At the Friday Teams meeting, the team leader asked what people were going to do on the weekend. There’s a demo derby in Midland, one coworker typed. What kind? Circle? Figure 8? Yeah. We’re going. I’m going too. Maybe we can meet up? It was a typical last half-hour before people logged off on a Friday. It wasn’t like shooting out the door at the workplace when we’d all been in house, where there would be a stampede down the stairs and congestion in the parking lot, while others lingered for a few words. Now there were no break room conversations, no quick hey while hurrying by somebody’s cubicle. If we wanted to keep coworker contact from our homes, we had to make an effort. Ever mindful that all corporate communications could be monitored, our team leader told us: Ping someone to chit chat. Give ‘em a call. Text. That’s what smartphones are for. Team cohesion! On Monday morning when the ops manager emailed the department that Ben had died on the weekend, I’m sure reactions included gasps and winces. And watery eyes. Maybe even tears. Though the extroverts had decried the remote work, others were happy to keep their distance. All I knew about Ben was his jovial voice matched his weight, he had a very loving tabby that hung out with him while he worked from home, and after hours he repaired sewing machines because we had texted about his looking at mine. The ops manager’s announcement came to me like the news of the war in Ukraine: far from home and quiet, barely leaving a hole.
Over the years, Jeanne Blum Lesinski wrote the best-selling juvenile biography of Microsoft founder Bill Gates for A&E books and did research and translation work for the hybrid film, Poe (and the Museum of Lost Arts) by MiShinnah Productions. She now makes her living in the automotive industry; yet writing creatively really revs her engine. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in many journals and the anthologies, Ginosko Vol. 2, Poem, Revised, and Among the Happy Poets (Theodore Roethke Society). Her poetry collection, Tethers End, is forthcoming from Shanti Arts.