Connection in the Age of Social Distancing

As we gear up to resume service calls here at Andante Piano Works headquarters, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means to truly be connected to the people we care about during this unprecedented time of social distancing.

Prior the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing Stay at Home directives, I might have said that I felt a bit too connected to people.

After all, we live in a very connected world with our internet and LTE and constant smartphone notifications. And as an introvert (an INFJ to be specific, according to the Very Scientific Meyer-Briggs personality test I found on the internet one day), I tend to value my alone time.

However, the reality is that my business requires a LOT of connectivity. As an on-site appointment based service provider, a piano tuner is always on the go during business hours. So I run just about every aspect of APW from my phone, which includes:

  • A digital tuning fork to set the pitch at the beginning of piano tunings
  • An accounting app to stay current with my invoicing and bookkeeping
  • Mileage tracking
  • The GPS to navigate to service call locations,
  • The calendar, phone, website chat, spreadsheet, email, and text functions to schedule appointments and answer questions from clients almost any time that I am not sleeping, as well as order parts and make inquiries of piano manufacturers and supply houses,
  • Posting on social media business accounts,
  • Writing and publishing blog posts (though I have rarely utilized this function)

(And that’s just for work, it doesn’t even include the never ending text thread with Sarah that has been ongoing for 8+ years.)

All from this one device that fits in my pocket. Whew!

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

This isn’t to say that I dislike or don’t appreciate my work, my clients, or consider them a burden in any way. I LOVE my work; I just also really appreciate my “me time” lounging on my couch, doing puzzles with my daughter, and chatting with my husband at home. I’m a homebody at heart, what can I say.

So it has surprised me how much I have mentally and emotionally struggled with the Stay at Home directives and only being able to interact in 2D with people other than my husband and daughter.
Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

I mistakenly assumed that the combination of my introverted tendencies and the myriad of ways people can interact in 2D these days would be adequate to satisfy my need for connection until we are all able to see people we don’t live with in person again.

After all, I know I am lucky and have it easier than a lot of others, living in a house with a yard to garden and space for my daughter’s gigantic trampoline and a town small and quiet enough to safely take walks.

But I have to admit that I really miss exploring the nooks and crannies of the region via my service calls (but not the traffic, I would never miss that), engaging all of my senses except taste through my work, visiting every park in SW Washington with my daughter, and I especially miss grabbing coffee (or pizza…or ice cream…or doughnuts) with Sarah and Josh.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised, after all, distance that has impeded meaningful connections has always been a part of my life.
Photo by Benjamin Hanimann on Unsplash

My parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea in 1974, a few months before my brother was born. Then my sister and I came along, and for many many years, the five of us were the only people on both sides of our family to live in the US. As a result, we’ve never been a family that has had a tight knit community around them — no big weekend or holiday gatherings spent with grandparents and aunts and uncles, no cousins showing up to play whenever, and for many years no other Korean-Americans in the small town where I grew up at all.

The primary way to communicate in 2D back in the 1980s was on one of those old school rotary phones that took five minutes to dial an international number (longer if you made a mistake and had to start over and watch the dial tick back to its starting position verrrry slowwwwly many times) for an ungodly amount of money per minute during the two hours of the day when both parties were actually awake at the same time due to the huge time difference.

Suffice it to say that maintaining connections and, for my siblings and I, establishing meaningful relationships with our relatives was very difficult and quite frankly didn’t happen for the most part back then.

Silly me apparently assumed that the reason relationships that were so hard to establish and maintain from afar in the 1980s was because of the very limited and expensive ways to communicate back then. Silly me was clearly wrong.

Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

So while it’s been nice to have an opportunity to catch up on fun things like updating client files and bookkeeping, I am ready to get back to work and as close to as normal life as I can get. We all know that pre-COVID-19 life will not be back in the same way anytime soon, but all of the zoom happy hours and Marco Polo videos and text messages and old school pen pal-ing can’t make up for what we get in person. So I will take whatever in-person interaction I can get with the people I value in my life.

This is all to say that I miss you guys and I can’t wait to get back to seeing you in person and working on your pianos again.

I’ve learned my lesson and know definitively now that 2D doesn’t compare to 3D, but it’s still better than nothing. So let’s stay in touch, and take care of yourselves until we can see each other again.

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