In 1970, when Joni Mitchell noted down the lyrics for 'Big Yellow Taxi', she can't have imagined that 50 years on, those words could be reapplied to the prospect of being unable to share a birthday cake, paper thimble of champagne and an awkward side of, "So, what are you up to over the weekend?" at the end of a bank of computer monitors. But here I am, because don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?
For weeks, we've been hearing about a 'new normal' in our workplaces after lockdown. If and when restrictions are lifted, we were told, it would be a case of learning to live with the coronavirus, rather than revelling in life without it.
As offices across Europe prepare to reopen, shift start and end times could be staggered to reduce overlap; desks might be placed more than two metres apart and divided by screens; 'one-way' lanes could be imposed; working from home will be encouraged; and contact, in general, will be kept to a minimum.
Essentially, office culture as we know it may be over for the foreseeable future. They're paving paradise, and putting up perspex screens. For years, we complained about our old office life. We have mocked it, dreaded it, but now we might just end up missing it. Here's how...
Have you ever tried to whisper: "Did you hear? Hugh from Outreach has been quarantining with Nicola in HR - and she is not his wife..." to a colleague, while maintaining a safe distance, or through a screen, and not been heard by others? Starved of face-to-face counsel, gossipy team-mates will be desperate to confide in one another. But how? Rumour-mongers, snitches, tattle-tales: you may need to move on to WhatsApp. Where's the fun in that?
Have M&S furloughed Colin the Caterpillar? Until we're allowed to share snacks in offices again, there will be little work for him. The same goes for those tubs of brownies and flapjacks left by a germ-ridden photocopier.
Surprising desk mates with sugary snacks was one of the few ways to guarantee you could elevate their day. What are we to do now such acts are deemed unhygienic and inappropriate?
The corridor paso doble
You were in the corridor and approaching an unknown colleague. You'd lock eyes. One of you went one way - but no! - it's the same way. "Sorry!" you both said, diving to the opposite side. But - agh! - you've both gone there too. You repeated this dance until one of you gave up and just waited. There just won't be as much fun in a one-way system, will there?
"Good evening. Nice of you to join us," you used to say as your colleague arrived eight minutes late. You too were late, by six minutes, but they didn't know that. With staggered shifts, will this joke be possible again?
There are - or were - several people in any office who had such thunderous sneezes that it would create office-wide conversation every time they detonated. Before corona, those sneezes may have been grossly anti-social.
Post corona, those sneezes are going to terrify anxious people anywhere within a one-mile radius. I am afraid.
© The Telegraph