I just realised that, since I filled my tank on my way back home five Saturdays ago from a funeral, my vehicle has not moved out of the house. My rack of clothes has also been intact and gathering dust, as I have not worn any of them for five weeks. Indeed my dress code in the house has been from pyjamas to shorts. When I shed my overnight pyjamas in the morning for a shower, I go into my shorts for the day.
Because of the heat, I have no need for a shirt with all the sweating. Indeed, throughout the day, I go bare-chested. Since I neither visit nor receive visitors because of the COVID -19 “STAY AT HOME” directive, I am able to do “free range” walking about at home in my shorts only.
Chatting with a friend, he confessed that, bad as the pandemic is, probably an unintended positive consequence has been that, for the first time in his working life, he has had proper rest. The usual excuse of “I am busy. I don’t have time” has evaporated! He stated that the “rat race” of daily punishing schedules of one meeting after the other has suddenly stopped.
To beat the traffic build up, he has to leave home around 5.30 am daily. After work at 5pm, in order not to spend over two hours in traffic, he leaves the office late to get home around 8pm.
We continued our chat saying the weekends are no better. Sometimes weekend routines are more punishing than weekdays. In some cases, we travel outside Accra for funerals on Fridays and return on Sunday evenings. Indeed, some return on Monday morning to start a new week already tired. On the few occasions when there are no weekend funerals, weddings, naming ceremonies and other social activities quickly fill in the gap.
With the lock down, we have suddenly realised that, we do not have to drive daily to a particular location in the centre of town we call office to work. Indeed, work can in some cases, be done online from home. I am not oblivious of the problems of working online from home though. So, the question is how come all these years we have wasted as much as four hours daily in traffic going to the office and back home late at night.
A sadder aspect is the effect our routine has on our little children who join the parents’ “rat race” in their cars to school and back at night when the parents close.
Working from home
In some countries, employees are encouraged to work from home. Some drive to the office only three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. So, how come we have maintained the Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm routine bequeathed us at independence over sixty years ago?
When I spoke about my vehicle not having been driven for five weeks, we again went into a discussion on the number of vehicles one needs. Like me, there are two vehicles in his house for Madam and him. Apart from going to market on Saturdays, my wife’s car has virtually been on a holiday by courtesy of the lock down. In some homes however, there are as many as six top of the range high-powered vehicles. Why?
We also discussed what has been described by a journalist as a “silver lining” of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe. For many African countries, some top officials fly out regularly to European hospitals while allowing hospitals in their countries to rot. The example is given of a hospital in Zimbabwe which was allowed to degenerate for five years. Somehow, with the arrival of the pandemic, the hospital has been rehabilitated and bounced back to life.
We further hoped that, the routine of flying out regularly ostensibly for medical checks would be a thing of the past once the pandemic is over. Any big man who manages not to die at home during the period has no moral right flying out of the country after the coronavirus for any check up! They must rather spend the money to improve our medical infrastructure and conditions for our gallant health practitioners who put their lives on the line so we may live.
COVID-19 has been described as a leveler with no respect for status killing many all over the world. Among others, it has exposed the vanity in most of the material things we crave and yearn for. Big cars and buildings, private jets and huge egos have been reduced to nothing. It is our health workers who have risked their lives to save all of us, rich or poor.
Unfortunately, some Ghanaians have displayed gross indiscipline by violating the basic protocols of hygiene, social distancing and the Stay At Home order.
We concluded that, hopefully, life must change for the better with us becoming more human and humane after COVID-19.
After all, in the heat of the pandemic, all I needed was “FROM PYJAMAS TO SHORTS!”