Grand Central Tobosa Station
By: Jacob Dicello
You remember. We all took for granted some things that, pre-COVID-19, were so common that we did not even consider them. Remember when? We moved into the new Tobosa administration office, bumping into one another in the hallway and politely saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, excuse me,” and then as soon as we passed thinking to ourselves, Get outta my way, Jerk! Remember when? The new office was like Grand Central Station. Remember when? You could always walk into the Tobosa office and find papers flying, phones buzzing, copiers whooshing, chatter, and laughter? As a matter of fact, my desk was the first thing you saw when you walked into the office. I had a front-row seat for all the action. Everyone, from the CEO to random people off the street, thinking they were going to get an eye exam, came flying in those doors. I could not take more than two or three steps before running into someone, and the restroom was always occupied when I needed it the most. I heard every emotion capable of audibility daily; anger, laughter, frustration, love, indifference, and fear, to name a few. Sometimes I thought to myself:
How can they expect me to get any work done around here with all these distractions?
Then pfffft…just like that, all the commotion was gone. One day my supervisor, Jessica, met with me and said, “Take your computers, your desk, and your stationery and go work from home. We will let you know when you can come back.” Finally, my dream had come true (or so I thought). I get paid to stay at home and work. I get to stay in my PJ’s all day. The peace and quiet that I thought I craved had finally become a reality. I thought to myself; I get to hang out with my little dog, Abraxas, all day long. She is going to be so happy. Things had finally turned in my favor, and life was great. I replied to Jessica by saying, “see ya!” Then, the work from home began.
I will start with Abraxas, my dog. Even though now I am home and Abraxas can go outside anytime, she still sleeps all day, except every 30 minutes when she wakes up to bark at me until I give her a treat. It is a constant battle. I find myself saying over and over, “No, no more treats, go outside!“. That warm and fuzzy feeling you are supposed to obtain from a small dog is not something she readily provides during this time. Now that I am home all day, she does not care. I am just an annoyance to her. So out the window goes the puppy love. That is ok. We are adjusting, but I still get to work from my home without all the distractions, right?
I often find myself staring blankly at my computer screen. There is no laughter, chatter, anger, frustration, phones buzzing, papers flying, or copiers whooshing, and I never run into anyone in the hallway. It’s just me and my computer screen. Distractions I once felt were a thorn in my side are replaced by the disturbance of loneliness in my head. The occupied restroom is replaced by both of my toilets having plumbing issues because I am here all day using them. Until I can get a plumber over here, I have to turn the water switch off to the toilet after each usage. Great! (I hope you can sense the sarcasm in my tone because I am laying it on pretty thick.) In an unexpected twist, a funny thing went through my head the other day, I actually asked myself:
How can they expect me to get any work done without all the distractions at the office?
Oh my goodness, it finally happened! I had become accustomed to the hustle and bustle of Grand Central Tobosa Station. You know, like when you can’t get your workday started without that cup of coffee. The activity and noise at the office had become the caffeine for my workday.
As we entered into 2020, Jessica Dunn, Director of Program Supports, wrote an article called “Rolling into a New Location in the New Decade”. In it, she wrote about her feelings of “separation and being away from family for a few months” when describing our recent move of offices, specifically when the Nursing department and Team Coordinators were separated from the Tobosa Administration for the first time in its’ history. A distance of 0.9 miles divided the departments at that time, but the social distancing restrictions were not in effect that we are enduring today. In comparing the two situations, if Jessica felt so disconsolate when our offices were separated by a mere 0.9 miles, I can only imagine the feelings of detachment Jessica is experiencing now. I wonder how others are dealing with it?
Inspirational Window Challenge: Teams at Deborah, Cedar, Sherrill Ln.
Please do not get me wrong. I am proud of the fact that Tobosa is adhering to the social distancing restrictions very seriously. I was teaching a MANDT recertification class the same day most of us received the sobering news that our lives would turn inside out. Rosy, Tobosa CEO, and Dori, the HR Director, were in my class, and we knew our lives would drastically change due to the Coronavirus quarantine. The news stopped us in our tracks, and, as a group, we discussed it. Of course, with my tendency to open mouth and insert foot, I looked right at Rosy and asked the toughest question of all, “What are you going to do with Tobosa?“ right in front of the whole class. I may as well have turned the heater up to 90 degrees and put a spotlight on her. Now, for anyone that knows Rosy, you know that she is always under control and, even if she is sweating it out she doesn’t show it, but this was a whole new level of distress for the leaders of organizations and, to quote George Strait, it came “Out of the blue, clear sky.” Many questions, very few answers and the need to act quickly is a tough combination. Rosy looked up at me, and although her facial expression was facetiously saying, Thanks, Jake, for putting me on the hot seat, she gave the most real and honest answer she could give, “I don’t know.” True to form, though, she figured it out and acted quickly. Rosy and her team of Directors made tough decisions, decisions that I would later be thankful for, and stood firm in the face of adversity. This adversity has also made me realize that we have some brilliant and dedicated Directors at Tobosa, and we also have Carlos (Sorry Carlos, I couldn’t resist that one). Tobosa was ahead of the curve to help flatten it. I may be lonely, and a little stir-crazy working from home with this social distancing, but it is much better than the restrictions that a major health issue would pose. Safety is always the first concern that the leaders of Tobosa have in mind. For that, I feel grateful and will gladly do my part to help keep everyone safe.
As I was praising the Tobosa leadership, I noticed an even mightier group in the Tobosa family: its workforce on the front lines. Let’s face it, as much as COVID-19 and its restrictions have changed my work life; I was told to stay home, away from danger. How brave am I? Not hardly. I just retreated to safety. Our Tobosa staff who are responsible for working directly with the kiddos and individuals that we support did not receive a cozy proposition to stay home and work. They are the brave ones. How scary it must be for those who are needed and asked to continue putting themselves in the line of fire.
When the news first broke, I was afraid, if I were asked to keep going to work with people directly, I would have stomped my feet and cried, but not the frontline workers. They know who they are. They rose in the face of this adversity and kept on directly supporting. We all like to say we are dedicated to the individuals, children, and families that we support. Still, every once in a while, a situation arises where the real Superheroes must rise when the rest of us shrink back to security. To those of you who continue to rise and step forward,
As if one twist in this journey wasn’t enough, I am going to present another. I have observed that the very thing that pushed us all away from each other, physically, has become the thing that has bonded us tighter, mentally, and emotionally. We have learned many different ways to accomplish our goals and duties, even when a standard approach is no longer an option. Sometimes, we face adversity because we need to change. At times, adversity forces us to dig deep and find a new way, but the new way is often better. When I look around Tobosa as a whole, I am very proud of how we all have adjusted. What I learned about myself, and the rest of the Tobosa family is that we are dedicated to Tobosa and its mission.
We empower people with developmental delays or disabilities, and their families, to independently fulfill their life goals and dreams.
Whether we are in Grand Central Tobosa Station, at home alone, in one of the residences, in the classroom or any other setting, we are going to adapt and do whatever we need to do to support each other. We prove, daily, that we will overcome anything, even an invisible, airborne foe. After all, we have Superheroes among us.