LIFE BY LOUIS: Working from home is a time for self-discovery

Tuesday April 07 2020

Medical staff assembling protective masks on February 28, 2020 at the Red Cross hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province, for use in preventing spread of the deadly coronavirus. PHOTO | STR | AFP

I have been working from home for the last few days.

It has been a time for self-discovery. There are quite a number of things that I have realised I can do without.

Because I am not very sure that my barber can observe social distancing while shaving my head, I have avoided him for the last two weeks.

As a result, my hair has grown into a thick mane and I resemble a prophet of old. My beard is long and matted on my chin because I am not going to meet those people who are paid to groom beards. Grooming my beards is not part of the day in the life of my work from home procedures.


I was struggling with poor internet when someone knocked at the door. I wondered who it was that wanted to disrupt my social distancing. I was greeted by this lady who introduced herself as Mobile Laundry and Hygiene Executive which is another polite title for Mama Safi. 





These hard working women of our land can smell business from a mile, or her referral system is top gear and the envy of a top insurance agent. She must have caught wind that the Domestic Secretary in charge of 8th Floor Internal Affairs was having her day off and Mama Brian was working from the office. She therefore knew that I must be in desolation on 8th Floor with a mountain of dirty laundry, heaps of garbage in the kitchen and a murky bathroom. 


She presented her resume that included meticulous washing of clothes, scrubbing the house and utensils. She added that she does other light duties upon request like ironing clothes and cooking. As a value add, she offered to sanitize the house subject to availability of the necessary inputs.


What impressed me was her full awareness of the pandemic that is the talk of town.

To begin with she didn’t present her hands for greetings. She spoke from a respectable distance and avoided touching nearby surfaces. To cap it all, she had a breathing mask on, and I knew it was just a matter of time before she unleashed hand gloves.  


Although she kept referring to the pandemic as Corolla, she had gathered a lot of information regarding the pandemic.

Upon further prodding, she was aware that hand washing with soap and water was the best form of protection against contamination. Although she had not come into contact with an alcohol based hand sanitizer because it was out of her financial reach, she was conversant with its use and application.

She also tutored me on the areas in the house that I needed to have cleaned or sanitized on a regular basis. This included door handles, hand rails, toilets and bathrooms, common areas, the remote control for the television among other regularly handled items.


I keep my composure in the thirty minutes that Mama Safi educated me on the dos and don’ts of the pandemic. I was aware that Mama Jayden of 7th Floor was watching the proceedings from her window waiting for me to usher this female guest inside. The next thing on her cards was to broadcast to the whole of Leafy Suburbs that I was busy ruining my marriage and breaking matrimonial vows.


Due to good parenting from Wa Hellen and strict religious upbringing, I avoided direct eye contact with the laundry lady and fixed my gaze towards the skies from where my help comes.

She drove a hard bargain because she insisted that working under the current conditions attracted a hardship allowance. On top of that, she mentioned that she had kids to feed, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to feed them and protect them from the pandemic. Her water consumption had doubled to four jerry cans per day because she had dedicated two jerry cans to hand washing only.


We finally reached a settlement as I retreated to my makeshift work from home desk. My boss was calling for a report I was doing before my internet started walking like a bored tortoise.