The postman delivered a parcel today. It wasn’t for me or anyone in my house. It wasn’t for my neighbour or perhaps somebody further up the street. It was for somebody in the next village. ‘Thanks, love,’ he said. ‘I knew you’d be in.’
My postman is great. Always smiling, always pleasant. But he’s just another one. Another one who knows I work from home. There’s my retired neighbour, he likes to pop by for a chat now and again, see if we’d be interested in the Race Night down at the village hall, seeing as we did so well last time. Did we? Then there’s the man who sells Twinings Tea from the back of his matt black, two-door van and clearly has a lot of customers in my village. He knows I’ll hold on to Mr and Mrs Chinacup’s next six month’s stock until they get home but, No, thanks for asking, I really don’t think I’ll sign up to having my tea leaves delivered. I have a penchant for Yorkshire Tea, you see, and besides, I haven’t got a tea strainer. The milk man asks if Jim at number 22 is OK because he hasn’t put in his usual order and Denis, well he had a heart attack ten years ago and has been walking an impressive eight miles per day ever since. He likes to share his memories of the walk with me. And why not? It’s truly very touching that he likes to share this and he’s a lovely old man who tells a great story.
It’s just that I’m meant to be working.
Would these people call me in the office to have such conversations? Would they drag me from my desk to sign for an order for someone else’s book club books? Would they phone me, expecting me to call an abrupt halt to my meeting so that we could discuss their travel arrangements?
Ignore them, my friends say. But it isn’t that easy. They ring the door bell twice, three times perhaps, concerned I haven’t heard them. And on the occasions when I have remained strong, I haven’t been able to resist a furtive glance from behind the curtains of my study window either to be spotted or to be racked with such enormous guilt at the sight of their disappearing shoulders, that ten minutes later, I don my coat and apologise for missing them.
With limited success I have kept on my reading glasses, no mean feat when negotiating stairs at a sprint, picked up a pen en route and feigned a stressed expression on opening the door. Oh look at you in a hurry, they say, what are you doing? Writing (trying)! Oh that’s interesting they say...
I was talking about this phenomenon with some fellow home-workers recently and was relieved to hear that I wasn’t the only one who found the stream of interruptions a little challenging. One such person put a note on the door explaining that he was working and would only be available out of office hours. The next caller did indeed notice that this person was working from home and so knew he’d catch him in. Another, driven to more drastic measures, got into the habit of driving his car off the drive and further up the road to give the impression he was out at work. He stopped this when an acquaintance had a word in his ear, wondering if everything was alright at home, because he was spending a lot of time at Mrs Homealot’s place. We did think this smacked of desperation, however. Driving the few hundred metres to a secret rendez-vous would rather suggest that somebody wanted to be caught.
So, it would appear that I am powerless to quell the constant interruptions and so I will continue sitting at the pc in my study and cursing every time the door bell goes.
The thing is, my study is also quite a solitary place and I am aware that the one thing worse than being interrupted would be if nobody called at all.