Creeping Back

I work at a museum in downtown San Francisco. Which is to say, for the last three+ months I have been working from home at a museum in downtown San Francisco: The American Bookbinders Museum. The hiatus, as horrible as it has been for all the cultural organizations around the country and in SF in particular, has permitted our staff of three (myself, our Executive Director, and the Collection Manager) to do a thing that otherwise would have been accomplished much more slowly and around the edges of all the other things that have to get done daily: we have crafted an audio version of the docent-led/self-guided tour. ┬áJust in time, too. The docent tour is an artifact of pre-Covid life: people crowding around the docent, objects being passed from person to person… your basic contagion nightmare. With an audio tour, visitors can learn about the history and processes of bookbinding via earbuds and their phone, in a low-virus-low-risk way.

So well done us, and the minute the City gives us permission to open, all we have to do is open the doors and we’re ready to go, right?

Actually, no. As the Operations Manager, I handle a weird and diverse range of chores from designing our print materials to ordering toilet paper. So I am in charge of reopening, from the purely practical standpoint. You know what we have to do first?

Flush the pipes. We have several notices from the EPA about what has been happening in our pipes over three months of almost no water being run through them. Short form: still water breeds bacteria. So the first thing I do is open all the taps and flush the toilets repeatedly. Since this is California, where the threat of drought is pretty much a given, this feels distinctly chancy, and yet…

Next: dusting and cleaning in the usual way, and then disinfecting. Which, it appears, I’d been doing wrong all these years. You have to leave your wet disinfectant on the surface you are disinfecting for anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, depending on the disinfectant (the EPA and the CDC will give you charts of dilution and waiting time, and those bleach wipes that I was using before Covid? They’re great, as long as you use one wipe per about 2 square feet. The minute the wipe no longer feels dripping wet, it’s done, pull another one).

When everything in the museum is clean and disinfected, there will be new signage to put up: the “don’t enter if you’re sick” signs and the “maintain 6 feet of distance” signs, and the “wash your hands, and remember to close the lid on the toilet before you flush” signs. And checklists on display everywhere to show when each area was last cleaned.

In a museum with three employees and a relatively unusual subject matter, this may seem like overkill. Some of it is at least as much for the peace of mind of visitors as for us public-facing employees. But really, the more I learn about Covid and what kind of havoc it can leave in its wake, the more I believe you can’t take shortcuts with this stuff.

If you want me, I’ll be spraying things with a 5% bleach solution.