Hello from quarantine!
I went to Vegas last week for my company's annual Salespalooza. And, despite having been to some pretty interesting places in America, I'd never been to Sin City.
Now I have.
Impressions? Vegas kinda felt like someone's memory of Vegas: plenty of neon lights, spiced up with token reminders of sin past here and there, but... pretty much a normal conference town. A thin veneer of sequins, a faint whiff in the air of naughty, just so you know where you are. But like everywhere in America, it was highly manufactured.
Not even fake, just designed.
My little jaded asshole contrarian hindbrain automatically rejects attempts to manipulate my emotions like this, so Vegas was not for me. I also found it all faintly sad. Not how I wanted to spend my first "new-Normal" work adventure.
Did you know that each hotel on the Vegas strip pumps their signature scent into the AC? Oh, yes, they do. My hair smells like The Cosmo even through my facemask--which indeed, I am wearing here, at home, around the house, because of the daily emails from my company (highly paraphrased): "oopsie whoopsie, despite doing zero to prevent this, a bunch of people who flew in from everywhere in the world and then mingled in small rooms with a thousand other people and loud music tested COVID+ at the conference yesterday!"
No "we're sorry," no "we recommend wearing masks for the rest of the conference," no "please test yourself also," [which, I did, daily] ...just bland CYA boilerplate. Nothing about caring for employees, or accessibility, just (again, paraphrased; maximum sarcasm mine): "we're doing the minimum required from compliance by informing you; someone told us and now we have to do due diligence and tell you, but we are so over this and you should be too."
I could practically hear the long sigh in corporate.
So yes, here is a photo of me on the first night in a hot room full of extremely loud music and shared breath--and each moment, I was doing the math in my head, which was exhausting. This room here was quite large, it had high ceilings and great ventilation, so I put the risk at medium, not high; the Cosmo is a newer hotel, and they optimized their HVAC to handle clearing cigarette smoke. So it was possible to park myself under a supply vent most of the time and feel relatively OK with the risk...
I saved the total meltdown for today.
At least the first day, when I figured people would still be incubating from their flights, I felt alright doing this. Nevertheless, unpictured is the extremely large drink in my hand, and the mask dangling below my lanyard, which I gave up because of the drinking and which poor risk-calculus I now regret. I still don't have COVID, at least not testing COVID+, but I do have an interesting perspective from this work event, which is this: I am not OK.
I both am glad I went, and I also deeply regret going. It was wonderful to meet people in person, and I think now I Exist as a Real Human in the minds of several folks at work who clearly deeply Don't Get remote work culture, but... honestly, it might have been better to opt entirely out than do what I did, which was attend selectively. Because if nobody expects you there at all, they don't look for you.
So yeah, I left our invite-only MANDATORY formal celebration!--situated in an incredibly tiny room full of several hundred drunk people and very loud music, after only an hour (it was supposed to be a dinner; there was not a table in sight). Even though I stood there in the eyeline of my director for a minimum reasonable time, and I Irish-left post-awards but before the dancing, nobody remembers I was there at all, and I got the stink-eye the next day for missing an Important Team Building Event.
Well, yeah. Should I have stayed? In for a penny, and all? I am broken, maybe, in that don't have that bone in my head that makes me able to be OK with all this, and I'm not really a fan of that kind of party at the best of times. It's hard work and I am tired. And "Not A Team Player" on my report cards is not a new thing.
I also skipped the closing party the next night at a legit fake-smoke-filled nightclub, which turns out was a superspreader event; I still ate with everyone the next day, of course, because the notification email about bunches of people testing positive came far too late. Because we're Over COVID now, don'tcha know?
I just. How are we over this?
So I'm home now. I'm not sick yet, and I put my chances of getting sick at 70-80% rn... but even if I don't get sick, I'm also not OK with a culture that makes this OK.
And what now? I don't know. Do I just learn to love the bomb? Am I strong enough to be the weirdo iconoclast and lose out on even more professional opportunities? I truly disappointed myself last week with all the compromises I made, and that more than anything--the gap between who I want to be and who I am--is what's causing me to sit in tears right now as I sleep in a separate room and mask and test and hope, nurse my sore feet, and reflect on what I can control, and what I can't; on having boundaries and being different, on belonging and psychological safety, and how much I miss all of those things at work; and how if you have that, don't ever take it for granted.
I just want the world to be better. Because people, on their own, just aren't. Even me.
Of Bad Alternatives
First, you look great.
Second, this is a very good post.
Third, I think there is no winning in this situation. You did your best to navigate a set of bad alternatives. Many people have flat out refused to learn any lessons from the pandemic and I bet that bad behavior was on display. How does one ever negotiate a situation in which the other person is willfully harmful?
I hope you remain well and know, even though it is distant, that others feel like you do in not being ok with the culture that allows so many to suffer.