Well, it’s happened. My first work video call with someone vaping. Private and public space have been so pandemicly warped we don’t know what’s normal anymore. Give it another month and the crack pipes will be out, beating the kids won’t be done between meetings and we won’t bat an eyelid when mistresses pop in to collect their misplaced spectacles.
It was a defining moment. The big inhale, the morass of mist, then a face of calm toxicity and not a hint of guilt, shame or fear. Why not? Has work intruded into our private domains, or the reverse? It’s my home, my territory: you’re telling me I have to be here so I will do what the fuck I want. Rejoice!
Why can’t I wear my pyjamas in all the extra lockdown meetings we are subject to? Since work and home life have effectively merged, who says I can’t give a performance review from the bath or hoover whilst listening to Kevin droning on?
The New Yorker tried to preserve the past by saying senior executives cannot masturbate whilst on a zoom call. But if we shift our reference frame, in a way I find more ethically persuasive, instead ask why should your zoom call be happening when one is masturbating? It’s not my fault I cannot leave the house, and in this house I am the boss and it’s my rules.
Vaping is the thin end of a rapidly growing normality-distorting wedge. My initial reaction to Vape Gate was shock: this coworker (Brian, let’s say) was deliberately transgressing the unwritten moral code and probable rule that you cannot take drugs in the office. I thought Brian was going to be in trouble.
But the more I thought about it, Brian is a hero – for us all. He’s starting a new workplace revolution from a semi-detached in Neasden. We owe it to our Brians not to tut, or secretly message Jane and ask if he’s OK: but to join him. If we all pick one forbidden behaviour, it will add up to a nationwide upsurge of moral confusion and HR intolerance that senior management will not be able to process. From will come unimaginable freedom whence we return to our workplaces.
So stroke your dog’s belly, fold the clothes, wear shorts in winter, have a beer for lunch, go for a run, dig the garden, tell Kevin to shut up, wear your dressing gown all day, eat leftover pizza for breakfast and scream at your neighbours. Embrace the discombobulation, undermine our most treasured social mores and let the change in.