My husband has been working from home since the pandemic began over a year ago. Francis took his cyber security job in 2017 after retiring from the Navy, and initially commuted to New York City weekly. For those years, his neglected home office on the third floor of our house was more of shrine than anything else. He would take friends up there on weekends to show off his military coins, plaques, and photos.
I called it his “Yay me!” room.
Now Francis uses his home office for work. He’s there from sun up to sun down, in virtual meetings and on phone calls, every weekday. A creature of habit, Francis takes short breaks I can set my clock by, to hit the head, refill his coffee, grab lunch or make a smoothie.
During his breaks, Francis, an admitted narcissist, rattles off his work schedule to anyone within earshot. He’s very important, after all. “I had three meetings this morning, I’ve got to interview a candidate for that open position, then I’ll check the mail,” he’ll say regardless of who’s listening. When his break is over, he starts back up the stairs to his office, but not before calling out, “Back to the salt mines!”
We giggle at Francis’ inflated sense of self-importance, but we keep the house quiet so as to not interrupt his work because we respect him as our hard-working, dedicated, primary breadwinner. As a military spouse, I’ve worked from home for two decades. My writing, military nonprofit work, and Zoom meetings all take place at our kitchen island. After a year of creeping around in hushed tones so as to not disturb Francis, one would think he would extend me the same courtesy.
One would think.
Last week, the house was empty. The girls were out, and Francis was at the VA Hospital getting his first COVID-19 vaccination. All was quiet — the perfect time for a work-related Zoom call. My other meeting participant was running late, so I sat at our kitchen island, waiting for her to click in.
Suddenly, the front door opened, and I heard Francis rattling off his schedule. “The shot went quick, so I stopped and got a haircut, but I’m gonna try to make my two-thirty meeting,” he announced as he clopped into the kitchen.
I put a finger to my lips, “Shh, Zoom meeting.” But Francis had more important matters to tend to.
He scanned the kitchen counter, then opened the fridge. “Where’s the smoothie cup?” he blared, then clopped off to find it. I extended a let and kicked the fridge door closed, just as my meeting participant appeared on my laptop screen.
“Hi! Thanks so much for taking the time to—” I began, as Francis appeared, swung the fridge doors open again, and put ice into his cup with a “CLUNKCLUNKCLUNK!”
“I’m sorry, my husband is making a smoo—” Before I could explain, the Nutribullet’s jet engines squealed, “WHRRRRRRRR!” I held a finger up to my laptop, the universal sign for, “Just gimme a minute.” But Francis prefers his smoothies thick, so he took his sweet time blending while we waited. Finally, the whirring stopped, and I dared, “So, about the military scholarship program—“
“Did anyone feed the dog?”
I shook my head, and Francis tsked his disapproval, clopping off to the dog’s bowls. Once again, I extended a leg, and kicked the fridge doors closed. “So, scholarship funding,” I re-started, but heard a loud crash. Francis’s smoothie cup spun wildly on our tile floor, splattering to a rest against the dog’s bed in the kitchen corner.
“Oops, I dropped it!” Francis blurted, relieved that only a little spilled where the cap had popped off. He set the cup on the island beside my laptop, and pounded the cap back on with his fist, “THUMPTHUMPTHUMP!”
“Honey, can’t you fix that later?” I said through gritted teeth.
Sucking on his straw, Francis finally climbed the stairs back to his office — now able to finish his very important work, thanks to the life-giving sustenance of an extra-thick strawberry smoothie — but not before stopping to reassure us, “Back to the salt mines!”
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