An almighty crash was followed by a cascade of rainbow coloured Lego across the wooden floor, as a guilty lockdown kitten emerged from the overturned toy box.
Moments earlier he had been crouched. Poised. Ready. Quivering in anticipation. Blue eyes on the prize.
A shiny speck of light danced erratically across the wall.
Alluring to the point of being irresistible. Kryptonite for a cat. The hunt was on!
An imaginary prey.
Impossible to catch or capture.
Yet always tempting. No matter how many times it has disappointed in the past.
It had taken a moment for me to figure out the origin of the light. Spring sunshine reflecting off a glass of water.
The lockdown kitten had stalked across the floor. Low to the ground. Commando style.
Leapt onto the arm of the couch.
Leapt again onto the tropical fish tank.
A controversial move. The aquarium is prize territory. A warm spot, that gets plenty of direct sunshine.
Jealously defended by the older lazy cat, who until that moment had been sound asleep on top of it.
Growling. Hissing. A frantic flurry of tooth and claw. More street fight than smackdown wrestle. The days of the lazy cat indulging the lockdown kitten, boxing with claws in, had long since passed.
Over almost as soon as it began. Lockdown kitten plunging into the toy box. The lazy cat issuing a triumphant yowl, yellow eyes radiating menace. A minor skirmish in an eternal turf war.
The lockdown kitten slunk towards the door, before something captured his attention yet again. A shiny speck of light dancing across the wall.
Body tensing. Blue eyes tracking the movement. Tail swishing. Hunting once more.
He never learns.
My younger son had spent hours online researching a Lego set he had his heart set on.
Working out where it was in stock? Who had the best price? How long delivery options would take?
Discovering the local neighbourhood toy store had not survived lockdown.
Learning that a premium is paid for instant gratification, with high street retailers charging significantly more than online stores.
Finding that even when a department store or supermarket claim to have an item in stock, it often requires an overnight wait for it to be dispatched from a warehouse to the local store for collection.
He had dropped hints. Made suggestions. Asked outright. Articulated his case. Begged and pleaded.
I observed that it wasn’t Christmas or his birthday, and he already had plenty of Lego.
Never easily deterred, he changed tacks and declared he would buy the set with his own money.
I said I thought he would be wasting his money. He would open the box. Spend a couple of hours building the toy. Play with it for a day, maybe two. Then lose interest. Forget about it. Just like his other toys.
He bristled. Declared that it was his money. He could “waste” it however he pleased.
After some haggling over credit and payment terms, he emptied the contents of his money box and carefully counted out the exact change required to complete the purchase.
He watchfully stood at my shoulder while I placed the online order, determined to get the transaction completed before I got distracted or had my attention stolen by some other seemingly urgent demand.
The order confirmation predicted that the purchase would be delivered the following day.
At school pick up the next afternoon, the first thing out of his mouth was “did it arrive yet?”.
No “how was your day?”
It is all about priorities. Needs versus wants. Sigh!
On hearing it had not, the boy grabbed my hand and dragged me back home in record time, worried the delivery driver might visit while we were away from the house.
For the next couple of hours, he stood by the window, watching in eager anticipation for his treasure to arrive.
He ate his afternoon snack.
Earned a silver certificate on Mathletics.
Practised his spelling words and times tables.
Read a chapter of Harry Potter.
All while glancing anxiously down the road for the delivery van to appear.
Predictably, it wasn’t until I was putting dinner on the table that the van turned into our road.
A squawk of delight. Thundering feet, as the boy bolted for the front door. Hot on his heels, the lockdown kitten followed, paws scrabbling for purchase on the hardwood floors.
Moments later they returned wide-eyed, clutching an enormous box. Enthusiasm only slightly dampened as it became apparent the box size was due to a packaging fail rather than a vast number of pieces contained in the Lego kit.
Over the next couple of days, the boy invested nearly seven hours diligently building the Lego set. At least half that time was spent searching for scattered pieces, after the lockdown kitten delighted in playing football with them.
Eventually, construction was complete. The boy proudly showed off his new toy, then commenced playing with it.
Day one, it was the only toy he played with.
Day two, it joined a pitched battle against some Transformers.
On day five, the half dismantled and already forgotten toy spilt from toppled toy box, courtesy of the lockdown kitten’s tumble.
Already my younger son had started researching his next shiny object of desire.
He never learns.
Roughly a year ago, my lady wife changed jobs. Taking a big step up the career ladder.
With pandemic lockdown restrictions easing, her employer recently decided to reopen their offices. In my lady wife’s case, this marked her first opportunity to go to work, as opposed to the last year spent living at work.
She was more than a little excited!
A chance to socialise. Gossip. Trade stories about life, love, and dramas outside of work. The things normal people happily share about themselves informally, but not so much during scheduled video conferences and meetings.
Establish those all-important interpersonal relationships. The ones that make it easier to get things done as part of a team.
Build consensus. Create goodwill. Have your back. Trade favours.
Attendance in the office was “optional”.
Return only if you feel comfortable and safe doing so.
“We know what it is like to juggle child care and full-time work, we’ve been living it too”.
Day one, a few eager souls braved public transport and sat in a largely empty open-plan office space.
Dress was smart casual. Not wanting to show up those Zooming from home in hoodies or pyjamas.
Day five, more than half the staff were physically present.
Business suits were squeezed into, dug out of wardrobes or rescued from long-neglected dry cleaners.
Folks working from home began to feel like they were missing out. Being left behind.
Conversations that began in conference calls continued in corridors and around the coffee machine.
Decisions are made by those who are present. Communicated as an afterthought, out of courtesy.
By day eight, nearly everyone was back on site.
Meetings congregated wherever there was space. A scarcity of available meeting rooms with video conferencing facilities meant catering to those few remaining remote workers was becoming a hassle.
Already staff were coming in early and leaving late.
Presenteeism reasserting itself like a zombie rising from the dead in a low budget horror movie.
Attempting to fit the day job around being a professional meeting attendee.
By the end of her first week in the office, my lady wife sounded very much like her pre-pandemic self.
Crowded buses and delayed trains.
Lunch consisting of expensive store-bought sandwiches or sushi, scoffed down at her hot desk in between meetings.
Thursday night drinks after work. Friday morning hangovers, salved by a bacon sandwich and a huge drink of water.
Not having enough time in the day to get her job done. Marvelling that she had kept pace while working from home. Wondering why she was now struggling to be as productive back at the office?
Compensating by working harder and longer.
Quickly falling back into the patterns of the “old” normal. Commute. Work. Commute. Sleep. Repeat.
Yet despite all that, happier for it.
She never learns.
That first day my lady wife ventured into the office was AWESOME!
It was the first time in a year I had the house all to myself, with only the cats for company.
A glorious spring day. Bees buzzing. Birds singing. Flowers blooming. Sun shining.
I had thrown the windows open. Turned my music up. Sat outside in the sun.
My lady wife has been berating me to look for a job. Get out of the house. Make some new friends. Earn a large enough wage that a bank would offer her a mortgage.
The very idea of returning to an office and sitting in meetings all day produces a visceral reaction. Churning stomach. Heart beginning to race. Tension spreading across my shoulders.
Purely psychosomatic. Mind over matter. But telling nonetheless.
Much more fun than meetings, conference calls, and cat herding delinquent third-party vendors.
Not something I would seriously consider doing professionally. My high cost of living locale is incompatible with the infamously low wages those “creative” type of gigs offered.
However, I was enjoying myself. A tangible sense of achievement as functional, and occasionally beautiful, web pages came together. Feelings of accomplishment greater than a typical working week.
My phone buzzed, displaying the name of a headhunter on the screen. A blast from the past. Someone great at what he did, reliably finding fantastic candidates for difficult to fill specialist niche roles. I had hired several people through him in the past, with successful outcomes each time.
I hadn’t talked to him in years. Curious, I answered.
He had a job to fill.
A big job.
A permanent job.
An impossible to fill job.
He knew I had run my own business for decades. Was semi-retired. With kids to look after.
Didn’t need the money. Long past wanting to rule the world. With no need to prove myself.
Yet despite all of that, he still wanted to run the role by me. To his mind, I had the perfect blend of skills and experience required to perform the role well.
As he ran through the particulars, I mentally conceded he was right.
After asking me to think about it for a couple of days, the headhunter hung up.
Before the call, I had little desire to return to work. Indeed, I was beginning to wonder whether I might not have accidentally FIRE’d sometime mid-last year without realising it at the time.
My charts suggest otherwise, but they provide an accounting of the past not a projection of the future.
Numbers don’t lie, but children do grow up and leave home.
After the call, the idea was surprisingly tempting.
It was flattering to be sought out. Nice to feel needed.
The opportunity offered a safety blanket of past familiarity, as opposed to exploring future unknowns.
If I’m honest with myself, the main attraction was it would get my lady wife off my back. Temporarily.
Out of the house. Tick.
Make some new friends. Tick.
Salary capable of obtaining a mortgage. Tick.
I sat back and gazed over the neighbourhood backyards as I mulled over the opportunity.
Next door, the lockdown kitten stalked the neighbour’s ~50-year-old tortoise through the long grass.
At the rowdy Kiwi group house, three prop forward sized guys lazed in an inflatable toddler pool. Drinking beers while watching IPL cricket on a television precariously perched on a window sill.
It was mid-morning on a weekday during school term. I could be enjoying myself in the sunshine. Or I could suit up, take the six-figure salary on offer, and defuse the domestic disharmony.
It should be an easy decision.
I never learn!