, but the fake ficus is thriving, thank you very much. Since I wasn’t here last fall, I didn’t order a new Day Planner. And now, are you kidding me? They’re all out of stock. Well, except the one with the Mandalorian on the cover. He’s actually kind of cute; maybe I can find a Barbie lunchbox to go with it.

I’ll be re-learning to work in an 8-hour shift, rather than 3 hour shifts with a walk, or a load of laundry, in between. And I miss my wingman — the dog who has let me bounce ideas off her for months, so long as I drop the occasional piece of sandwich. Greeting our mail carrier had become a high point in my day; I’m sure she’s going to miss me. And I had gotten to know my neighbors, the checkers at Kroger, and the Waste Management guys. Now I have to re-learn the names of everybody up here.

Apparently, I’ve changed during the last year, too. It’s only been a year, right? About halfway up the stairs yesterday, it felt like I was ten years older, kind of like Rip Van Winkle. Years ago, I spent two fun-filled hours in one of the elevators in this building, so I resolved to take my phone with me every time I rode one. Now I’ve resolved to take it with me every time I enter a stairwell, in case I need to call for help. The doors have gained weight, too; at least, they’re heavier than they used to be, and I’ve had to enlarge the fonts on my monitors another 25%.

Somebody asked me yesterday if I was “back back.” Like, permanently. I’m not sure at what point can we be confident that there will not be another surge, or some other need to telework. But for now, I’m “back back.” And I celebrated by brushing my teeth with Jackson water.