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.

Taking a Break From it All

Hey, it turns out that Ann’s dad gifted us his old laptop which actually works rather well and that said, it looks like blogging may be a regular thing once again. That’s good news to all two of you who take the time to read it!

First things first, the whole family has gotten their first COVID microchip implanted in them so Alex Jones knows our every move (this is all a joke, folks). Seriously, we’re all doing well and looking forward to Shot 2 in a few weeks.

As for the title of this post, I’m currently on a social media detox with Facebook and Instagram being the main offenders. While Facebook gives me its own set of reasons to keep me away, Instagram tends to be my creative outlet but even so it can turn toxic rather quickly. I sometimes find myself struggling to find subject matter to shoot and later post. It turns into work instead of fun but for what? A few likes? Nah. I need a break from that.

I also need a break from the thick-as-syrup, Pollyanna bullshit posts that some people lay on to make the world feel sorry for them. Come on, now. Ann is missing several organs and gave birth via C-section and didn’t whine like some people do getting a tooth pulled. Yeesh.

As far as Twitter goes, I haven’t posted/read anything there on a regular basis in months. Strangely, since January 2021. Things that make you go “Hmm…”

And taking today’s date of May 4th into consideration, there’s only so many posts on any platform with that phrase I can take before I heave up my dinner.

Another reason I’m taking a break from it all is because, quite simply, they are rabbit holes. You can seriously sit with phone in hand and lose yourself looking at the lunches of strangers before realizing how much time you’ve wasted (look at your ScreenTime, Apple people) – and wasting time is exactly what you’re doing. Part of the detox is finding something else to do with that time and one of those is sleep – and it’s been a good thing.

Another thing I started doing last night was – wait for it – read. Yes, the guy who hates reading because he does it 8 hours a day working from home has decided to try it again. And last night’s choice was The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. It’s not a long book by any stretch of the imagination but the wisdom contained within it is timeless. We’ll see how far I get tonight because uh, I fell asleep last night while reading it.

And this is why I don’t read.

I’m also trying to draw a little more on that shiny new iPad Air I talked about in my last post. In fact here’s my latest drawing done in Procreate: a mashup of the character Pops from Regular Show and the Cincinnati Reds’ mascot Mr. Redlegs.

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Colors are subject to change and the username you see on the bat is my art account on Instagram. Like a few other drawings I’ve done, this is destined to become a sticker that literally nobody will buy. In fact I closed my Etsy store because I sold only one of my first sticker and it wasn’t worth the effort to keep it open. Maybe once I get a few more and make sticker packs they will sell since people will feel like they are getting a bargain, rather than pay X-dollars per sticker.

Well I better get some reading done before I fall asleep doing it again. We’ll see how long it is before I start getting messages from people on Facebook and Instagram asking where I’ve been.

That’s if they’re not busy being a hangnail martyr…

 

 

Oh, Hello There

Well, it’s been a few months since I posted here so I guess today would be as good a time as any to write a blog post. And ironically, it’s pretty topical.

My part of California is currently under stay-at-home orders until December 28 as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. The order didn’t go into effect until 11:59 pm on Sunday, December 6.

Earlier that day, Anthony and I decided to do a little more Christmas shopping at a downtown shop which sells merchandise made by local artists. I used to frequent the shop when we were still at the office and Ann loves the homemade soaps they sell – and honestly, so do I.

We picked up a few things for Ann and headed on home.

Then today yesterday I got this email from them:

Yeah. Good times.

Everyone thinks they know everything about COVID except when they are faced with the possibility of exposure which if this email was any indication, could mean that we were. Possibly. Maybe. We just don’t know. I mean, in the most vague sense, we could be around people who may – with may being the operative word – have been infected everywhere we go. But I thought it would be a good time to get tested anyway.

From here it was panic mode. Local urgent care facilities have a 3-hour wait outside the door for testing and I was told that people start lining up at 5 am. Um, no. I’m not going to stand there with potentially infected people waiting to determine if I have it, only to find out I currently don’t and possibly develop symptoms later. It made absolutely no sense, so I passed.

There’s also antibody testing but that will do you no good if you believe you are currently infected or at risk of having been infected. I scheduled an appointment for one but was told it might be a waste of time/money since it’s only needed if had a past infection. I was only sick one day this year and it wasn’t anything serious, so I passed on that too.

As for a standard diagnostic test, according to every website I’ve checked, we don’t meet the criteria: no symptoms and no close contact with a positively infected person for more than 15 minutes. Honestly, I am very good at keeping my time around people to a minimum in general. It’s an old person thing. At this point it’s a matter of monitoring for symptoms and staying at home a wee bit more as we may be asymptomatic but still spread it, but we will also get tested in a few days as 5 days past possible exposure is the most agreed upon time according to experts.

Speaking of that, we all feel fine. Nothing aches, we’ve got our senses of smell and taste, we don’t feel sick and we’re breathing normally – well, the family is breathing the best as two asthmatics can.

And while I’m thankful that the shop reached out to those on their mailing list and on social media to inform them of what’s going on, I’ve reached out to them but yet to hear back as to whether their employees tested positive (UPDATE: they confirmed one has). Maybe in a few days I’ll try again.

This is a real thing, folks. Don’t be stupid and think you know everything about it but also don’t be so ignorant as to think that it’s just a flu or will “go away” when it gets warmer as some orange gastropod said it would. Chances are it’s going to be around much longer than anyone had anticipated so hunker down and get ready.

And until it’s eradicated once and for all, be cautious and follow the rules. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and those around you.

(UPDATE 12/16/20: We all tested negative.)

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