Secret Fence Post Mail System
Contributed by Barbara Bell
Last summer my daughter and family moved to a small acreage next door to where I live. To suit fluctuating work schedules, my grandchildren, 10 year old fraternal twins, were coming to spend after-school time with me twice a week.
These visits came to an end in mid-March with the institution of the social distancing and stay at home policies. Being so close and yet so separated from my grandchildren, and really missing that connection with them, I wondered if there was anything I could do to maintain some contact. After some dedicated thinking I came up with the idea of creating a “secret fence-post” mail system, employing the fence line between our properties. Following up on this thought I sat down to compose an initial letter which I addressed to Dear ‘Miss C.’ and ‘Mr. A.’, explaining the basic idea and including an activity suggestion. I enclosed the letter in a Ziploc bag, and crossing the field between us, I pounded a nail into either side of a post in the fence line, and hung the mail for pickup!
With great anticipation, ‘Miss C.’ and ‘Mr. A.’ ran out to get their morning mail. Return mail was posted on my side of the fence-post later that day, and the mail system was up and running! Secret Mail messages since then have included ideas for activities, chronicles of daily events, wildlife alerts, ‘breaking news’ items, word search puzzles, and household pet tales. The development of a secret code has added to the fun, with a segment of each letter now requiring decoding!
The “secret fence-post” mail system is now in its sixth week of operation, and although mail frequency has been impacted lately by school work requirements, messages continue to go back and forth two to three times a week, and a very satisfying and entertaining connection is being maintained!
Contributed by Steve Fleck, Greater Vernon Museum and Archives
It’s been six weeks since my “working from home” experience began. I’ve forgotten what it feels like to wear a belt or pants without an elastic waistband. The only time I worry about my clothing and facial hair is if there is a Zoom meeting scheduled. The other day my wife said my COVID beard would have to come off before she would be seen in public with me again.
Like many other non-essential workers, this situation feels a bit surreal. Some days it’s great to have the flexibility to set my schedule, take walks in the middle of day and work from the comfort of home. I don’t miss the extra time spent in my car; and we’re saving lots of money on random snacks, gas and other sundries. However, the prolonged time sitting in front of the computer, with so much communication funneled through email, social media and video conferencing often leaves me feeling out of touch. It’s the same feeling I get when taking courses online – sure, you can cover the material in the lessons, but it’s not the same as being in the same room with students and the teacher. It’s less spontaneous, and for me, less inspiring.
As someone who loves accomplishing tasks and making things happen, the virtual office can be frustrating. It’s more difficult to quickly connect with someone, share an idea and get immediate feedback. Some days I question whether I am accomplishing anything. I miss the variety and novelty of being out and about. But some people love it. We were talking on Skype the other night and a friend told us this was her dream life. She didn’t have to meet other people face to face and could quickly manage her tasks without interference. Clearly, personality types play a big part in whether this experience fits with different individuals.
I’ll tell you who loves it though – our dogs. They think sheltering at home is fantastic. There are way more snacks, walks and snuggles. Kidding aside, my wife and I are thankful for the dogs. For one thing, they are great listeners. And sometimes it’s comforting to just watch them, so unaware of the stresses in the world. They just focus on the moment. I could learn something from them.
Some people think this period will change the nature of work in the future. Companies can save money on office space, reduce expenses and connect people virtually. It might be the end to a lot of business trips. I think it also shows that many things can be accomplished in shorter periods of time, especially since there is less work-based socializing during the day. A lot of businesses may be looking at how to extend the use of telecommunications to update their organization, even after the shelter in place restrictions are lifted.
For now, I am thankful to work and connect with amazing people using this website and other technology. But it will be a happy day when I can get back to the museum and reconnect with the people and places that make leaving the house worthwhile.