Only The Lonely

Mike Finigan, Cape Breton Post

Working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I work at home. Or from home. And I’ve hit bottom. It happened two weeks ago Monday and I’m glad it did. I went to work in my gym shorts and housecoat, with a box of donuts and an extra large double double. I don’t think I washed either. It’s all a blur now. 

When you work out of your home, all alone, eventually you will find that the cat can be a pretty engaging conversationalist.

When you work from home you learn by about 10:30 a.m. of Day One that it isn’t quite what you expected.  You realize that you’re alone, for one thing, and by Day Five that talking to people is not just nice, it’s an absolute must for mental health.  

With nobody else in the room, you eventually start to behave like a god, believing that everything you think or say is brilliant.  

The edge soon starts to wear off of your social skills too, and after six months solitude, in a real conversation, say at the supper table, you find yourself unable to talk on your feet. While hitting the bag in the basement, you forgot how to bob and weave. People are taking shots at you left and right and you’re defenseless. Your comebacks are gone because you never have to use them. Like unused muscles, they’ve atrophied.  

The cat and I talk, a lot. NASCAR racing, the Screaming Eagles, geopolitics, the possibility of women priests, the feng shui of a well-placed litter box. Sardines. But we’re in agreement all too much. Trying desperately, unhealthily, not to shatter the fragile peace, lest we lose our minds and wreck the place. 

I have to ask my wife Michelle every second week if I’ve lost my mind. Losing your mind isn’t like losing your wallet because by and by you’ll know you’ve lost your wallet. 

The first thing you realize though, on Day One of working at home, is that you don’t have to dress up. No more shirt and tie. No more uniform. You can wear whatever. You can come to work in pyjamas if you want. And so, eventually, you do. It’s human nature. And soon enough one-man pillow fights must rule the day.  

When world leaders show up without a tie or dressed down, the first thing you think, consciously or not, is “This isn’t really serious. his is lunch at the G-8 summit, where everyone talks about last night’s episode of ‘Dancing With the Stars.’”  

Never even mind the white-collar world. If you show up at a construction site, or to cut meat, or to perform open-heart surgery in gym shorts and housecoat it’s hard to take what you do seriously.  

We went to a jazz concert a few weeks ago at the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion. Ellen Doty and her trio. I never was a big jazz guy and didn’t really want to go. But they were staying at our place, so…  

Anyway, I’m a jazz fan now. They blew us away. These gifted, accomplished musicians dazzled us all.  

And. They all wear tuxedos when performing. 

They believe, where jazz is concerned, you play better in your suit.  

I believe it too.   

I’d sunk to wearing whatever for work, but I got back to the shirt and tie, dress pants, polished leather shoes.  Blazer. It’s good for the mojo.  

And yes I love a nice tie. It’s a useless, perfectly ridiculous piece of wearing apparel that brightens my day. Like music. Like a cat that is perfectly useless, that you don’t expect to do dishes or earn a living, but without whom life would be dull and utilitarian.

Working from home is not for everybody. In fact it’s for just about nobody. Michelle wouldn’t last 10 minutes doing this. She has the gift for society, not solitude. She thrives on crowds, groups, congregations. Not me.  

Here in the basement, I still talk to the cat and frequently struggle with paranoia and distemper.  Happily. All dressed up and nowhere to go.  

But up.  

Mike Finigan, a native of Glace Bay, is a freelance writer and a former teacher, taxi driver, and railroader now living in Sydney River.   His column appears monthly in the Cape Breton Post.  He can be contacted at