Sunday, April 12, 2020

Life in the Time of Virus

It has been a little more than a month since I've gone into seclusion here on Grubb Street. In early March, my employer (the Big A) sent all of my team to work from home. I have since brought both my large DTR and my laptop home, set up in the lowest floor of the house, and continued on the job as Senior Narrative Designer of a soon-to-be-released game.

The Lovely Bride and I, given our ages and medical history, really should stay away from people for a while. But I put ourselves down as very fortunate. We have a house with a modest amount of land around it, and our immediate neighbors are retirees or land that will eventually become a new development but is now empty. Our noisiest neighbors is a a Buddhist temple down the street, and even they have been quiet.

The first couple weeks were pretty miserable, mostly because of the weather - rain and more than occasional hail. But in the past week the clouds have broken into that wondrous Seattle Spring. As a result I have been going on more walks. And a lot of people are walking in this neighborhood, just to get out of the house. The other day there was a flotilla of SUVs with kids in the back, festooned with balloons and supportive signs for teachers. Much honking and waving.

The grocery situation hasn't been horrible, either. Yes, there were empty shelves for toilet paper and bottled water, but most of what we needed, they had. Flour disappeared for a while as everyone and their siblings decided that this would be a great time bake bread. Bread we could find, but nor flour. Among the shoppers, masks have shown up recently.

The Lovely Bride is still going into work. She's a tax preparer (an enrolled agent, to be exact), and in Washington State that is considered essential because people still need to make payrolls and plan out for the coming year. But her tax firm is attached to an investment group, and all the investors are working from home, so she pretty much has her office to herself.

All the writers I see on Facebook are saying "This is OUR moment!", and that is true as far as it goes. Writers tend to be pretty self-directed, and writing is by its nature a lonely profession. But working with others on a large project is more like movie-making, so I and my colleagues have a LOT of meetings over our propriety video apps (No, we don't use Zoom). So that often interrupts the day.

I am set up in the lowest floor of our quad-level, on a hefty oak table we purchased years ago from Milt's Wood Shed back in Wisconsin (That Milt - he's a character). I have an office upstairs, but that is filled with distractions, and I am used to writing novels at a kitchen table. The company as been supportive of people buying monitors and chairs for the long haul, but I've salvaged enough from the other office to set up a nice, spartan setup. And being on the lowest floor, I can walk away from it at the end of the day without temptation to keep going (though I still keep going, sometimes, anyway). The downside is that this lowest floor is where I keep a lot of my games and books, and as a result, I am always tempted to pull something down from the shelf to read.

We have two adopted cats, who we are looking after while their owners are in Japan (Hi Anne! Hi Sig! (They are in Hokkaido and doing OK in all this)). Kevovar the Tank Cat has taken up a supervisory role, sitting on one of the other chairs and keeping an eye on me, just in case I decide to the suddenly and impulsively feed him. Kia the Ninja Kitty keeps to herself, mostly on the warmth of the waterbed, but has of late jumped into my lap and demanded petting. So they have adapted to the new regime.

I'm growing out my beard. It is still pretty scraggly. 

Have been reading a bit more (reviews to follow) and have been binge-watching some stuff (right now its been The Thick of It, one of those British comedies about horrible people that make you appreciate your co-workers). Haven't been writing as much, but oddly have not been playing too much in games either, as we are doing a lot of playtests on our way to release. I have been playing boardgame ports on the iPad with friends, with us talking over Facebook Messenger. And my Tai Chi classes have resumed on Zoom, though my upstairs office is smaller than I would like when Repulsing the Monkey.

So we're fortunate. I've got the house to myself most days. Work is actually rewarding. Supplies are good. I've been mowing the lawn in bits and pieces over the past week as the weather has been good. Everyone is staying home, and while people mock the "Seattle Freeze" - we are nice, but not demonstrative, it looks like we are succeeding in blunting the worst of the infections. Note that we can flatten the curve, but there is still an area under the curve, so we remain cautious.

I worry for others. I have colleagues who have to take care of kids, or share a small office in their apartments with their spouses, or have older relatives staying with them. My mother is in a retirement village, and while they have been very careful (they deliver dinners to the door, then flee), the isolation has been rough. I have one niece in NYC, and another who is expecting her first child. Yet everyone seemed to be bearing up so far, and for that I am appreciative as well.

Things have changed. The theatres are closed. My friendly neighborhood comics shop is on hiatus. Farmer's markets are currently shut down. The newspapers, lacking advertising, have become wan things, and I notice the margins and the typography is getting larger. So the effects of all this are ratcheting through the economy.

Long term remain concerned about the strength of the infrastructure - if the Internet takes a major hit that would be an end of this long-distance telecommuting. Without Animal Crossing I am sure that riots would follow. Supply pipelines are another concern - yeah, everyone lost their minds on toilet paper but as the virus ravages many farms and processing plants upstream, we may see further shortages.

How long this will go? I have no idea. I've gone hull down and have pretty much adapted, like the cats, to this new sense of normal.  Hope you and yours are making it through all this well, and we will see you on the far side of the pandemic.

More later,