Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

This Side of the Pond

Notes from an Uprooted Englishwoman


March 26, 2020

So here I am, sitting at home and twiddling my fingers. As you may have noticed from the fact that you couldn’t come through our doors to renew your subscription, we at the newspaper have self-isolated as much as possible and we’ve all split up to work in different places so we can keep your news coming while this virus runs amok.

Our plan, you see, is to have contingencies. We are aiming to avoid a situation in which all of us are contagious and nobody out in the community gets to read the week’s stories.

Most parts of the process of getting a newspaper printed can be done from almost anywhere, but not all of them. We still need to physically magic the papers from our hands into yours.

On a normal week, there are five of us spread across two offices – one in Sundance, one in Moorcroft, but with constant intermingling – and every Wednesday we need to get your newspapers to the post office and onto the newsstands. Between labeling, adding inserts, stacking and ferrying the papers where they need to go, we all have a task to complete.

To make sure this still happens, we currently have one person working in each office and the rest of us at home. Three of us get together on Wednesdays to get those papers on the stands, while two of us act as “designated survivors”.

Theoretically, that means only half of us at a time would contract the virus and be banned from human contact. The others could take over in the meantime, filling the gap.

Meanwhile, we are doing our part for social distancing, because we know there are plenty of people out there who aren’t able to stay home for the duration. We can, so we are, which hopefully frees up some slots for those who need to keep working and providing vital services.

It’s nice, in a way. We’ve been making use of technology to hold video meetings, in which each of us does our best, depending what combination of microphones, speakers and keyboards they have available. We’ve reached a point where we’re not constantly interrupting each other, but I’m still trying to break the habit of shouting at my phone because my brain is telling me that the people I’m looking at are very far away and might not be able to hear me.

We can still get updates from the people on the ground, we still have the capability to gather and parse the news and it can all be done while the dog stands gleefully by my feet. Maggie spent the first day of my isolation grinning at me while shivering, and occasionally licking the back of my leg, because she’s part Chihuahua and that’s how she expresses love.

(The other dog is less impressed. Since we moved into our newly renovated bedroom, she has refused to leave the mattress for any other reason than to pee, drink or go walkies. Her current opinion is that it’s fine if I want to be housebound, but I’d better not come near her cushion.)

And don’t tell anyone, but I’m still wearing my pajamas. I’m not allowed to go anywhere, so what’s the point in pants? I’m calling it “jammie journalism” and I’m starting to wonder why I’d want to do this any other way.

Not so nice, in other ways. This is hardly the time to be complaining about a lack of coffee, I know, but I had a dream last night in which I was trying to grab the coffee pot and every time I touched it, the thing tipped over. If that’s not indicative of a serious caffeine problem, I have no idea what is.

I also miss wandering out to find lunch, visiting people across town for journalistic purposes (and to catch up with the gossip, let’s be honest), yelling at my colleagues across the office and making a nuisance of myself at the coffee shop. It’s funny how we take these simple pleasures for granted.

It would be wrong to grumble. Right now, our local businesses are suffering as they are forced to put measures in place to protect their customers and fewer people every day are visiting town.

People who can’t work at this time are wondering how they’ll make ends meet, our grocery store workers are rushed off their feet trying to keep up with demand, our healthcare workers are bracing themselves for when this virus truly arrives and more vulnerable members of our community are isolated from human contact altogether or are worried what will happen if they get cut off from vital services. Thank goodness for the benefits of a small community – I have faith we will help one another as much as we possibly can.

If we all follow the best practices as described by the experts, I’m hoping that, before we know it, things will go back to normal. A year from now, we’ll be reminiscing about the time when pants were temporarily pointless and toilet paper was as valuable as gold.

Look after yourselves, friends and neighbors, and keep an eye on those around you, too. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again on the flipside, so please stay healthy and hearty.

In the meantime, I’ll try not to annoy the husband too much and I’ll work on my video chat protocols before I deafen my colleagues. And just in case she’s reading this, I promise I absolutely, definitely won’t go anywhere near the dog’s cushion.


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