Long time no post! Hi, internets. Seems like as good a time as any to start chronicling life again.
So how's working from home going?
With Seattle being the early epicenter of the US COVID-19 outbreak, and reading blogs by people under quarantine in Wuhan and news from other countries, my household (4 adults, no kids) started working from home earlyish-on. Somewhere in the week of 3/2 - 3/6, all four of us made the shift.
Here's a diary of how that's going so far, in boring detail!
Normally, I'm alone in the office most of the time anyway; I maintain the central office for a company of claims insurance adjusters who all work from their homes. My main in-person interactions were an occasional visit from a co-worker or boss, passing interactions with neighbors (my office is in a condo building with ground-floor businesses), delivery folks as needed, and my postal carrier. So the first few days of real social distancing, I kept going to work, walking or driving rather than taking the bus, and did a LOT of hand washing/ hand sanitizing/disinfecting of surfaces.
I switched to work-from-home anyway, for a few reasons.
- I'm interacting with that many fewer people outside my immediate household.
- We can better share household supplies if I'm not maintaining a separate stock in a separate location.
- I'm going through fewer public doors. (Lobby, garage, etc)
- If something scary happens, in a societal unrest kind of sense (extremely unlikely, but slightly more likely than before), I'm at home safe with Fishy and Torrey and Tony, instead of having to hunker down in the office alone or find a way to get home.
- If I have a bad bout of anxiety (quite likely, and much more likely than before), I'm at home with my support people. And I'm also at home to support them in turn.
So on Friday 3/6, I brought home a few office supplies, installed Quickbooks on my personal laptop, and locked up the office and went home, stopping by Fred Meyer for prescription refills on the way. The store was pretty calm at that time, although a longish line at the pharmacy. Also gave Torrey a ride home from campus so she wouldn't have to take the bus.
The week of 3/9 to 3/12 gradually showed me that laptop-on-kitchen-table was not gonna suffice either for work or for ergonomics. It also made me realize that this is going to be a lot longer term than I was prepared for; there were a lot of tasks I couldn't easily do on my laptop, and some I couldn't do at all. I managed to do the mid-month payroll (yay getting paid!) but it was a minor miracle. And going in to the office every couple of days to check the physical mail was sort of defeating the purpose.
On Monday the 16th (I think), after the nth time of me yelling "I MISS MY DUAL MONITORS", Fishy said, "then why don't we go get your desktop?"
I was surprised at my own emotional reaction to the idea of bringing my entire office setup home. I think I'd been holding back most of the anxiety by unconsciously treating this as short-term temporary, and so taking longer-term precautions brought it all to the forefront at once. I also inexplicably felt a fear of being judged as stupid (by who?) for overkill, despite my having loudly encouraged everyone else to cancel travel and big events and activities.
Fishy reassured me that this is not overkill, it is in fact an appropriate amount of kill, and helped me get moving and do the thing. So now my sit-stand desk with its dual monitor mount is clamped to my desk at home, and I brought home my desktop computer, scanner, a bunch of paperwork, some of my file trays, some banking stuff, etc. Some of it is still in boxes and piles on the floor, but I'm trying to organize at least one thing per day into a less haphazard system.
So, Monday was mostly spent convincing myself to do that, doing it, and getting it set up. (And letting my boss & my local co-worker know I'd done this, so nobody would go to the office and think we'd been very selectively robbed.) Rest of the week has been divided between actual work tasks that were already online (thank god my boss has been pushing us gradually to go paperless for a couple years now), converting work tasks to online that weren't yet, and adjusting to having all of us working at home.
Our house has a room above (and the same size as) the 2-car garage, which we call the studio. The four corners of the room consist of our little recording booth, Tony's desk & sound engineering setup, my desk & craft space, and Torrey's desk & craft space. Fishy has his desk & workroom in the downstairs guest room. (He also has half the garage, because nobody wants power tools indoors.) So three of us are basically each other's new co-workers now.
Torrey teaches chemistry at Shoreline Community College, which has gone to online-only, so in the morning Tony & I work quietly while she gives lectures and holds office hours via Zoom. (The dept has not figured out how they're going to do labs yet, but it's the end of the quarter, so at least they have until next quarter to figure it out.) I rarely ever get phone calls, and the few that I need to take on my cell are usually in the afternoon. Tony is a software tester, and his conference call meetings are usually at 5pm, by which time Torrey & I have finished work. Negotiations!
There's all manner of little things to adjust to. Being above the garage, the studio's always a bit colder than the rest of the house (or hotter, in summer) so I need a sweater & slippers, and my coffee cools faster. The exercise bike is right next to me so now it's the chat-with-Vixy seat. I like a lot of daylight, but the glare of too much sunlight gives Tony headaches. Google Fit has noticed that I'm going up and down the stairs a lot more, since the kitchen is downstairs. (I also brought home the office K-cup machine; nobody's using it while I'm gone.) I realized I have to start charging my bluetooth headphones overnight, now that I'm using them all day. My shoulders have informed me that my desk chair needed adjusting. We're having to do dishes more often, with all of us home. And so on.
All four of us are aware that we are incredibly, fantastically lucky that we have jobs which enable us to do all of this.
And what about the outside world? Well, Fishy has been the one doing the grocery supply runs. We're trying to keep stocked up without hoarding. At the same time, we're going through everything faster than usual, because we've never all been home 24/7 before. (Our soda consumption is EPIC.) He reported the first few times that the stores seemed normal, if less crowded (he goes late at night), some folks in masks, not everyone. He also started wearing a mask there himself. His most recent trip this week was finally showing the signs we're hearing about on the news; empty shelves, per-person limits on paper products. (We're still trying not to hoard, because we fucking care about our neighbors.) Last week, Torrey & I went to the post office once, I went twice to check mail at my office (I put in a forwarding order, so I shouldn't need to do that anymore after tomorrow) and to pick up things I'd forgotten. We're wiping down every hard-surfaced item that comes into the house, and washing our hands a LOT (and moisturizing a lot), particularly after coming into the house from outside. I'm disinfecting doorknobs, light switches & faucets every couple of days, and changing out hand towels often. (That last one isn't strictly necessary; it just makes me feel better.)
My parents, who count as the outside world for me right now, are both at high risk of serious cases if they get the virus. My dad is 80, and is the primary caregiver at home for my stepmom, who has MS which has progressed to the point that she is quadriplegic. They have a few different caregivers who come in to help on weekdays, and a lift for transferring my stepmom from bed to chair and back. I'm not visiting right now, for fear of transmitting anything to my stepmom, and Dad's washing his hands before he does literally anything. I reminded him to have the care team wash their hands too, and last we spoke he was considering asking them to wear masks.
Fishy & I offered a few times to go grocery shopping for them so that he wouldn't have to go out and risk exposure, but one of their neighbors in their building is an old friend-of-a-friend who checks on them periodically, and has offered to pick up anything they need. And when I asked a bunch of questions about whether they had this or that thing, I learned that my dad has routinely kept about two weeks or so worth of supplies stocked and always shopped in the evening when it's less crowded anyway, before any of this began. This is not his first caring-for-the-immunocompromised rodeo, it turns out.
Fishy took part yesterday in a locally organized effort to gather and donate N95 masks to Seattle hospitals and care homes. They're desperate and running out of everything, and one local person organized a donation drive via Twitter and Google Docs.
We're very lucky that our leaders in WA have been stepping up and taking action. I'm also very angry that whether or not you're getting the kind of communication and action that we have is basically a game of roulette.
Wouldn't it be great if there were some kind of, I don't know, central leadership? One that would coordinate efforts across the country, move resources to where they're most needed, disseminate accurate information and reassurance? Instead of "oh well, all y'all states are on your own, lol" and luck of the draw as to whether your state officials give a crap and/or are at all competent?
...yeah, I'm still angry and bitter about that. Somewhere there's an alternate timeline where we had an intelligent, prepared President who was actually possessed of a shred of empathy for other human beings.
Anyway. That reminds me of another thing: while it is SUPER IMPORTANT to practice social distancing as much as you can, wash your hands, cancel in-person events...it is also okay to HATE IT. It's okay to be angry about it. It's okay to be sad about missing events you were looking forward to. It's also okay if you love it. It's okay if you relish the peace and quiet. It's also okay if you continue to plan things for summer even though you know you might have to cancel because it gets you through the goddamn day to look forward to something.
While I would definitely call you a bad person if you risk others' lives by not following safety protocols, you are NOT A BAD PERSON if you feel whatever way you feel while doing it. I've talked to people who feel guilty for their emotional reactions, and just... you don't deserve guilt for your feelings. Have 'em safely, but by all means, have 'em. I sure am.
The feels randomly sneak up on each of us here at the Agora, and we give each other space and support as best we can, and then we go on washing our hands and working from home and figuring out what to do next. It's what we've got.
Stay safe, friends and neighbors.