Opinion: Missing The Shared Jokes, Small Talk, Midday Laughs Of The Office NPR's Scott Simon looks back on the joys of working in an office as he — and millions of Americans — are consigned to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Opinion: Missing The Shared Jokes, Small Talk, Midday Laughs Of The Office

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I miss work. I know as I say this that I'm blessed to have rewarding work, as a lot of Americans suddenly don't. Working from home for most of the week has made me marvel at how much so many can do these days on laptops and small screens.

But spending most of the workday in bedroom slippers, pondering whether to shave, shampoo or even brush my teeth - because, after all, who will see me besides my family? - also reminds me how much we can miss the walls, cubicles, hallways and, most of all, the people in our workplaces.

Those of us sheltered with our loved ones know we're lucky. But marriage vows, after all, are only to love and to cherish till death do us part, not hour after hour, day after day, no matter how many crumbs you might trail in from the kitchen all over the place.

I miss work. I miss the shared jokes, small talk and midday laughs. I miss the morning smiles and jokes in the elevator, which are not always elevated. I miss the security guard who shows me pictures of her cats and nephews. I miss the birthday cakes for our colleagues, the cards smuggled from staffer to staffer to be signed, the pop of a cork and the off-key serenade of the birthday song - when it was a song, not a measure of hand-washing time.

I miss work. I miss the eye rolls and asides from the people around me, the comic gripes and moans, the occasional confidences and confessions. At NPR, we have work that may be more important to do than ever, and we're fortunate to have it, especially as we report on how many Americans may soon lose theirs. But I miss the chortles and cackles of people who work together, rely on each other and learn how to make each other laugh.

We watch more news at home than ever. So many of the commercials that run between the news stories look like they're from a world that no longer exists. Millions of people locked down inside while commercials still show people going places, buying things, high-fiving and hugging because they found a neat new toothpaste.

All the amazing things that can now be done remotely may just remind us how human beings are still really wired together by the actual proximity of companionship - the small incidental notes of life that connect us and our work, the bright smiles that can light the grimmer corridors of life.

As Stephen Sondheim wrote, it's the pebble, not the stream, it's the fragment, not the day, that is happening.


MARK HSU SYERS: (As Warrior, singing) But we need it. And we want - will you grant - if you don't - we concede it. I'm a fragment of the day. If I weren't, who's to say things would happen here the way that they're happening?

JAMES DYBAS: (As Old Man, singing) And they sat through the night. And they lit yellow tapers. I was there. Then if I weren't, who's to say things would happen here the way that they're happening?

GEDDE WATANABE: (As Boy, singing) And they chat. And they fight. And they sit, signing papers. I am there. Still, if I weren't, who's to say that they're happening?

MARK HSU SYERS AND JAMES DYBAS AND GEDDE WATANABE: (As Warrior, Old Man, Boy, singing) It's the fragment, not the day, it's the pebble, not the stream...

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