I used to love staying home from school. 

Even if I was legitimately sick, I still dug the weird taste of freedom I got from being at home while everyone else was off laboring in offices or classrooms. It always made me feel like I’d pulled off a monumentally clever trick and as a result, got the whole house — nay, the entire neighborhood! — to myself for an awesome expanse of hours. 

Imagine it! I’m 10 years old and I’ve got complete autonomy for a glorious chunk of the day. I could slump slug-like on the couch all day, drooling all over myself and watching Tom and Jerry go at it the way they do. 

I could root through my brother’s various hidden stashes, up to and including the magazines under his mattress, or I could play his records with no risk at all of reprisal.  

I could root through the contents of the cupboards and find out, once and for all, what happens when you combine every single liquid, powder and spice you find in there and then make very scientific inquiries as to whether the dog would eat it. 

A sick day home from school was a gift of the unparalleled sort, and it was made finer still by the opportunity to call your chums later to gloat about your liberation. 

“So how was school today?” you’d ask them in your best sing-song voice of utter mockery. “Extra math lessons, you say? Oh, and you had to get up in front of the class and read a chapter of ‘Oliver Twist?’ Sounds fun. Want to know what I did all afternoon? Well, it all began when I mixed tabasco sauce, vinegar, alum, a bottle of my mother’s cooking gin and a macaroni and cheese pouch into a blender . . .” 

A day home from school was a delight. Two days, more delightful still. 

But after three days? Four? A whole week? Strange things began to happen. At those longer stretches, I found, to my horror, that the whole experiment began to reverse itself. Instead of the sweet glow of liberation, a boy would start to feel the encroaching fingers of claustrophobia. Isolation. A sense that everyone else was off at some grand party and here you were, stuck inside to watch stupid cartoons all day. 

Your classmates, sensing this, would start calling YOU at home rather than the other way around. 

“Oh boy,” your cruel friend would begin. “You won’t BELIEVE what Rudy shot out of his nose at recess today.” 

Working from home is much the same. For the first week or so, you revel in it. Look at me! I’m writing a very serious story about the economy and yet I’m wearing SpongeBob pajamas and a Davy Crockett hat! I’m interviewing the mayor on the phone whilst standing on my head in a bean bag chair! I got the boss on the line and I’m making funny faces and rude hand gestures at him! What fun! What a blessed escape from the suffocating hoosegow of the office! 

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and before you know it, Rudy is shooting stuff out his nose again. Before you know it, the walls of your own home start to feel like a prison and what previously seemed like a reward now feels like punishment. 

This so-called “new normal” is about as abnormal as it gets. People weren’t designed to stay cooped up, away from their peers and severed completely from the social structure. This has been proven through scientific experiments in which laboratory rats, forced into isolation, became abysmally depressed and started exhibiting strange behaviors, such as standing on their heads in beanbag chairs or flipping off their bosses. 

Stay at home too long and strange things begin to happen in the mind. The kitchen, the living room, the little room you use as an office, it all becomes too familiar and you begin to develop deep resentments for inanimate objects. Why, just the other day I got into a screaming match with my desk lamp, not because it had wronged me in any way, but because I’m just sick of looking it. Screw you, lamp! 

It almost came to blows, too, before a throw pillow stepped in and separated us. 

That stupid pillow. I hate it so much. 

So, you can see how this is becoming a problem. I was never one to spend much time in the office, but now that working from home has become a way of life,  I find myself feeling antsy and restless. All day I sit here at my desk wondering: Where is Rudy today, and what is he shooting out of his nose? 

I’m also kind of wondering what would happen if I mixed tabasco sauce with my wife’s favorite apple cider vinegar and maybe tossed in a couple eggs, a stick of butter, a Monster energy drink and a hot dog or three. 

Would a dog eat that, I wonder? 

I guess there’s only one way to find out.

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