When I entered the office the other day I saw this . . . this thing.
The screen shows an abstraction of a camera lens, looking, searching for something to see and grab. When it wakes, it turns on a bright light and displays a human shape, so you can fit yourself into its contours for evaluation.
It takes your temp. Okay. Question: let’s say you wake, in November of 2020, the Plague Year, and you’re a bit achy and hot. You have two options: work from home, as you’ve been doing since March, or drag yourself to the office. Who’s going to do the latter? I mean, I think I could beg off a Zoom call because I felt a little feverish.
But let’s say you’re a hard-charging sort who just has to go to the office and be a world-beater, bark orders, shove around subordinates. Push! Push! Push! And you’re a bit hot. Do you stop at this thing to get evaluated? No, because you’re important and have things to do. You’re fine and you’re wearing a mask and everyone else is wearing a mask, and besides, there’s not more than six people in this part of the office, because everyone’s working from home.
Will that happen? That will not happen.
It’s there just in case. A reminder. A tool. An assistant. What’s the problem? No problem. Except that it’s off-putting in a way I can’t describe. It’s like a judgment device. A purity monitor. It suggests that it somehow has authority. It presumes I need interrogating. I don’t think it’s connected to the office security database that logs my card-beep on the entrance pad, but why wouldn’t it, some day? Wouldn’t that make sense? Wouldn’t that help with tracking and DEFEATING COVID?
Why wouldn’t you put your face in that thing every time you entered the area?
What’s wrong with you that you’d react with anything but relief and gratitude?
It’s this: I don’t think that thing is ever going to go away. I can’t see a point where building management says “oh, we don’t need those anymore.” Someone pipes up: it’s flu season. You’re right, best keep them there.
At some point in a pandemic, the suspicion of infection morphs into the presumption of infection. That’s smart if it’s bad and widespread and raging. Hospitals overwhelmed, the sick hacking on every street, clinic corridors jammed with the rheumy victims, cordwood stacked like bodies in the morgue, or something. But this is not that. What’s more, this was never that. It was apparent months ago that this is not that. It’s not mild flu, but it’s not that.
The presumption of infection in a situation where A) it’s not the case, and B) the consequences for infection are statistically nominal, well, this is injurious to society, and every incremental introduction of something that bolsters the accumulated paranoia makes it more difficult to surpass the sense of constant suspicion.
These devices become talismans of safety. You start to distrust places that don’t have them. You resent the suggestion that you submit to them, but you go along – it’s anti-social to do otherwise. It just becomes part of life: standing in front of the device and fitting your shoulders to the contours of the anonymous human shape on the screen.
So the casual rote submission is a loyalty oath, of sorts. It’s not some part of a grand scheme. Doesn’t work like that. Doesn’t have to. It’s a series of assumptions and well-intentioned ideas and precautions that nevertheless have the effect of shaping how you feel about the world outside your door.
We’ll get used to it. And then we’ll get used to the next thing.
Note: today I noticed that the secondary entrance to the office has been closed, channeling everyone to the Purity Monitor. This means that a six-elevator bank has been closed, pushing everyone to a four-elevator bank which will pack more people into a confined space.
So no one can use this door? What the hell?
That was today. Tomorrow, I’ll be used to it.
RTWT AT LILEKS (James) :: The Bleat 2020 WEDNESDAY