Is the future of the office in doubt? Not the TV series, “The Office,” but the real place of work where people go everyday. Or at least they did until earlier this year.
Going to work has been a part of our daily routine for most of our lives. Our social lives at work became built around the water cooler or the break room. Dozens of TV shows have been built around the workplace.
There are people in TV series that we never knew what they actually did. Ozzie Nelson, the patriarch of the show, “Ozzie and Harriett,” went to the office. We don’t know what he did at the office, but he went there. We never saw his office, but we assumed he had one.
Barney Fife’s girlfriend, Thelma Lou, also went to the office. I don’t know how many offices there were in Mayberry, but she worked at one of them. We also didn’t know her last name, just Thelma Lou.
Millionaire Bruce Wayne never went to the office, unless you count the Bat Cave. We don’t know what Wayne Enterprises does. We do know that Bruce’s mama and daddy died when he was just a kid. If the Bat Cave was his office, it was pretty cool.
Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, made a lot of money during World War I as an industrialist. His only office we ever saw was at his big house on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Since the pandemic began, many people have been working at home. Some companies have phone systems that can send calls to an employee’s home and no one ever knows the difference. That is unless you have a screaming child or a barking dog. Some companies are finding that the work at home arrangement is increasing productivity and morale.
Now, the work-at-home thing is not totally new. Wilbur Post, the owner of Mr. Ed, was an architect and did his work in the barn he shared with his Palomino.
After she got back from being “Lost in Space,” June Lockhart became the town doctor in Hooterville as Dr. Janet Craig. She had her office and also lived at the Shady Rest Hotel. I guess you could also count her time on the Jupiter II as working where you live.
I have been away from an office setting for the past year and a half. There are times I really like it and more times that I miss the social setting. I think I get that honestly. My grandfather took a job as the night watchman at a sewing plant. Someone told me years later that they kept him around because he always had a good story or two. That apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.
A lot of places that once involved people and social interaction are going the way of the nickel Coke.
Retail clothing stores are becoming more and more self-service. I miss the kind of people who wore a tape measure around their neck and would fit you just right in a shirt, suit or slacks.
I went to a shoe store the other day and the young clerk said, “Let’s measure your foot and make sure we’re fitting you correctly.” I wanted to go outside and see if I was still on earth.
If you call a big bank, a utility company, or an insurance outfit, you’ll likely get sent to a call center that may not be in this hemisphere.
I want to see the pandemic go away, but you don’t have to take the office with it.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.