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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

If it is Tuesday this must be my blog

My daughter thought Monday was Sunday. Because you start to lose track of time when you sleep, work and live in the same place for 24/7. Even going for a walk starts to look the same. Though we have started thinking about writing to the local online newspaper and suggesting some common rules for walking in the time of social distancing. For example, if everyone walked on the right, you wouldn't have to step into the road so much. And a single person should yield to two or more people. Simple things.

I have found that working at home has a psychological impact on you as well. Because even on weekends, you are in the place that you work and it is hard to leave it behind. I try and spend most of my time during a work day, down in my home office. And I avoid going there on weekends, but it still has an effect on me.

The longer this stretches on the more I see the effects of stress on my family and the people I work with. Part of it is not knowing when it will end. Part of it is not knowing what will happen when it ends. It is hard at this point to imagine things returning to normal. You start to appreciate all of the things you took for granted, like going to a movie, eating out and not having to swerve around people when you are walking.

It is interesting how quickly marketing people have switched gears to capitalize on this mess. I get e-mails from online merchants selling home office furniture. I get fed online videos about buying toilet paper online. It is almost shameless the way we take advantage of even the worst circumstances.

I don't really worry about getting sick. Though I am hyper aware of even the slightest symptom. The actual virus still feels remote and vague like the bogeyman. I am more worried about my family, my job and the economy. I actually would like to retire sometime. What are the odds when I had retirement in sight, we'd experience the worst disaster in my lifetime.

You can't as an individual prepare for something like this. The only ones who do are nut job dooms day preppers. They must be loving this. 

In the beginning of this forced isolation, I saw lots of positive things in people. Although we needed to stay six feet apart, I noticed people seemed friendlier than they used to be when you walked past them. They said hello or waved. Now people just seem stressed and confused. 

And stressed and confused people start doing weird things. Today, they had to pull one of our light rail trains out of service because a guy was observed coughing in paper towels and wiping them on seats. It didn't surprise me. And I've noticed more vandalism and litter lately. While walking today we saw someone had tossed a pizza box from a restaurant up the street into some persons yard. We have also noticed people picking up after their dog and then tossing the bag down the slope behind our house.

I hope this is some of the worst of it. God knows what people will do if this drags on for months.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Remote control

Just wrapping up the first full week of working at home. On the plus side I get to roll out of bed 15 minutes before 8 a.m. and head down to my home office. I used to have to get up at 6 a.m., get ready and then take a train into work.

On the negative side I'm not taking as many showers.

I think I'm actually able to be as, if not more, productive working at home. Meeting with people via computer video and audio actually makes me feel more connected to them than I would be in a conference room. It is oddly comforting to meet with other people trapped in their homes without outside contact.

Since I don't have access to a gym (and they are all closed anyway), I've been taking several walks a day with my wife and sometimes my son and dog. Lots more people are out walking. Some acknowledge us as we walk past. Some cross the street. All of us have gotten used to staying six feet away.

I was walking alone yesterday at lunch. I passed a guy checking his mail box and he hollered out, "Good job of keeping six feet away." I nodded. Then he laughed and said, "We need to make light of it." I mumbled, a "Yeah." He seemed uncomfortable at that point and told me to have a nice day.

I was tempted to say, "Better six feet away then six feet under." But humor is definitely not going over big these days. People don't want jokes. They want reassurance that it will all be okay. No one seems to be able to offer that.

I did watch several online video ads this morning for buying toilet paper online. Not sure with all of the essentials you could hoard, toilet paper became the one many obsessed on. And as far as I know, the virus doesn't make you go to the bathroom more.

Not sure why Washington was so hard hit by this. Not even sure what hard hit means in the context of the virus. You don't really see anything but closed stores and restaurants. All we hear is how bad it could get if we don't "shelter in place." But shelter in place really means you can still go out walking, go to grocery store and run other errands.  So I'm not sure how it is any different than what we were doing anyway.

I am sick of the phrase, "This is the new normal."

No, no it is not. Not for me anyway.

Monday, March 16, 2020

I miss normal

So the governor of Washington issued a mandatory social distancing order. And my work is requiring us to work at home. They also closed most of the schools in the area. Today they closed restaurants and bars.

Our cats and the dog are confused as to what I am doing home. They generally just associate me with someone who comes home and feeds them.

Honestly, I don't have a problem avoiding large groups of people. I have tried doing that my entire life. I don't like the potential of not being able to go out to a restaurant. I am also worried about the long term impacts on the economy and my retirement, not to mention my kid's education if this drags on for months.

Oddly enough, I am less concerned about the actual virus. There is so much misinformation about how you get it and how badly you can get sick that it seems secondary to the impacts of group panic and fear. I was disappointed in the decision to close restaurants because I was in the camp that of all the industries, they were the ones that were supposed to be following sanitary rules already when they prep food. But I can understand the concerns of large groups of people squeezed into small spaces spreading germs.

We had our last restaurant meal on Friday night and it did cross my mind that there could be more risks as the servers and assistants kept grabbing our water glasses and refilling them. And after I used the oil and balsamic vinegar cruets I sanitized my hands.

I feel for all of those workers suddenly without paychecks potentially for weeks. Not sure when or how all of the emergency funds to help the people and the economy can kick in. Especially since most of the government workers are working remotely, too.

My wife and I drove to Olympia on Sunday to set up a computer for my mother in law so she could work at home. We ended up going to several stores looking for computer cables. There still seemed to be plenty of people going about their business as if nothing was up.

I sanitized my hands frequently and I used a rubber glove when I put gas in the car.

I miss normal.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

In a fog...no, really


There's a fog upon L.A.
And my friends have lost their way
We'll be over soon they said
Now they've lost themselves instead
--Blue Jay Way by George Harrison 
Actually there is a fog upon downtown Seattle. And I'm not referring to the Corona Virus. It is a real fog and fairly thick for Seattle. It kind of adds to the surreal mood in the city. The streets are pretty much empty. The train I rode in on this morning was fairly empty, too. People are staying home in droves clutching hand sanitizer and peering out the blinds.

It is pretty cold today, too. Not very spring like. And daylight savings time springing us forward over the weekend didn't help lighten things up. The only thing bright about the morning was the full moon peaking through the fog.

The fog has now burned off and it is sunny with barely a cloud in the sky. It is hard to believe that behind all of this tranquility the world is doing its best Chicken Little impression and squawking about mandatory social distancing.

As I worked out, I watched the image of a cruise ship pulling into Oakland with a boat load of passengers who had been exposed to the Corona Virus. All that I could think was who in their right mind would be taking a cruise right now. But I quickly remembered that you book sometimes a year or two in advance and pay vast quantities of money to go on a cruise. What an unlucky bastard to have booked one in the middle of a pandemic and didn't buy cancellation insurance.

"Marge, pack your bags for the cruise."
"But what about the Corona Virus?"
"I can't get a refund so we are going. Just have some extra shrimp in the buffet. We'll probably get food poisoning before we get the Corona Virus. Or we'll just get sick from drinking too many Corona's."

At least that is how I imagine the conversations went before jumping on a cruise ship.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Blog in the time of cholera


“wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.” 
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
My apologies to Gabriel García Márquez for re-purposing her great book title.  But the title has been going through my head in these troubled times of panic and misinformation in the face of a virus that doesn't seem to move as quickly as the panic it inspires.

They tell us that the people who are most at risk are:

  • Over 60 years of age 
  • Have underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes 
  • Have weakened immune systems 
  • Pregnant
So, being over 60, I am technically at risk. So my company tells me I may work from my home if I choose. But I am torn. I don't feel compelled to cower at home in a self-imposed exile from an invisible bug that could or could not make me sick and in extreme cases kill me. Most of the prescriptions I take come with a list of potential side effects that make the Corona Virus look like a pansy in comparison.

Again it is the panic that frustrates me more than anything. Because the only difference between today and two weeks ago is that several people died in a senior care center not even in Seattle. All of a sudden, we became ground zero for the virus in the United States. But nothing really changed other than people began making runs on stores and hoarding hand sanitizer and toilet paper. It once again confirms for me the power of people's perceptions versus the reality.

I walked on the beach with my daughter last Sunday and noted that it was an ordinary activity untouched by the madness swirling around the virus outbreak. It occurred to me that nature doesn't panic or over react. It evolves and adapts...slowly, but surely.

Pity that humans can't take the same approach. But we seem to be hard wired for fight or flight. And so many of the things that we react to now are imagined or potential versus real and concrete.  

Monday, March 02, 2020

Don't pandemic!

I would say that the world has officially gone crazy. And it is the "nothing to fear but fear itself" that Franklin Delano Roosevelt counseled us about that is driving people crazy. The Corona virus that is spooking people to make runs on the grocery store and stock up on toilet paper is the boogeyman. It also caused the stock market to tank big time.

Once again I marvel at what sheep people are. Or lemmings. It is their panic that is more harmful than the spread of a flu like disease that can kill already sick people. I'm not poo-poohing the fact that it is concerning. But the misinformation about it is mindnumbing. People are told that wearing face masks is useless yet they have cleared the stores of face masks.

And now we are letting our lives grind to a halt as we wring our hands and wait. But wait for what? I don't want hunker down too afraid to peek outside my windows for fear I'll see someone cough. They have us all washing our hands constantly like Lady Macbeth.

It's an OCD person's dream come true.

I hate things that take me out of my nice, comfortable routines. I just want to worry about paying for my kid's college and retirement. I don't want to be sucked into the nightmare of global panic because of a cold on steroids.

The thing is, a year from now most of this will be forgotten and people will go right back to not washing their hands and touching their faces. Let's just hope that worse virus that infected the Whitehouse four years ago is gone.