The Days of Wine and COVID, Part III: The Return to the Office

It’s been nearly a year since I wrote Part II of this ongoing series and with things being how they were, I had no idea when this topic would finally come about and when I’d be able to write Part III.

That was until today when we got an email from HR stating the office was being readied for our return (at 50% capacity) beginning on June 1. Attached to the email were several PDFs that went into great detail about how things were going to be in this “new normal” we’re all still trying to get used to.

Gone are the days of waltzing into the building and finding a spot on the next elevator (I actually take the stairs), going into the kitchen to stash your lunch, making your morning cup of coffee while grabbing company-provided bagel or donut, then plopping yourself down at your desk that had personal artifacts from home that made it cozy since, well, you spend a good portion of your time there.

Now it’s all about social distancing, temperature checks, pre-packaged foods, disposable kitchen utensils, one-way hallways and actually having to reserve a desk in advance should you choose to go back and work from the office. This means that personal items are no longer allowed since all desks are open to whomever reserves them first. All of this plus having to wear a face covering as you sit there and work.

Look, hear me out. I’m not crying over this. I get that there are others who wear PPE all day long and my hat is off to them for doing what they do especially now.

But as our company has told us time and time again, returning to the office is not mandatory and we can continue to work from home indefinitely if it makes us feel safer.

And I do. Plus at this point, I’ve got my daily routine going and have spent time and money rearranging and decorating my workspace in the den. I’ve finally gotten it to where I want it complete with a sound system and bitchin’ 1987 Dual turntable I bought from someone on NextDoor.

We communicate via Teams and email. We have access to everything we need. Hell, our team made up of people across the globe even worked on a world premiere of a major automotive reveal that got high marks and praise from our client. We’ve proven that we can get the job done just as well whether sitting in a building in office attire or lounging at home in our pajamas listening to scratchy Louis Prima records.

Yes I miss having an office near the beach but after over a year, I’ve grown to enjoy the freedom being home gives me. It’s just too easy compared to everything that needs to be done if we choose to go back to the office.

Also, at home I don’t have personal items on a desk. I have my family in the flesh.

So my mind is made up and until we reach 100% capacity with no restrictions or other precautions (and who knows when that will be, if ever), the comfort of home is where I’ll continue to slog away.

Here’s to tomorrow when I start my day with a 5-mile walk, take a shower, put on some shorts and a t-shirt, have breakfast and chat with the family, then start the work day by spinning some choice vinyl on the turntable.

Hello Again

Huh. It’s a blog post! Considering my last one was in December, I thought I’d write another one and try to be better at it. I said try, folks.

In said post I had mentioned that COVID cases continued to surge. That’s no longer the case as more and more people get vaccinated and numbers are actually dropping. As a result, the state has entered a lower tier and restaurants are starting to open for indoor dining, stores are allowing more customers in their doors, and gyms are welcoming back the resolutioners that haven’t thrown in the towel yet.


I have acquaintances posting family pics at Mongolian BBQs. Ann has friends who couldn’t wait to get smashed at local bars and posting selfies of their exuberant debauchery.


Perhaps I speak for myself when I say that we’re still in the midst of a motherfucking pandemic and it’s still way too soon to be getting shitfaced at Moe’s Tavern or be slurping udon with your family in a restaurant.


Anyway…

(Update 3/25/21: I learned yesterday that a family on our street — known to have had plenty of social gatherings during this pandemic — all came down with COVID after one of their drunken soirées because one of the members was unknowingly exposed and spread the virus. It cost one of the eldest members his life. Worth it?)


I haven’t been shot yet because I do not meet the state’s criteria of being a fat…uh, morbidly obese nor do I fall within the age range of being 60+, work in field that puts me at risk, or have any underlying conditions that put me at a higher risk of dying from COVID. Damn you, you healthy stinking body!

Ha ha. Sucks to be you, I guess. Go eat some oranges you healthy sucky-suck.


Frankly I have a greater chance of getting hit by cars while out for my morning walk/ride – and it’s already happened more times than I’d like to mention.

The family hasn’t been vaccinated yet either for the same reasons I’ve stated although they do have asthma and one is a cancer survivor. (Ann is now two-and-a-half years of being what the doctors call “unremarkable” and still exceeding all the -ologists expectations!) My mom has gotten both shots and in-laws have had their first dose. My brother got his today although I suspect he, as he always does, stretched the truth to get it. I mean…there’s a history of that and all…

And when we finally do, don’t count on any post-vaccination selfies. Because.


In a post last May I had mentioned that I was going to write a three-part blog series called The Days of Wine and COVID with Part 3 being called The Return to the Office (ala the J.R.R. Tolkien books which I did read, thankyouverymuch). While I got through Parts 1 and 2, Part 3 isn’t happening any time soon. My employer continues to monitor the state’s situation and will follow those guidelines when the time comes although we are at no obligation to ever return to the office. While I do miss being around some coworkers, being home has proven to be a viable alternative to the typical workday. We’ve gotten just as much done at home as we would have at the office and I have much more freedom to do what I need for the family. I miss the location of the office and my coworkers but this is just too easy.

So aside from all that, what’s new?

I’m down 20 pounds. I started to track my weight when I got my Wyze scale last April and weighed in at 237 lbs. Holy, holy fuck. I’m currently at 217 and working on reaching 25 pounds lost by this April. So far this year I’ve logged 500 miles between daily walking and cycling with the occasional rest days. Change is always possible even in the most adverse of situations so don’t give me the “But we were in lockdown!” or “The gym was closed!” excuses for weight gain because I did this during lockdown and never set foot into a gym. You want it? Find a way and work for it.


I’ve joined some virtual challenges. With running events being on hold indefinitely, virtual runs/walks have become more popular. I’ve completed several Conqueror Challenges and have set a goal reaching of 2,021 miles this year so with 500 miles in the books thus far, it’s gonna happen by October. As of now I’ve earned 5 medals and they are soooo cool.


L-R: Mt. Fuji (46 mi.), Mt. Everest (40 mi.), Giza Pyramids (46 mi.), Grand Canyon (280 mi.), St. Francis Way (312 mi.).

New iPad Air. Stimulus money be damned! I got a 2017 Nissan LEAF EV last July and Ann realized on the last day of 2020 that I qualified for a $1,000 rebate, so I hastily submitted my application with the appropriate paperwork and got approved a few months later. Once I got the check, I used a portion of it along with some cash I had saved up for this specific purchase and some Amazon gift cards to get the iPad and an Apple Pencil 2 (required for newer iPads). That said…


Y’all wanna buy some stickers? Part of the reason I got my new iPad was to be creative and draw more regularly. I had one of my drawings of Milhouse Van Houten made into stickers and my first batch is up for sale on Etsy. I’ve sold a total of one but will have more on the way.


NOBODY LIKES MILHOUSE!


We’re growing stuff! No, not that stuff. After a year of being home, we decided that having a garden would be fun so we used our existing planters and any empty areas in the backyard to plant a bunch of stuff: onions, pumpkins, peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, etc. It’s been a lot of work but so worth it. This is just a small part of it.

Green goodness!


Fresh eggs are comin’! I eat two eggs every day for breakfast, so I thought hey, why not have fresh ones? I have a chicken coop coming and once it’s built, I’m getting a hen. It seems we’ve turned into city farmers – maybe even hippies with my EV – and it feels kinda nice picking what we need from our backyard. And no, my hen isn’t going to be on our plate one day. She’s going to provide the eggs and be our pet, and we’re looking forward to having her.


And that’s pretty much been life since December!

The Days of Wine and COVID, Part II: Working from Home

As stated in my previous post, this is the first time I’ve ever worked from home save for that time I thought being a freelance proofreader would be the way to go (I ended up doing one project).

As such, there was much to get used to – like, everything. And being my wife is also working from home and starts at an earlier time than me, I’ve kept my alarms set to 6 am so that she can get up and start her day an hour before I start mine.

But after about a week I had my schedule in place and it goes something like this.

6 am: Alarm goes off on iPhone. Hit Snooze for the next few rounds.

6:30 am: Ann gets up and prepares for her workday in the kitchen where her home office is set up. I roll around in bed a few more times before deciding to get my running clothes together.

6:45 am: Laced up and ready to go. My daily goal is 5 miles which has become easier by the day. I get home in about 1.5 hours, 1.25 of which are moving (I take a few breaks along the way).

7:00 am: Out the door I go.

And before you ask, yes, social distancing is in order. In my city, outdoor exercising is one of the few things you can actually do that does not require wearing a mask. I take full advantage of this because, frankly, running with one really, really sucks. (And ladies, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have facial hair, put your mask on – just pretend you have a hole for eating and speaking – and imagine wearing it all the time. Yeah. Really. That’s why I no longer have a goatee because it’s freaking hot and I don’t care to constantly maintain the goddamned thing. Plus, gray hairs. And ew, facial hair.)

Here’s a small section of where I run (about 1 mile in length).

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There is a dirt path next to the San Gabriel River bike trail but with all the foot traffic, maintaining social distancing is next to impossible. I’ve been running on the right side of the picture because there was never anyone over there – then some figured it out and traffic has increased. So now I run alongside the river to avoid people, COVID-19 or not. And on the way here, I run in the street if there are people on the sidewalk.

8:10–8:20 am: I return home with just enough time to take a shower and have breakfast. During this time before I start, I also charge up the case for my new – they are about a month old – JLab Air Icon earbuds so that I have juice for the day in case I need it. (Not a paid endorsement; for a mere $59 they have held up to my daily workout abuse and get me through most of the day on a single charge. Plus Apple earbuds don’t fit my ears and have abysmal battery life, and Beats are overpriced and uncomfortable.)

Wearing running shorts, a t-shirt, flip-flops and no hair gel I make my way to my home office in the den. I light a candle and turn on the computer.

9 am: Work until 6 pm.

The reason I started doing this daily cardio was because I was eating way too much and at the start my WFH tenure, things were still kind of sketchy with this COVID-19 thing, meaning there was a time when it was nearly demanded that we stay indoors for a week in order to reduce the chance of spreading it. So I did Wii Fit “workouts” until we were cleared to exercise outdoors once again. They were goofy and fun but being indoors all the time really sucks.

Now that I’ve been doing this I’m down 7 pounds, eating better, gaining muscle and losing fat. Not bad.

WFH definitely has advantages. For one, I’m not driving much if at all anymore, as if I did to begin with since I was taking the bus to the office. Now whenever I open the door to my car, I have to yank on it a bit because it’s practically sealed shut and air-tight like a sarcophagus. I think I may have put gas in it twice since mid-March – we alternate cars every week when we do have to drive – and that’s okay by me. I don’t even know how much gas costs anymore.

Not dealing with traffic or a long bus ride to the office are great. While working at the office, by the time I walked home from the bus stop it would be around 7:20 pm. Now I just turn off my computer and walk from the den to the living room to get “home” at 6 pm. Plus I can have dinner and lunch with the family instead of dining solo long after their meals have been consumed. It’s a win-win.

But it’s still working. Messaging apps and conference calls have become the norm for my daily work life, respectively replacing phone calls and daily meetings. And being we’ve had some layoffs and restructuring, there have been plenty of conference calls.

For now, this is how it will be. My company is getting things in order for our potential return to the office, which will be based on local government recommendations (we won’t talk about the federal government’s plans or, more precisely, lack thereof). It has been stressed that by no means will anyone be required to return to the office if they do not wish to do so, and I’m kind of leaning in that direction.

And that’s the only thing that has me torn.

The office is in a great location. I’ve spent many a lunch hour walking or riding my bike around town and on the beach, taking pictures of interesting things. There’s so many cool buildings, fun events, and interesting people in the area. It spawns my creativity. In that respect, I miss being there.

But since we’re still under safer-at-home orders (indefinitely it seems), there’s almost no point in going back. Many businesses are still closed and several restaurants have shuttered permanently. All major events that I enjoyed attending were cancelled this year and who’s to say if they will happen next year. In fact, I’m holding off on registering for this year’s half marathon since everything is still up in the air – there goes my 10-year streak of participating. And since people like me are working from home, there’s no downtown vibe.

So I don’t know what I’ll return to downtown if I decide to go back. If working from home has proven anything, it’s that my job can be successfully done from a darkened den with a candle burning for ambiance instead of a fluorescent bulb-illuminated office where I’m tied to a desk all day.

There’s a certain freedom being home.

And I really like that.

Next episode: The Days of Wine and COVID, Part III: The Return to the Office

The Days of Wine and COVID, Part I: Black Friday

Back on April 4, I was walking along the side of the house and came across a patch of clovers. Keep in mind I’ve walked past these things many times in the past and never gave them much thought but that day I decided to go looking for a little luck.

And I found it.

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Count ’em. This isn’t a four-leaf clover, no. Look closer and you’ll see that there’s a fifth leaf on the other side. They say that the fifth leaf is supposed to represent money and extra luck. Little did I know that over a week later, I’d really need it.

Up to this point, because of all the coronavirus madness, I had been working from home since the middle of March and we had gotten a few emails from the company President explaining what the next moves were going to be. Nothing too drastic – until one stated that layoffs and furloughs were coming. The only thing I could think of was great, here we go again.

I had been laid off from several jobs in the past and figured this would just be another notch on my résumé. But being we had gotten our stimulus money a week prior, I figured we’d be okay for little bit while unemployment kicked in. We had it all planned and were ready.

And on Friday, April 10, it happened – but not to me. Several people were let go but not entirely because of COVID-19. We lost a big client due to a really stupid business decision on their part so people who were a part of that team were transitioned to other teams while some people on other teams were let go entirely. But some of the blame most definitely falls on COVID-19 as markets around the world try to rebound from this economic crisis.

We lost a person in our department who accepted the company’s offer for a retirement package. While we all thanked him via email and Slack messages, it sucks that we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye in person. I wish him the best in his retirement.

The rest of us are still hanging in there as we continue to plug along in this strange new working world, strange to me at least.

I was never ready for this to happen and hadn’t made room for or given much thought to where my work computer would go. In the end, I put it on my old drawing table in front of my personal computer which, as you probably know, doesn’t get much use these days because it sucks.

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This is my workspace (the calendar on the screen covers up the company name). I’m pretty much crammed in the corner of the den but I’m making it work. And yes, it’s dark and those are the only lights I have on most of the time while I work but I turn on another lamp occasionally in case my eyes start to feel strained.

For now, the stimulus money sits in the bank untouched and although you can’t see it, the five-leaf clover rests under the monitor in a Ziploc bag because it worked for me the first time.

Let’s hope it continues to do the trick.

Next episode: The Days of Wine and COVID, Part II: Working from Home