Planet Plague 5: Hell Comes to Fraudtown

Every third Friday, the house cleaner comes and my world gets a little smaller. She arrives masked and gloved to make the place more livable and less lived in. I retreat to the office, the one place she won’t be cleaning. When housebound is the new normal, roombound is the new confinement.

Her first visit was tough on my bladder. I was about to use the bathroom when she arrived and decided to wait until she was done. Either of us could possibly be infected and even with masks, I didn’t want to take the risk. Never mind that I take a bigger risk when running an errand. Here the infection would be traceable and lack the blamelessness of community spread.

In the end I weakened, not pissed-my-pants weakened, but weakened nonetheless. Toward the end of the cleaner’s visit, I couldn’t hold it anymore. When I heard her heard her go into the kitchen, I dashed into the bathroom and had a much-needed pee. I had my mask on, but I felt guilty for breaking quarantine, even though it was just a little bit.

There was no harm done. She came back three weeks later without being sidelined by COVID-19. Still, I learned from past experience and had the office equipped with a couple of empty piss bottles should the need to urinate arrive.

Of course, you can’t prepare for everything. Life does have a way of surprising us. Sometimes the surprises are fortuitous, like winning the lottery. Sometimes it’s tragic, like a pancreatic-cancer diagnosis. For me, it was something in between. I was losing my job. Maybe.

It wasn’t unemployed yet. I had recently gotten news that all the onshore consultants from my company were getting cut from the project, effective July 24. It was a week away. After that, one of three things would happen. I would be put on another team at the client site, they would put me on a project somewhere else, or they would be unable to place me anywhere and eventually kick me to the curb.

When faced with this kind of uncertainty, I usually do a whole lot of nothing while the situation plays out. It’s apathy as rebellion against a world that has wronged me or at least inconvenienced me terribly. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury now. Exiled with two laptops to a single room in the corner of my flat, I had to be productive.

First, I had to let my employers know I was available and if I would be willing to travel or relocate. For the record, my answers were yes and no respectively. This should have been a straightforward affair, but was complicated by an old laptop and an iffy intranet.

As for the client, I had to get my code into a state where I could hand it off in good conscience. It wouldn’t be done nor would it be anything I’m proud of. My work just had to be good enough to not reflect on me negatively during my upcoming job search.

This has been the recurrent theme of my entire professional life. This legacy of adequacy has bankrolled my existence for decades. All I needed was another seven years before I could retire and drown out my feelings of mediocrity with booze paid for by my Social Security check.

But hey, the game wasn’t over yet. I had no doubt that prospective employers in a pandemic-addled economy would be tripping over themselves to hire a 58-year old computer geek with a proven track record of knowing what he can get away with.

The cleaner announced that she was finished and left. It didn’t take her long this time so I didn’t have to resort to using either of the piss bottles. I wandered into the living room, reclaiming a little of my world.