I hadn’t planned on watching Graduate Together last night but I stumbled on it an stayed with it. I’m glad I did. I feel terrible for all the seniors who have missed out on all the things that make senior year fun and memorable. As I watched I thought back to a couple of my senior years and remembered, sometimes even when there’s no pandemic, getting to the finish line can have it’s unexpected moments.
First…I present to you my embarrassing photo from Futura ’69…yearbook for Martin Van Buren High School Class of 1969, Queens Village, New York. Full disclosure, our high school team name was lame…the VeeBees. Get it? We instilled fear in no one.
Of course, being pimply teenagers we thought we were pretty hot shit being from Class of ’69…oooooooohhhhhh 69! So ready to take on the world… if the world was populated primarily by oversexed 18 year olds. I was only 17 and severely undersexed. I achieved high school graduation at an earlier age because I scored high enough on a test in 6th grade which allowed you to skip 8th grade. It was cool to go from 7th to 9th grade except pissed off 8th graders always wanted to punch you during lunch.
Senior year was eventful. It was during the Vietnam War and students were active in protesting it. Some of the more “radical” kids pasted anti-war stickers on street light posts with little explosives under them. If you tried to remove the stickers you might get burned.
Another set of students were a bit more obtuse. They set off a larger explosive in one of the administrator’s offices. That move cost us our senior trip to Shea Stadium to see the Mets.
It’s important to point out our school was hugely overcrowded–5,300 students on triple session. Seniors had the best schedule–early session. If you could manage to drop lunch, you were in by 8 and out by noon..plenty of time to take a part time job, or screw off the rest of the day. Sophomore had it the worst–late session. In at 12:30pm out at 5:15pm. During the winter it was dark when you got out. Upside, you could either sleep in or attempt to complete your homework in the morning because by the time you got home the night before it was time to watch TV.
So you can see that the run up to graduation was already fraught with unpleasantness. We did have a prom but I didn’t go. Let’s just say my acne would have been an impressive gameboard for connect the dots. Not exactly a chick magnet.
Our graduating class, as you can imagine, was also oversized–1,735 students. You could be 500th in the class and still be considered not so dumb. By the time graduation day arrived the sheer size of the class, combined with the weather, conspired to turn the planned pomp and circumstance into a frantic “run for it!”
You see, the top VeeBees decided to hold our graduation outside–at a bandshell in leafy Forest Park. Beautiful venue on a beautiful day. This was not a beautiful day. As we sat listening to the first remarks from our principal very dark, scary clouds moved in. The wind picked up to the extent we thought via the benefit of our mortar boards we would shortly take flight.
This did not go unnoticed by the principal who decided to call an audible, which was interesting since Van Buren High School was one of the few NYC high schools not to have a football team.
He looked at the sky, then gazed upon the 1,735 graduates, their parents and siblings and thought about how freakin’ long it would take to call out each of our names, have us traipse onto the stage and return to our seats. There was no way possible before the skies would open and, two months before Woodstock, we would be slopping in mud.
Suddenly, the principal made the call declaring “move your tassels over to the left. You’re all graduated! Now…quickly head to a picnic table located in the rear where your diplomas are in envelopes in alphabetical order. Good luck! Bye! Hurry!”
And so went the the Martin Van Buren High School Class of 1969 into the world. We just beat the rain, prepared for whatever storms life would toss us in the future.
This is how I looked four years later at in my college yearbook. My parents refused to display it.
While we’re all waiting for the world to spin back on its axis and people aren’t getting sick or afraid of breathing in public, I thought it might be fun to kill some time thinking back to one of life’s most uncomfortable episodes–that horrible first day on the job.
You know how it is…you don’t know where anything is, everyone in the office is giving you the eye wondering if you’re OK or a jerk or if you’re gonna try to steal their job or be an ass-kisser or slacker. Your main challenge is delicately asking where the washroom is and where the office supplies are hidden. Some wiseass gives you directions to the washroom, but after you memorize every turn and finally find the door as you’re about to explode, you discover the schmuck didn’t add that you need a key to enter. Sound familiar?
I’ll start with a couple of my most memorable/horrible first days, and then I invite you to join the fun by adding yours in the comments.
The date was November 30, 1981. My first day at CNN in Atlanta. I was hired as one of the first producers to launch their second network which was known at the time as CNN2. It later morphed into Headlines News and now HLN.
I had been working as a producer, reporter, anchor at KGUN in Tucson, Arizona. If you know anything about Arizona, it’s extremely laid back. No one gets dressed up, much. Especially producers.
Well…I saunter into the crazy, busy CNN headquarters on my first day figuring I’d wear my “producer clothes.” In Arizona that meant casual pants, an open-necked button down shirt and comfortable shoes. Psych. I look around and everyone else is wearing serious business clothes. Women wearing dresses. Men in dress shirt, ties, jackets, polished, black shoes. I’m already marked as a rube from out west. My boss kindly takes me aside and whispers, “you may have noticed there’s a bit of a dress code.” Well..yeah…would have been nice if someone told me in advance. But that wasn’t the worst thing about my first day. That would happen momentarily.
The boss said we should go out onto the newsroom floor and learn how the national assignment desk worked. So I go up to the first guy I see on the desk. He’s a big, balding, bearded volcano about to erupt. I introduce myself and ask if he could take a moment to explain how things work. Cue the eruption.
“YOU WANNA KNOW HOW THE FUCKIN’ DESK WORKS! WATCH THIS!!!!,” he screams at me. He picks up the tie-line to the DC bureau and starts screaming at the producer on the other end using the most vile language one could muster. This goes on for about 20 seconds. He slams down the phone, glares at me and screams, “THAT’S HOW THE FUCKIN’ ASSIGNMENT DESK WORKS. NOW GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY FACE!!!!” I took that as a most instructional lesson, took my leave and, you know, I never got the guy’s name or saw him again, which was just fine. Boss later asks me if I got the lay of the land on the national desk. I told him about the “guidance” I was given and just grinned, replying “yeah, that’s pretty much how it works.”
First day number 2. August 23, 2005. My first day at what was then DaimlerChrysler and now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It was my first corporate job. Hired away from The Detroit News to ghost write and manage a blog for the head of corporate communications. Cool job.
I’m led up to the sixth floor PR offices at corporate HQ and plopped in my new boss’s cube for all the first day stuff. First thing I was told was to look at my new badge.
“See your badge? It’s green. That means you’re a contractor not a REAL employee. REAL employees have blue badges.” I feel welcome already. Then the next indignity.
“Come with me. Let’s look out the window. You see those parking decks close to the building. You can’t park there. Those are for REAL employees. See that surface lot..somewhere beyond the horizon? That’s where contractors park. So that’s where YOU park. It’s not too long a walk…except when it’s raining, snowing or the wind is howling. Then…it sucks. Welcome to the company!!”
I became a REAL employee about 13 months later but always hid my blue badge. It was out of consideration for the other green badged contractors who were still trudging into the office from the corporate back forty. They would also call me bad names.
On May 4, 1970 I was on the air at WOCR, our campus radio station at SUNY Oswego. The little studio was on one side of a basement hallway in the student union. Our old UPI teletype machine was chugging away across the hall in our business office. I heard the five bells ringing from inside the studio denoting a bulletin was crossing. I ran over, ripped off the copy and read the unthinkable news on the air. Ohio National Guardsmen had shot and killed four unarmed students at Kent State University in Ohio during a large protest against the U.S. bombing of Cambodia.
My phone lit up and angry and crying students were on the other end of the line simply reacting to the news. They just needed to vent, first, to the person from whom they’d heard the news and would later take their outrage to the streets. We joined the ABC radio network for updates and gamely filled the rest of the time with a record here and there mixed in with listener reactions. This was all new to me. I was only completing my freshman year. I had no experience at all dealing with this type of story. I just did my best.
Fast forward 25 years to 1995 when my career took me to Detroit as the CNN Bureau Chief and correspondent there. We covered a large territory and Ohio was part of it. A quarter century after reading that bulletin on the campus radio station I would find myself at Kent State covering the 25th anniversary of the shootings. Most of my crew was too young to remember what happened. My cameraman, Chester Belecki was four years younger than me and remembered it well. We had to explain to our two younger team members why tears were in our eyes as we saw the monuments to the four young people cut down. Each monument was place exactly where they fell. A bullet hole remained in a metal sculpture in front of a classroom building.
Five years later we were back for the 30th anniversary. During our coverage of the 25th anniversary we got to know sociology professor Jerry Lewis, who played an important role on the day of the shootings. He created a course to inform students who came later about what happened on May 4, 1970, its context, consequences and aftermath. I caught up to Prof. Lewis and his class, and filed this report which you might find relevant even today…because we should never forget.
Open Letter to Joe Biden
Dear Vice President Joe..
I know you have a lot on your mind, what with the campaign and trying to remember stuff that happened a few minutes ago, but I’d like you to do me, and the other citizens of Michigan a favor. Please don’t choose our governor to be your running mate.
Oh, it’s not what you think. She’d be great as veep or in any other position in your administration if you win, but we need her here, in the Mitten. “Big Gretch” as she’s come to be known lately is a tough, ass-kicking, no nonsense leader who isn’t letting knuckle dragging cretins carrying loaded weapons into our state capitol whining about her stay-at-home orders affect her decision making.
I feel terrible for everyone who has lost a paycheck or business because of her policies, but she’s looking at the big picture trying to take control of the spread of Covid-19 and it seems that without a cure or vaccination the nasty coronavirus is gonna do what it wants to do in a dangerous and unpredictable manner.
Our idiotic Republican-controlled legislature is doing everything it can to prevent Gov. Whitmer from taking the actions she needs to take because, one, she’s a Democrat, and two, they’re demagogues whimpering about the fact she just doesn’t need them to do her job properly and effectively. One leading Republican the other day even whined, “we don’t want to be moot.” Too late. You are. Sit down. Holster your tongue.
Mr. Vice President, for sure, on a debate stage that awesome woman from Michigan would kick Pence’s ass so hard his Hoosier would hurt, but right now, we need her here to fend off those who think the governor of Georgia is smart in just throwing open the doors to everything, virus be damned. We do that here and there’s a good chance all that progress made because of Guv Gretch’s tough policies will be reversed. Now…I must say…before moving to Michigan back in 1989 I lived in Georgia, Atlanta, to be exact, for eight years. Loved it there until the traffic gridlock resembled the backup in my intestines after eating too many servings of grits and biscuits.
No, Joe, go choose someone else to be your running mate. The truth is, Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is just a little busy right now and by the time this is all over and she’s successful at knocking the crap out of coronavirus here, folks will realize running for Veep may just be too low a bar for that beer drinkin’, backroom brawlin’, backbone steady woman from Michigan.How cool is our guv…the National Bobblehead Museum in Milwaukee made a Whitmer bobblehead.
That’s right, Joe. She’s already got a bobblehead…and that would look great on a corner of the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office….when she’s sitting behind it.
Thanks very much,
Went to the supermarket this morning to buy some basic items: milk, OJ,
prescription-strength Lysol. It was one of those supersized supermarkets that also sells stuff you can’t eat but can wear. Never understood that because none of them have try-on rooms. Just grab a chicken, juice and a cute top and pray they both taste good and look tasteful.
But that’s not the point of this post. I’m getting to that, but first I have to walk in the correct direction on this one-way aisle of prose. Yes..that’s the point. The giant, supersized supermarket has one-way aisles to help prevent people from crossing paths and spreading coronavirus. Excellent idea. In theory.
My first experience today involved finding the brand of soda my wife wrote on the list. I noticed the green sticker at the head of the aisle which meant I could enter. I felt like a law-abiding cart pusher. The problem was the workers stocking the shelves were darting about in every direction crossing paths with me several times. At one point I just stopped short before the stocker and her giant cart of soda bottles broke my plane. We were both wearing face masks and gloves, but I was tempted to make a citizen’s arrest of the obvious one-way aisle scofflaw. Are stockers immune? Do they have special dispensation by order of the one-way aisle cop? Seems they’re as likely to transmit and catch coronavirus as a suburban schlep like me. Aside from trying not to die, I don’t want points on my license for shopping the wrong way down a one-way aisle. I’ll actually have to call my insurance agent to add “supermarket aisle directional indemnity” coverage.
This particular supermarket made my task more difficult by separating brands bottled by Coca-Cola and Pepsi by a full aisle. My mission was to buy two bottles each of one brand, bottled by Coke, and two bottles of Pepsi. I was already at the end of the Coke aisle and ready to grab the Pepsi, but I would have had to walk all the way around since the Pepsi aisle was one-way…the other way. Screw it. I parked my cart at the end of the aisle, which is a directional no-man’s land. There was no one in the Pepsi aisle, so I took a chance, feeling oh, so cavalier, and took the few steps the wrong way to grab the two bottles of Pepsi. I’m sure no one saw me, but I’m also sure my misdeed was captured on the security camera. I wonder what the statute of limitations is for such an infraction.
The rest of the shopping trip went fine as I dutifully obeyed all green and red stickers. A red sticker meant you were at the wrong end of the aisle. DO NOT ENTER! OK, I was a good boy, but I saw two couples absolutely blow through the red stickers in the french fry aisle much to the horror of the guy traveling in the correct direction having a hard time deciding between spring and egg rolls. As the wrong-way couples passed him, he looked like he might need a ventilator right then and there, just from anxiety.
I do like the idea of one-way aisles to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. They’re really just a minor inconvenience and I’m sure a boon to the burgeoning colored sticky floor arrow industry, which, before this all happened, was pointing towards hard times.
To keep in shape I’ve been taking walks and riding my bike a lot. It’s easy, because I live near a very long rails-to-trails trail network. On a nice day parts of the trail are as busy as I-75 in rush hour–jammed with walkers, joggers and bikers happy to get out of the house for a bit. Oh, those folks seem happy enough, but the happiest creatures have to be the dogs.
With nothing much else to do, dog owners seem to be walking their pets like crazy. I’ve seen one of my neighbors walk her little Lhasa apso a half-dozen times a day and it expresses its joy by peeing against our mailboxes as if it’s unleashing pent up outside potty time. Another guy’s husky can’t seem to believe its good luck to get to take long, long strolls–maybe the longest of its life, almost every day!
I was on my bike yesterday along a section of the trail and kept passing a gentleman with a medium sized dog I can’t identify. Both the guy and the dog had the kind of grins one might break into after sticking a straw in a vat of hot fudge and sucking in. When I stopped for a little rest on a pedestrian bridge, the dog, which was not on a leash, ambled over to me and gave me a little “hey mister” kinda bark. I’m thinking, this dog is probably on his second or third walk of the day and has no idea how his luck suddenly has changed over the past month. In the spirit of social distancing I didn’t attempt to pet him but we exchanged friendly words.
The coronavirus pandemic is a terrible reason for anything to happen, but I’ve gotta think all the extra exercise, fresh air and expanded poop and pee opportunities for the world’s dogs is a silver lining in this dark cloud, although I’m sure some dogs, with very short legs have a very different opinion.
While I’m anxious for the crisis to come to an end and some of the restrictions on our movements to be lifted, I sort feel bad for the dogs. Will the fun of multiple walks a day end? Will their humans go back to binging Netflix instead of taking them out as many times? If I was a dog, I’d make sure I gave off as many vibes as possible to let my human know I want this to be our new normal. Lotsa appreciative licks and tail wagging. Off the couch, and on the trail, lazybones! Leash me up and let’s get walking!
I must add, though, I do not believe everything I’ve just said applies to cats. Cats are different. I imagine they’re watching their humans putting on their walking shoes, heading for the door and the cat just thinking, “just go already.”
No. I don’t have cabin fever. Thank goodness I don’t have any fever and neither do any of my immediate family members….now. One did a week or so ago. That’s done. Again. Very thankful. But cabin fever? Not at all. You shouldn’t have it either, or at least submit to it.
Think about what cabin fever really is. You’re tired of being stuck in the house and can’t go out because of some condition. Unless you’re sick, you shouldn’t have it and I hope you’re not.
You don’t need to succumb to cabin fever because if you’re not sick, there’s no excuse for staying in. You can go outside. Take a walk, take a ride, hop on your bike if you have one..or a boat of some sort. I have a kayak. It’s easy to be socially distant when you’re in the middle of a lake. I doubt I’d be in danger of infecting, or being infected by, a bluegill. Those are all safe things to do if you don’t do them in groups where people are close to each other.
We’ve started discovering and re-discovering parts of our state by taking rides from 1-3 hours buzzing through localities, cities and towns, sometimes getting out to walk a little if it’s not too crowded. Just yesterday we visited the tiny town of Linden, Mich. Seen it on the map but never in person. On our way into town we happened on a great little loop of a trail at park overlooking a lake. There were a few people walking, maybe half a dozen. But the trail was long enough for us to space ourselves sufficiently.
In downtown Linden, such as it was, we were able to pull into a small lot close enough to see the water from the Shiawassee River flow over a little dam without getting out of the car.
From there we headed east to Fenton. It’s larger than Linden with new restaurants and stores, and it also featured a small park and walkway with a view of Shiawassee River water flowing over a small dam, creating as much of a waterfall as we needed to justify a quick photo and this little video.
It was a little more popular than we thought comfortable so we found refuge in the car and began the 45 minute ride home, going through the historic burg of Holly and assorted scenic rural townships. Holly is best known for the Holly Hotel located in Battle Alley. According to legend, the hotel is haunted and that lore has many firm believers to this day.
Prohibitionist Carrie Nation also called Holly home for about six years to wail on the evils of alcohol.
We visit Holly about once a year even during the best of times. We especially enjoy the Battle Alley antique arcade which is in a rambling old house with wonderful creaking wood floors, three levels of any kind of old stuff you either need, don’t need or just want. Oh, you can always count on a plate of fresh cookies sitting on a shelf along the main, cobblestone aisle..there for the grabbing. The windmill cookies are especially tasty.
We’ve done the route between Holly and home many times before only now we took closer notice since the ride wasn’t the route to an activity, but our activity.
As you can see, or not see, I haven’t provided any photos of my own except for the Fenton dam. That’s because I was driving most of the time and snapping photos while driving with my knees would probably be more dangerous than the virus. You would think this predicament might spark faster development of autonomous cars. But the real deal is I just wanted to enjoy the ride and sights and talk about them with my family, taking notice of places we might want to return when it’s safer to get out of the car and explore more thoroughly.
It doesn’t really matter how far you go. A little ride to some place that’s not your driveway or parking space is just the mental break you need to try to maintain some sort of sanity. Besides, gas is cheap right now. Go ahead…filler ‘er up, hit the road, and give your brain a little something more to chew on than a TV or computer screen. Yes..get out of your cabin…and break the fever.
“Take it easy!,” “Take Care!,” “Take it Light!,” “Be Well!,” “Rock On!” We love to kind of wish people well at the end of a communication while at the same ordering them to do so. Sometimes people add these little phrases of mandatory good wishes about our health and general well being because they just nice, sincere people. Others just can’t think of more creative ways to end it. I guess it’s better than just stopping short, or writing, “shit, I’m outta bullets…later!”
Earlier today, just passing the time to socially distance myself from doing actual work, I watched an old George Carlin bit on the Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era. During his short set Carlin ruminated about people telling him to “have a nice day!” It kind of pissed him off in only the way it could to Carlin. He suggested that perhaps he’d had enough nice days and would be selfish to have any more. Y’know..to leave some nice days for other people.
It got me thinking….
During this awful time we’re in right now almost every communication I’ve received–emails, texts, actual conversations–has ended with “stay safe!” No one bid me to have a nice day, or to take it easy or light or on the chin. One good person wished good health to me and my family…but couldn’t stop there. So..so hard to resist. Yes…the whole thing read, “Health to you and your family my friend……and STAY SAFE!”
It’s actually an appreciated imperative because, I have to admit, I get careless at times and touch my face or forget to wash my hands as thoroughly as I should, or get tempted to sneeze on the person in the produce section of the supermarket who decided it would be a good thing to squeeze every freaking cantaloupe leaving his viral detritus for the rest of us to host…then die..or at least feel really crappy.
Of course, being a native neurotic New Yorker, 55 years removed from my Bar Mitzvah, I must, must think of the down side. Hmm..that well-meaning person bid me to stay safe. What if I wasn’t safe in the first place? That would make the whole thing irrelevant, or at least presumptuous. Should the proper order of safety admonition be, “Get safe!” then the next time you communicate with the person, you give him or her the benefit of the doubt that they did so, then offer some support with “Stay safe!”
What if the person you choose to help survive the pandemic is a safety scofflaw? Ending things with “stay safe!” is a waste of effort since you know they’re gonna blow you off and act like a contagious schmuck. But realistically, you can’t get into a whole give-and-take about whether the person is, or wants to be, safe since you’re just trying to end the damn email so you can move on to binging Ozark.
Still, I like that we’re at least showing concern for our fellow human beings as we all try to avoid being infected with, or spreading, coronavirus.
Well..that’s all I have to say on subject, for now. Can’t think of a snappy ending. So..um…”Get Safe, Stay there… and then HAVE A NICE DAY!”
It may not seem so right now, but on the other side of this pandemic some things will have changed that perhaps should have happened long ago. I conveniently created a short list:
1-The necessity of “going to the office” has been severely challenged. I’ve always looked at offices as petri dishes of cultural bacteria, fomenting time-wasting meetings, gossip, jealousies, clock-watching and commutes that contribute to harmful emissions, wasteful and costly fuel consumption and misuse of valuable time.
Oh sure, there’s the notion of team camaraderie and collaboration, but that can be accomplished much more efficiently and conveniently without forcing employees to spend their days tied to an assigned workspace where they’re sitting ducks for all manner of productivity-sucking distractions. Scheduling regular in-person meet-ups may be sufficient to satisfy the need for a little person-to-person contact and relationship/team building. Working remotely doesn’t mean permanent exile!
Telecommuting isn’t new, of course, however, many companies offer this option as a favor or reward to precious few employees. The fact is, given today’s technology, you can perform almost any task, conduct meetings that include graphics and video and collaborate on projects from any place on Earth with decent web or mobile connectivity.
Now that so many office workers have been forced to do their jobs remotely, a lot of them are finding they’re more productive, less stressed, can manage their time better, saving money on gas and are enjoying a better quality of life. I’m betting that once this crisis is over, bosses should be ready to field a ton of requests to keep working from home, or Starbucks at least most of the time, and it’s about time more office inmates had that option.
Of course…some folks love going to the office to either get away from the house for awhile or just to be with other adults or for the free coffee or whatever. That’s great if it works for you. Here’s hoping businesses that did not previously offer the option of telecommuting will see positive outcomes during this time and make it more available to appreciative employees.
2-Car dealers that rely so much on showroom foot traffic have been forced to rethink its importance as we practice social distancing to help kill off the spread of coronavirus. Who doesn’t dread spending 2,3,4 hours at a dealership from the time you choose your new ride to sitting at the sales person’s little desk, haggling over the price, then pivoting to the finance person’s star chamber where they try to foist extended warrantees, safety and security plans or a dizzying number of finance options. My wife and I excel at this process. We walk in and tell the person, “we’ll make it easy on you. No to everything.” The last guy we did that too just sagged his shoulders while he surrendered saying, “it’s just not gonna be my day.” That was some time into our third or fourth hour.
But now dealers have learned that online vehicle marketplaces are catering to exactly what many consumers want. Do it all online, quickly. To deal with the need to socially distance, a lot of brick and mortar dealers are offering home or office vehicle deliveries, online document signing and even virtual test drives where a “concierge” will give you a tour of the vehicle via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WebEx, etc. My friends at DriveShift.comwill even have the concierge start the engine so the customer can give it a listen. It’s true, nothing beats a physical test drive and the chance to literally kick the tires, but for some customers, expediency carries the day.
Yes, many dealers have had a long time online presence but not all have made it possible to complete the entire process without a showroom visit. As George Augustaitis, one of my trusted sources of prescient auto industry analysis at CarGurus.com told me the other day for my Forbes.com story, “To me, dealers should be thinking about relationship building, where if you’re online and you have a staff that can answer emails, text messages. I think a lot of this is about producing content. People can watch at home, answering questions online. When people feel like they’re ready to buy their car they’re going to reflect upon the fact that over these many weeks the dealer is always answering my questions, sending me videos, doing these things so I can do my research.”
So that’s just one example. The pandemic has spurred scores of other businesses that have never been involved in e-commerce to jump in and are offering the convenience of remote ordering and delivery which are especially helpful for shut-ins, disabled folks and others who are just really busy or don’t have personal transportation.
3-The whole concept of “social distancing” is one we should have been practicing to some extent anyway. Giving others some space–enough space so whatever nasty stuff is in your cough or sneeze is deprived a landing pad on someone else’s epidermis, is not only smart, but considerate. Honestly, I hate it when I’m in line at the supermarket checkout and the person behind me insists on getting close enough to read the fine print on the booze bottles in my cart to the point where they comment, “Oh yeah..Makers Mark..love the stuff. Just had it for breakfast!” Back off! That’s my lunch you’re talking about..achoo! Got ya.
4-Much of the world has given up on using cash for even the smallest transactions and because of the danger of touching bills that may have been handled by hundreds or thousands of others, the use of credit and debit cards for in-person purchases has increased. That way, you’re the only one who has to handle your method of payment. For those of us codgers who still carry folding money and change, that’s something going into the memory bank as we make the transition. I was dragging my feet. The virus helped me pick up the pace. Perhaps it will do the same for the more of us who still like the feel of cold cash but not the bacterial loot it harbors.
5-This final one is probably the most important. I see more concern between human beings about each other’s welfare. Not just friends and family, but co-workers, acquaintances, even those with whom you have casual contact asking how we’re feeling, and parting with the words, “be safe,” or “stay safe.” I see a degree of unselfishness that’s so heartening. If you browse posts on the Nextdoor app, you will see quite a number of posts where folks volunteer to go to the store, do a little yard work or perform other errands and services for those in tough spots…for free, in many cases. We’ve gotta keep this going even after the worst is over.
So those are just a very few examples of how this terrible time we’re in right now has kickstarted some positive actions and behaviors that should have been in wider practice all along. I bet you can think of others. I’d love to hear about them.
It’s been almost four years since I walked out of my last full-time job a free man into what’s become semi-retirement and a life of doing what little work I do, in my home office.
I want to warn many of you who are now working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic…you may not want to return to your offices.
Before I retired in 2016 I worked from my own glass-enclosed, private office. I didn’t like it, but in the idiotic way some corporations operate, your workspace reflected your “band level” AKA, if you’re standing in the payroll/title hierarchy. When I got promoted to a level that “awarded” you an enclosed office, I asked to remain in my spacious, but open, workspace because such perks seemed stupid and also cut me off from my team. I asked if I had committed a felony, warranting my confinement to a 12×12 cell. HR said if I didn’t move it would “send the wrong message.” Company politics being what it is, several people were actually jealous of me and said nasty stuff about me, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I spent my final three years before retirement in that office and hated every minute of it. So I would constantly get up, walk around, touch base in person with my teammates. When another glass office denizen would pop by congratulating me on “finally getting the glass office you deserve,” I thanked them and expressed my anticipation of one day being paroled, which in all their shallowness, they did not understand at all.
Now that I’ve been working from home in my very comfortable workspace..I don’t call it an office..I get more done in a day than what I accomplished in my old office in a week. For one, there are none of the dreaded “got a minute” drop-bys. You know how that goes. “Got a minute,” really means I’m bored and I’d like to waste as much of your time as possible to avoid going back to my desk and doing actual work. Many minutes later your plan for the day is blown so you may as well get up, get some coffee, take a walk, or retreat into a zen state in order to purge yourself of thoughts of committing that felony.
One day, in answer to “got a minute?” I replied that I didn’t. No problem. The annoying inquirer had his rejoinder locked and loaded. “Oh..it’ll take less than that!” Bullshit. Sigh.
Other aspects of the office life I don’t miss are random comments you can’t unhear even with a closed door. Examples include: “This fuckin’ printer doesn’t work!,” “This coffee tastes like burnt jerky!” “Bob sucks!” “Just like you,” “The boss has his head up his ass,” “I wish 5 o’clock came at noon.”
Then there are the endless meeting invites. When you work remotely, you can call in, put your phone on mute, do other, more productive, things while someone blathers and then chime in when appropriate or called upon. You can also make faces as an immature, but satisfying demonstration of your opinion of the proceedings.
I do enjoy popping into the office about once a week for an hour or two at one of my fun freelance gigs. Great people who are fun, smart and talented. We see enough of each other to cement our bonds, I appreciate the chance to get to know the staff on a more personal level and they quickly understand I have what I would describe as a “very limited” wardrobe with some items probably older than many of my colleagues.
Then I hit the freeway for the 25 mile drive home, and retreat to my cozy, personal workspace where the only ambient conversations I may hear are “Dinner’s burning!” or “The Jones’s schnauzer shit on our lawn again!” It’s so suburban. So natural. Then I get back to work, unimpeded, un-interrupted until my wife ventures down to my subterranean refuge, stops at the door and asks, “got a minute?”