Ben Fields: Hang in there (Opinion)

Ben Fields

Ben Fields

For the second day of what is sure to be many, I’m sitting here writing on an outdated, slow computer on my kitchen table instead of the outdated but faster computer in my office.

At home, I can see some beautiful woods and a creek. I have bird sounds and a beagle who seems pretty content that I’m around — for the five minutes a day she’s not sleeping, anyway. My wife’s immune system is potentially weakened because of her chemo treatments, so she’s here, too, which is really nice. Our son, naturally out of school as we continue to brace for whatever impact COVID-19 will have, is with his grandparents until there is some sort of timeline on when things might return to normal.

It’s not a bad setup, and if anyone should be preconditioned to staying in and being socially distant, it’s me. One friend of mine who has known me since I was 6 told me this was the moment I was built for.

But I actually like going to my office every day. I got one of my own just about two years ago. It’s covered in light-killing wood paneling and the window offers a dull view of the junior college across the street. I love it. I also like the people I work with, and I enjoy seeing them every day.

Of course the health risk, especially given my wife’s fragile state, isn’t worth it. And that’s what is most important — that we and others stay healthy.

The social impact of the coronavirus is strange, though, isn’t it? We’ve been developing technology for convenience and enabling us to work from anywhere since, well, forever. But what we’re going through is incongruous with that part of the American mindset that you show up everyday and push through nearly anything to see that the work gets done.

Normally, at lunch, I’m in my office continuing to work. Today, at lunch, I took a virtual tour of Kentucky’s original Capitol building with my wife. It was great, but it still feels weird.

Maybe, as far as societal expectations and worker mindset go, this whole experience will make us recalibrate. Maybe it will bring families closer together. I’m sure, for those in different circumstances, the analytical upside isn’t so rosy. It’s hard to say what all of this will do to us as a people. We’ve only been at it for a while, and it seems impossible to predict when things will return to normal.

Of course, this is all academic whimsy, secondary to the real problem of the health threat, with a virus spreading at an unreal rate. We seem even less sure what that will look like when it plays out, but the situation is dire enough to fundamentally restructure almost all Americans’ daily lives, which is saying something.

I can only advise to do what health officials tell you, demand responsibility from your government and know that we’ll have answers one way or another soon. In the meantime, hang in there.

Ben Fields is the Gazette-Mail opinion editor. Reach him at 304-348-5129, or follow

@BenFieldsWV on Twitter.