Ten year hiatus, over »

What month is it again?

05/21/20 | by Adam | Categories: Calgary

Well, I'm now into week, er, 12 or so of the lockdown. I ended up in seclusion a little earlier than most; my spouse had been visiting Rome just before Italy's outbreak became serious and my office decided that I'd better work from home just to be safe rather than potentially infect them. When the two weeks were up, I returned to the office just in time for it to shut down entirely as by that point the US was heating up as a major COVID hotspot. Shortly thereafter, the schools all shut which mean my K and Grade 2 kids became a major focus of the day. It took a while to figure out a workable scheme that allowed me to work while they "studied" but we got there.

So, what have I learned in those months?

First, teachers really do earn their pay. I already understood this, but there's nothing like a smart child being deliberately obtuse to really drive it home. Being able to threaten withdrawal of tablet and YouTube Kids privileges seems to be the ultimate stick. Also, doing IT for remote learning has its own learning curve -- I now know more about Chrome plugins than I ever thought possible. Shout out to the Calgary Library system for their eBook lending system; we've got lots of kids' books, but fresh material is always welcome.

Second, a good PC gaming system becomes the basis for an even better remote workstation. Big monitors, solid keyboard, comfortable chair, ergonomic placement; it all helps. Much of my work is SysAdmin stuff so having lots of real estate for myriad windows and RDP sessions really helps. So does a defined office space with a door to try to block out some of the exterior distractions. Trying to define work hours that stick, on the other hand, is much harder -- when your home is also your office, you're on call 24/7, and regular work hours expand to fit whatever they can. So, yeah, the hoped for gaming binge hasn't really has much of a chance.

Third, you really don't know what's going to be affected for these events. As we went into isolation a couple of weeks earlier than most, we had time to buy what we thought we would need before it became scarce, and we guessed pretty well without having to hoard anything. However, we didn't anticipate breadmaker yeast as being the one thing that never came back into stock, even months later; Calgary even has a factory dedicated to making breadmaker yeast for western North America; go figure.

Fourth, copious amounts of spare time is a myth. What we've saved in commuting time has been soaked up in looking after the kids. As mentioned earlier, I do a lot of SysAdmin stuff for my employer which means I'm responsible for their infrastructure; infrastructure that's even more critical when it comes to reliability than under normal circumstances. My spouse works in insurance and they've been as busy as anything. Between the two of us, our regular jobs have expanded to take more time than usual. No complaints -- happy to have a regular income -- but free time to binge watch Netflix or pick up new hobbies just isn't there. Boredom isn't happening.

Fifth, isolation and cabin fever are things, but not for me. My spouse, on the other hand, is beginning to get stircrazy. We're fortunate that we live in an area of Calgary with easy access to public parks and secluded pathways so it's easy to get out without encountering too many people. When we go to get groceries once a week, there's a pre-defined shopping list and one of us goes in masked while the other waits in the car with the wipes for the return. We've not caught anything yet so the process seems to be working. We've also taken advantage of meal kits for a bit more variety, as well as the periodic ordering in/pickup for special occasions (shout out to The Selkirk Grill for an excellent Mother's Day brunch kit). We've used a lot of Facetime, Meets, Skype, Zoom, Teams, telephone and pretty much every other communication method known to mankind (heck, even IRC!) to stay in touch with friends, family and co-workers; that seems to be working to prevent us from going feral.

Sixth, despite an almost total isolation regime over several months and very careful behaviour when we have to go out in public, I still managed to catch a cold. No fever and not much of a cough so no COVID worries. However, where it came from? How I got it? No real idea. We don't tend to disinfect groceries as we bring them in -- generally we unpack the bags at the front door, wash our hands, and then transport them to the fridge or dry storage -- so possibly that's the vector but who really knows. I do find that knowing I shouldn't touch my face outside of the safe confines of home produces the most excruciating need to scratch it.

Seventh, the idea that this state of affairs is going to continue indefinitely is daunting. Until we reach herd immunity or a viable vaccine is developed, I don't see COVID becoming any less communicable or dangerous, and I can't see how "Back To Work" movements are going to work without raising the infection rates again. Fortunately my work (and that of my spouse) is telecommuting friendly so there's no pressing need for us to go back to a centralized office, but bluntly, face to face communication works better so I don't want to be doing this forever. We've been fortunate so far: no family or friends have been diagnosed with COVID, we've suffered no job losses, we don't have the crushing responsibilities of those in the health care profession; the worst for us is that we had to cancel a long-awaited trip to visit an elderly relative overseas.

It will probably get worse: I may have to let my spouse cut my getting-ever-shaggier hair.


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