One Year in Quarantine…

Today is the one year anniversary of the day my office sent us home to work remotely. One entire year. Thursday will be the anniversary of when it was declared a pandemic, almost everything else shut down, the day the NBA ended their season, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they had COVID (if they could get it, any of us could!), and Trump gave a truly atrocious, non-confidence inspiring address to the nation. Pack up what you need and go home, we were told. I truly didn’t think it would be more than two or three weeks. Anything else was inconceivable. Later, we’d be allowed back in, only two or more at a time, to pick up the rest of our things.

When thinking about this past year: the handwashing, the wiping down of groceries, the deliveries, the wash your hands for the length of the Happy Birthday song, the ‘don’t touch your face’ (so hard!), the days inside, the days outside (the only social situations I allowed), the times in the summer when it felt ok to go to the grocery store again, the times since the holidays when curbside is my best friend (even if I am the only one in the curbside pick up spot while everyone else goes right into the store. What is the issue? Curbside is amazing! So much less time. So many fewer opportunities to buy things you don’t need, for receipes you won’t make, that you will throw out a year from now), the claps for front line workers, the new neighbors you haven’t actually met, but only seen from afar (I’m not sure I remember how to meet a new person. Are we still elbow bumping?), Black Lives Matter (how to even express the horror of beginning to comprehend), the endless Zoom meetings, the desire to not be on video in every meeting, so get to know this picture I like of myself from (ahem) years ago, the staying home and staying home, the quest for masks (stylish or just plain), the desire to put a hex on people you encounter who aren’t wearing a mask, the time last spring on a walk when you notice that people will cross the street to not walk by you because are a stranger, the times on walks in parks that complete strangers will wave from afar because we are human beings in the same place, at the same time, encountering various rocks painted with positive messages or rock creatures on walks, doing the same thing and it’s just nice to have something with someone you don’t know, home projects planned (and some done!), the pandemic panic trip to the wine store when we thought maybe 8 bottles would get us through quarantine (and we certainly didn’t want to go without!), the later panic trip to BJs to stock up (once before the mass shut down when they actually had a 4 pack of Lysol and toilet paper), and one unfortunate one the day of the shut down when people were panic buying everything in sight (pasta, potatos, milk, eggs, toilet paper, paper towels, all gone. My contribution: a 3 lb. container of peanut butter M&Ms. If we’re to be trapped inside they have protein, a lot of calorie. It’s a survival food!), the handing over of my pet outside of the vets office and not being able to go inside with her (she’s fine!), ordering take out to help the restaurants, ordering books to help the bookstores, not really working out and losing my hard fought arm tone from a year of toning classes until I give in, buy a spin bike and give myself up to the cult of the Peloton app (I love it and I never would have thought gamification or positive thinking would work on me. My curmudgeon reputation is at risk), a year of non-work events also on Zoom (in truth, I sort of like this. I could never get to all these author readings in person), the initial rush of Zoom calls with friends which then triggled to none because we were caught up and nothing new had happened, leaving the only conversation the news, the election and people’s crazy behavior, which is exhausting, the texting on Jan. 6 to my friends; the MAGAs have run wild, the gratitude at being able to work from home, of having the choice to not go out, the fear for those who do, the full wardrobe of masks in various colors that I eventually acquired just to make things fun, the massive amount of television binged that you never would have had time for before, the books you intended to read, but just couldn’t focus (eventually I found audio books helped here), the joy on a day in a park when everyone at once looked at their phones and started yelling and applauding at once because the election had been called and the sane option prevailed, the endless lies and conspiracies by people who could not accept that the sane option prevailed, the day I realized that for the first time in my memory I would not go to Fenway this year (ouch. Watching Mookie win the World Series was bittersweet, but I am happy for him), time has no meaning, was all this just a year ago, the year was endless.

I thought about what I had accomplished this year.  A big fat nothing (unless finally watching the entirety of The Sopranos is an accomplishment. Poor Adriana), but that is ok. We don’t have to do it all right now. Getting through is enough. Living to fight another day is enough. I’ve learned that I don’t want to ever commute to work again. The idea of spending an hour + to get to an office just for the benefit of idle chitchat as relationship building: I don’t care. Life is short. Do something big with the time you have left. I don’t care what you’re workout was yesterday and though I can speak at great length about the love I have for my spin bike, is that what anyone else should spend their time on?  Go forth and figure out what makes you happy and get more of that into your life. If you’re still here, there is still time. Well, maybe plot it out for a bit, be safe for just a little while longer. We are SO close. Let’s not fuck it up now. We all want our old times back. We all do. We all want to hug people again. So let’s do this.

Last meal in a restaurant before my office closed
Taken at lunch the last day in the office
Panic wine… we’re all set. ha!
Made French Toast once

Quarantine Diaries – Patriot’s Day Edition

It’s Patriot’s Day here in Massachusetts, a holiday which commemorates the first battle of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord. Every year, the battle is reenacted on Lexington Common, but not this year. Patriot’s Day is also the day that the Boston Marathon is run. After months of arduous training, folks run 26.2 miles from the suburbs to the greatest city in the world, but not this year. Marathon Monday will be held in September, the first time the race has been postponed in it’s 123 year history. On Patriot’s Day there is morning baseball; an 11:05 start, the only morning MLB game, but not this year. Fenway park is less than a mile from the finish line. The end of the game usually works out well so the baseball fans can watch the masses as they run by. The day is truly a Boston tradition. Sure, it’s be interrupted before. Seven years ago for the Boston Marathon bombing, two years ago it rained and there was no baseball (sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. Well the Red Sox went on to win the win 108 games and the World Series, so..) The weather is not always good, but sometimes it’s stupendous. The true start of spring, but not this year.

We miss the daily rituals, the meeting a friend for coffee or a cocktail, the ability to run to the store for that one ingredient to cook up a masterpiece, leaving the house on a daily basis. I so very much miss fresh produce when I want it rather than making do with what is in the house… so so much. But the big milestone days, the days of rituals past. I miss Patriot’s Day. I do not want to be sitting on my couch writing this, I want to be out in the world doing things, seeing things, seeing people. Today will pass and tomorrow we’ll be back to missing coffee with friends, gossip at the water cooler, going to a movie or a party. I know it won’t be easy. More than a few people have started to hit the wall from being inside, from not knowing when this will end, from job and health insecurity, from lack of the social contacts we are used to having. This really sucks. We’re all grieving for our old lives. And just like in any situation involving grief, everyone handles it in their own way. No matter what your reaction, it’s ok. You don’t have to be productive right now. If you want to take up something new, if that will make you happy, then do it. If you want to watch all of Netflix, do that. If now is the time to track down every dust bunny in your home, go for it. I’m exhausted from feeling sad. I just want to do something positive.. Someday we’ll think back and say: remember that time we all had to wear masks, stand six feet apart, crossed the street to avoid walking by a stranger, only waved to our neighbors and communicated solely on the phone or on ridiculous, insecure Zoom calls? That sure was crazy. But for now, we have to preserver. What other option is there? Stay home if you can, wash your hands. You know the drill. Please think of every trip outside: is this worth risking my life? Is it worth risking the lives of every other person I come in contact with? Is it? Be a a Patriot and do the right thing. Please ask for the help you need, financial or otherwise. People want to help, you would be amazed.

Quarantine Diaries

Cheryl Stayed has a new podcast, Sugar Calling where she interviews writers. Episode One is George Saunders. This is the definition of my wheelhouse, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. In the podcast, George says to notate what life is like right now because maybe in fifty or hundred years no one will believe it, it will all just be the stories we capture.

I’m not George Saunders, so I’ll bullet point out what my weekend was like:

Friday Night

  • Just happy my exhausting work week is over at the job I am grateful to have and glad to be able to work from home. Now for some wine and start re-watching the Sopranos, which is, as you know, so uplifting.

Saturday

  • I went outside, yes outside! I met a friend near a local bakery that we are scared will not make it. They no longer have pick up as the did at the beginning of the quarantine time. Now you can order by Wednesday, and pick up Sat morning. The sign on the door says only one person can enter at a time. A few tables have boxes and bags labeled with names. It’s certainly not enough to keep the store afloat. When I ask the sole person there, who stays well behind the counter away from him if they did well this week, he replies: it helps.
  • After pick up, my friend and I stood six feet apart outside on a sidewalk, both with scarves covering our faces and chatted. Behind us was a line to get into a grocery store which is limited the number of people allowed in at a given time. About half the people in the line had masks, almost no one in the line looked six feet away from the person in front of them. At one point someone walked by with a big package of toilet paper. I said to my friend: look TP!
  • I also gave my friend an unopened box of ten N95 masks that I panic bought in January for her to give to her sister, an ER nurse.
  • Next I went to a drive through pharmacy. The line took forever even though there were only three cars ahead of me. And then I realized: where else do you need to be? It was actually soothing to feel as if I was just running errands like a usual Saturday before. I was happy to see the person staffing the window had both a mask and gloves. I wondered if she’d balk at cash (the prescription is only $4 and I don’t really want to touch a keypad to use a card), but cash didn’t seem concerning to her.
  • I arrived home before noon and got ready for Zumba at home. The Zumba teacher from my gym live streams classes from his home via a private Facebook group which we pay him weekly for. So worth it!
  • I clean a little. Start a stew that will need to simmer for some time.
  • Late in the afternoon the singer from one of favorite bands will play acoustic from his basement. You can tip which he is donating to the people who work in the clubs his band were scheduled to play in.
  • Try not to eat all the baked goods I bought from the bakery after dinner. This is the most normal part of the weekend.
  • Read too much Twitter, watch too much tv. Actually stream too much online content. Decide I should be reading more, but fall asleep instead.

Sunday

  • Watched the Sunday political shows because I’m not afraid enough
  • Laundry
  • Went for a walk on a 60 degree day with a scarf covering my face. The people I came across reacted to my presence like they would to a person they encountered in a dark alley in the middle of the night. I was saddened when people crossed the road not to pass me. I was scared for the people who didn’t, none of whom had masks.
  • Back at home to more twitter. Make it stop.
  • Decide to write this up, but oh! Trump is doing another briefing. I thought I read he was taking the day off from that today, but no. These briefings are such train wrecks that it’s difficult to look away, but I decide not to watch for my sanity.
  • Take a break in the middle of writing this bulleted list to check twitter. It seems the briefing had no news, and was mostly about suggesting there is a drug that may help fight the virus. Dr. Fauci has however said there is only anecdotal information that it will. Who are you going to believe? . Fauci. I start to wonder who has money in the development of this drug because why would anyone sane push a drug that hasn’t been approved for this virus. Why would anyone do that?  Where are those baked goods… and some wine?
  • Time to prep for the upcoming week at work, which consists of Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting.
  • Shit.. need to fold the laundry.

How your quarantine?

How Bad Is It..

that the book Getting Things Done has been on my To Be Read list for years and I haven’t finished reading it? That a co-worker lent me a copy over a year ago and I still haven’t finished it? I did start it, that is at least something (the very least).  I want to get things done. Getting things down somewhere and out of my head resonates with me. Prioritizing items, giving them due dates if they are important to be done, check and check.

I now have a productivity app. Something that tracks my to do list, organizes it by priority, project. I can tag and label tasks to the point where I start to believe I have OCD. But that doesn’t mean I’m getting these things done. I’m getting organizing things in the app done. I love organizing things in the app! It makes me feel in control. So far I have a list of many, many things that I need to do and want to do someday. I attempt to schedule them out, give myself due dates and accountability. This works to a certain extent. The things that have to get done are getting done, but they were always getting done, as the things that must be done tend to do. Where I struggle is the things I want to do, but don’t have to do. Putting due dates on them has helped only mildly. I must decide to focus on them and not other distractions (Twitter, television, other nonsense). Getting Things Done and my productivity app are just systems to help; they can’t make me focus on the right things (damn it!). I need to change, that is the problem. So why don’t I?

 

 

But I need to focus on getting the important things in the app done. Why is that so hard?

Gary LaPierre, Maker of Snow Day Dreams

The anticipation would begin the night before. A storm was coming! Maybe there would be no school the next day. Could it really happen? A Snow Day, capital S, capital D. A snow day was a nightmare day for them, but for us they were a day off, an unexpected free day. Growing up in the pre-internet era meant teachers couldn’t reach you. There would be no additional homework, just a free day with all planned activities cancelled. The whole world stopped so you could play. Weee… creative time, snow ball fights, if there is enough snow, a snowman! Sledding! Playing in the snow in the park. Snow angels. When we were exhausted and cold, we’d return hope to warm hot chocolate. Oh please, please, please, please, please let there be a Snow Day!

On any potential Snow Day, the second we got up it was to the radio and crank it up! WBZ Radio 1030, Boston, MA. The WBZ Storm Center and the smooth sounds of Gary LaPierre would tell us our fate. Of course we heard him give the news and Gil Santos the sports every morning, but the potential snow day announcement, that got our full attention. We’d sit with rap attention, whereas other days it was just the background of our morning, something to inform our parents about the world. The school closing list was always alphabetical. Abington, Acton-Boxborough Regional, Andover, Arlington… and so we’d wait for our town. Poor suckers who live in Woburn or Wrentham! Fortunately, our town started with a B so we didn’t have to wait that long, though sometimes we’d tune in halfway through the list and have to listen all the way through, until they started over at A. If our town wasn’t listed the first time, we’d have to wait through the whole list because the list could be updated! The second or third time through, maybe our town would be there. I feel bad for the kids today, who can open a browser and see the list, while their parents receive texts to tell them. Can the joy be as sweet if you don’t experience the anticipation? Sometimes our mother would have to tell us to give it up and start to get ready, but other times: euphoria! Snow Day! Thank you, Gary LaPierre for bringing us the best news!

Gary LaPierre retired around ten years ago, so we’d grown used to the news without him. But that doesn’t mean we don’t pine for the days when his smooth voice brought us all the information we needed. Texting with my sister about his death, she was sad that her daughter, that very day experiencing her first snow day (after a whopping 2 inches of snow in the Seattle area. Amateurs.), wouldn’t have the same experiences we did. He meant something to us and he will be missed.

RIP Gary, legendary news man and of maker of little kids dreams.

 

 

#24in48 Wrapup

Here is my final total… plus the 10 hours and 10 min I had when the time reset. Stupid timer

 

So 13 hours 33min. This is 1 hour 33 minutes linger than my goal.. yipee!

I did finish Travels With Charley. Lordy couls that man write and his powers of observation and description. Perfection. Plus a poodle!

I went off stack when I decided to listen to audio book, When Paris Went Dark, about the German occupation of Paris in World War II, something I’ve wanted to learn more about since reading All the Light We Can Not See and The Nightengale. I did, indeed, start The Stranger Beside Me because I want to watch the new documentary on Netflix. I had read this book as a teenager. This edition I’m reading now is updated and I’m a little nerve wracked to say I notice where some of the updates are and that Ssome of the pictures are new. This may be more burned into my psyche  than I like. As a suburban teen I couldn’t believe anyone could do the things he did.

Somehow even though I exceed my goal, I am disappointed. I had envisualized curling up and reading for large chunks of the weekend, coffee, tea or wine by my side depending on time of day. Instead more than half of the time was spent listening to the audio book while I ran errands, cooked, cleaned and did laundry. I know audio books are reading, but I also know I don’t absorb as much, especially when I’m multi-tasking. I missed probably an entire minute while trying to decide between regular or low sodium soy sauce as the grocery store. I also spent the 30 minutes before writi g this o  Twitter and Instagram. Apparently I am the only person not watching Rent live with someone who broke their foot. I was reading, so I’ve got that.  My goal was to put this time aside for me, but I let other things come first, though having clean clothes will be a plus this week. I want to chose reading more often than I do now. So that is my new goal: more reading, less tv, twitter and instagram (I deleted my Facebook account already and you should, too. They are giving out your information like halloween candy, except they make money doing it. But that is a rant for another day).

Need a word for:

When you stayed up late finishing a book, then don’t up early to do other things you want to do but you’re exhausted anyway and you don’t feel one whit bad about it, well maybe half a whit.

Coffee time.

Hair Dresser Problems

I’m the sort of person who doesn’t want to spend time on her hair. I understand many people enjoy spending the time on creative hair styles, colors, etc. Not me. My ideal is hair that can air dry and look good. That is not my lot in life, my hair is a wavy/frizzy mess that requires the brute force of a hot hair dryer to beat it into submission, or to appear in some accordance with what is acceptable in our society.

So when I go to the hair dresser, I tell them: I want it to be stylish, but simple. I need to be able to blow dry this myself. As a result, I have had basically the same hair style since kindergarten, and yet I always feel like I’m changing it up. I changed hair dressers about three years ago to one closer to my house (my long story with my old hair dresser, who I loved, and how she moved to a super upscale salon, where super upscale meant super expensive and super judge-y employee (real people wear jeans, don’t give me that look!) will have to wait for another time. Over time, I started noticing odd layers in my hair. Chunks that didn’t blend in and just seemed to be there for no reason. My hair dresser explained they gave my hair ‘light’. She must have been creating new layers with each visit because like the frog placed in cold water that starts to boil, I did not notice at any one time what was happening and suddenly I had what I think in the 70s was called a fringe. My hair had the length I liked, but only a very thin layer in the back, then all these complicated layers. One day I looked at my hair and thought: what the frig is going on here and how have I not noticed this happening?  And let me tell you, once the summer hit with it’s humidity, it was not a good scene.

The next time I went in, I told her I can’t style this. I need something simple. I think we should cut the length, try to even it up with some of the layers and then grow these out so I just have long layers. Her response was: Fine! With all the attitude of someone who means the complete opposite of fine. She cut a straight line around the back, did a little shaping around the front and announced she was done. I don’t think it took three minutes. Drying my hair took easily five times as long. Then we get up to the desk and she says their prices have gone up. Excuse me? I’m now paying more for increased rudeness and less service?

I get that I’m not the salon’s most lucrative customer. I don’t color my hair and I rarely buy the products. I know from my old hair dresser that sometimes they are required to bring in a certain amount of money or new types of business, which puts pressure on them to put pressure on their clients. I make up for this by giving the hair dresser a big tip, significantly more than 20%. So it was shocking to me when I went to a new hair dresser and told her this story and got to the price increase, she said: oh, she did that deliberately. Um.. what? Oh, yeah, we have some leeway on setting the prices. I can grandfather a customer in at an old price for awhile, if I want. So my hair dresser was so pissed that wanted to do something different that she was rude and deliberately charged me more? What the actual fuck? Is this not a service industry? My hair is easy. I can get in and out relatively quickly, I can fit in around your other, more time intensive, money generating clients. People like me need to get their hair cut, too.

A Delicious Thrill

The delicious thrill of receiving a customer survey from an organization that wronged you is so sweet.

About a month ago I attempted to pay and renew a particular subscription service well before the renewal date. The website appeared to be having issues as the result was the little spinner for a fairly long period of time followed by what appeared to be success. A day or so later, I noticed that the payment appeared to have been processed three times on my credit card. I didn’t have time at that moment to deal with that, so I put it aside and then of course, forgot about it completely. Until I received a notice that I had been cancelled due to lack of payment and to reinstate myself I had to come appear in person and pay a late fee. Bitch, please..

I research with my credit card company and they say, yes, it went through three times and three reversals were put through. I needed the service, so I went in and I paid the late fee because the hapless clerk said there was nothing she could do. Since it wasn’t her fault, I paid it. So I contact customer support and tell them my story. Their response was: you have to come in and pay to renew. So I respond again and say I have already done that, what I want you to do is refund the late fee because I did pay before the deadline, but you reversed it, three times. I don’t think I should be penalized because your website was having a glitch on that particular day. No response. The late fee is $22. How much time do I really want to spend just because I’m in the right?  But now I have not one, but two different surveys to fill out, one for each time I contacted them. So yes, I’m going to enjoy this, with no expectation of ever seeing my $22.

(also, I received surveys from about 5 different companies yesterday. What is up with that?)

Gym Locker Grifter

Every Tuesday, I decide I AM going to the 6pm spin class tonight! I AM! Tuesday nights fits my schedule. Sure it’s the teacher whose music I don’t like the best and he does lots of hills, but I’d prefer hills to tons of sprints. I hate sprints, I’m not a sprinter. Anyway, my intentions are always good on Tuesday night, but the stars of my commute must align for me to get to the gym in time (let’s not forget I have to park, not always a guaranteed spot with the post new year’s resolutioners still crowding the gym, get to the locker room, change, and get up to the spin room well in advance of 6pm or there won’t be any bikes left).

But last night…. the angels sang and all that happened. I even had time to go to the bathroom. As I was walking out of the locker room, I thought: did I put the lock on my locker? I return quickly to check and… there is a silver lock on my locker. Oh no.

Background on my insanity: a couple of years ago, I lost my gym lock. I searched high and low and could find it anywhere. I bought a new gym lock in hot pink. I can be seen from space. Also, easy to find when scanning the lockers because you can remember which one you put your stuff in. The combination to the hot pink lock is burned into my memory by use of a movie title with two of the combination numbers in it. The pink lock and I have happily been locking things up together all this time. About a year ago, I found in the way back of a closet my old gym bag and way down deep, in some unknown pocket was my old silver gym lock. So that is where you were all this time! I happily put it into my new gym bag as a backup, in case hot pink gym lock and I ever suffer a separation. I kept the combination on a note on my phone, just in case.

So here I was looking at my locker, locked with the silver lock and me with the following in my hands: water bottle and spin shoes. What do I not have, my phone. What is the combo? I have no idea. I haven’t used this lock in close to three years. What possessed me to grab this one in stead of my sweet girl, hot pink lock? I try a few combos. Nothing. I think it’s something like.. X Y Z. It’s not. Eventually, I know I am close because the lock feels close to opening. I look around at others in the locker room. Do they think I’m trying to break in to this locker? Am I a locker thief? No one is paying any attention to me. I continue on for a few minutes. Eventually, I must admit… I don’t know the combination. What I think it is isn’t it. Do I go to spin and return to deal with this all sweaty (because I sweat in spin, yo. Oh do I sweat in spin)? Will I be worried the entire time about this? My keys! My wallet! My PHONE.

I don’t think I can deal. So I approach the front desk. Surely something like this has happened before. It must be common place because they say they will send a woman to the locker room to help. This older woman appears with a tool which I don’t know the name of, but are, in effect, giant scissors. I guess we’re just going to cut the lock off. Ok. But do you just cut the lock off any locker that anyone happens to tell you is theirs?  I could be a crazy gym locker thief! Now, I’m not and I’ve been going to this gym forever, so they know me, but who knows, perhaps I’ve become a grifter. A gym locker grifter. Imagine returning to your gym locker and the lock has been cut off and all your stuff gone? The woman turns to me and says ‘you have to be very strong to cut the lock, I’m not sure if I can do it. Maybe you can’. Ok, I’m game. The gym locker grifter is going to cut her own lock. It’s is quite difficult, but I did do it. Is there any check that this is actually my stuff? No. She actually apologized to me that the lock was ruined. No need for apologies, this 100% my fault.

But now I know the combo to that lock: 12-36-24. So easy, all multiples of 12.