The way things were? Not at all


Starting again Monday, we're 'allowed'. We can work one day in the week on the campus. What a relief for me, and for my colleagues too, no doubt. Finally, we're coming back, getting back to the way things were. But make no mistake!

It all seems so easy and doable when you are working from home. Got to keep your distance from your colleagues? No problem! In the virtual workspace you can sit as close to your screen as you like, no cough screen needed.

A maximum number of people in an office? Consider it done! In our MS Team bubble our motto is ‘the more, the merrier’. It seems like people are actually easier to reach for an interview than they used to be; happy to have a little extra contact with others.

One-way traffic and following the right pedestrian routes when you are on campus? As easy as pie it seems from reading the regular emails issued by the Corona Crisis Team. What a herculean challenge, by the way, this corona crisis has presented for everyone on that team. This accursed virus and everything it has spawned has been their sole concern, day and night, for more than six months. All to make life as safe and well-ordered as possible for the rest of us.

So much for the virtual world. What about in 3D? The reins have been loosened a little, even though a second wave lies in wait. People are fed up, feel invincible - consciously or unconsciously. And the fact that we are being allowed to come back to the university - little by little, but still - starting this coming week creates a feeling of ‘the end is in sight’. And: it's all possible again! What a relief, for so many people, and certainly for me. There are few things I enjoy doing quite as much as strolling around the campus, having conversations with whoever I meet along the way. As a person I feel energized, as a journalist, I'm gathering information. It's what we do, it's our profession.

My colleagues and I were allowed to stroll around on campus a little earlier, during Intro, so that we could report on events. Boy, did that feel good and familiar. And this week Wednesday we were there for the Master's Kick-off. It felt almost normal again. So normal that when I asked a group whether I could photograph them for Cursor, they answered, ‘Oh, we'll first have to shift to sit at one meter fifty from each other’. Very strange, but at the time it didn't register with me.

I keep my distance from people, but sometimes I simply forget. Back on campus, colleague Monique and I often found ourselves remarking ‘Oh crap, this is too close,’ as we put our heads together to look at one or other's screen, or walked out the door side by side to go and get lunch. Being together again creates a false sense of safety.

Keeping distance? Easy to do online, but a lot less manageable in the real world. Take the maximum number of people in the office, for example. Do you send people away when they walk in to share a news item? During Intro our video reporters were always walking in and out, repeatedly taking our quota over the limit for short bursts of time. Do you step out of the office yourself, to make the numbers okay? I didn't.

One-way traffic on the campus, following the right routing? Sometimes when I was going about my business on automatic pilot, I would forget to pay attention to the arrows on the floor as I headed for the stairs in the Auditorium. Some stairs were cordoned off and that took me by surprise. I mean, I always take those stairs, don't I? Because it seems like everything is back to the way things were. So that means I don't have to think about all this. Even when reality brings you up short.

Another example. I posted a great photo of the life-sized TU/e logo that stands in the hall in Atlas. Nice cover for on our Facebook page. It was late when I decided ‘I'll just quickly post it on our header, and I hadn't paid enough attention to the two people in the photo who were clearly not 1m 50 apart. So it wasn't long before the photo drew a - entirely justified - comment. And that person was right. The photo has since been changed. After all, we really don't want to set the wrong example.

On Monday we can return to the university. Gradually and little by little, and with a lot of precautionary measures in place, but even so: keep your wits about you, be alert to what you do and what others do. It may feel like it the way things used to be. But it isn't, not at all.

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