Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Beer and Pizza in Dystopia

Monday morning I went to the gym before heading into the office.

[Sorry, forgot the quotes.]

This morning, I "went to the gym before heading into the office."

No, I didn't actually go to my health club. Those have been closed for a few weeks now. What I did was something I've done this a couple of times during my isolation. Here's how it works. Sunday night, I packed some work clothes into a duffle. In the morning, I put on my workout clothes and after eating breakfast, put my coffee in a bottle for later and headed to the basement where I did an in-home core workout. (Let me just say, I'm glad this pandemic is happening in an age where there is no shortage of attractive women on Instagram sharing bite size, low-tech fitness routines.) Then I showered and changed in the "gym" (basement) locker room. What was especially nice is that my gym finally did some cleaning and I didn't feel the need to wear flip flops in the shower or dread dropping the my soap on the tile. And while changing in the locker room, it was really easy to avoid banal conversation with half naked men. Then it was a 5 step commute to the office where I had my coffee and a protein bar at my desk.

Seems like a ridiculous routine, but it does two things. The first thing it did was motivate me to workout in an environment where I'm easily distracted. Home is always full of things demanding your attention, like dishes, laundry, etc. By preparing everything in advance and pretending I was at the gym, I tricked my mind into thinking, "Well, I'm here, I might as well workout." It's a technique I got from a blogger who I wish I could credit, but I never bothered to note his name. He dubbed it the "Braveheart" method after the phrase uttered before the final battle when, while considering whether to fight or surrender, Mel Gibson says, "We're already dressed for battle," or something to that effect.

The second thing this routine does is sort of detach me from "working at home" and make me feel like I'm simply "at work". Even though we had a spare bedroom that was our defacto office, the basement can feel like its own environment. About a year ago, I put a standup desk down there with a large monitor. Then in December I ran Ethernet through the floor to improve internet quality for the VPN and video conferencing (and improving playback of fitness videos). My company has always been pretty flexible with WFH, but I would really only do it once every two weeks or so. Then, a few weeks before we were in full pandemic mode and I was just annoyed with the coughing and hacking of coworkers getting over various maladies, I said to myself, "Why am even going into the office?" I've been working from home, for a month, and what great is I can when I'm dialed into meetings with audio only, I can make all sorts of faces and gestures when more plates on sticks are handed me to spin.

That doesn't mean I'm all rosy about the predicament however. Our HR manager sent out an email about staying positive and doing little things at home to help with lack of social interaction during work-from-home. Soe coworkers responded with some cute thoughts taking time with their kids and being social (yet distant) with neighbors, but since I have no kids and frankly, am not the most neighborly person, I instead chose to share my gym routine. Normally I wouldn't do a "respond all" to a company-wide email, but during these trying times, why not share my occasional attempt to feel trapped by our home. A few people responded that they thought this was great, or made them laugh. So what do you know, as much as I cringe at a respond-to-all on a company email, I'm kind of glad I did it.

That leads me to Tuesday, when I actually did leave the house. Now as I've shared, I have ventured out on my bike a few times, and Sunday, Lexi's parents stopped by to talk (them on the driveway, us on the porch), but Tuesday basically ended a 14 day stretch of self-imposed quarantine. For reasons I still don't understand, Governor Herbert has yet to issue a true "Stay at Home" Order. Instead, he did this "Stay Safe, Stay at Home" Directive. I'm not sure what the difference is other than, when CNN puts up the US map reflecting Shelter in Place protocols, Utah is still in the "What the fuck are they thinking" shade of pink. [More on that in my brief political aside below].

Did I have to leave the house? No, technically not; I did not get "essentials". I got beer and pizza. Our concern for those small local businesses, and even more so, their employees, has been on my mind since this all started. So I wanted to do what I could to stock up from two local breweries, one of which makes great pizza and is doing take out. Please don't think I was cavalier about this. While obviously, if you know me, I truly value craft beer, but I was riddled with anxiety the whole time driving. And the fact that I easily merged from 215 to I-15 at 5pm on a weekday only made me feel more like this world is falling apart. My repeated mantra was, "Don't touch your face. Don't touch your face." And when I arrived at the second brewery, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in Idaho shook my car. At first I thought it was a really strong gust of wind, then one of the workers at the brewery mentioned it and we all though it was another of our aftershocks from the quake we had two weeks ago. Once again, I started thinking about dystopia. That led me to a little insight that I'm going to try and delicately explain without being insensitive. Obviously, no matter what is going on, we are NOT the "third-world". I think the ability to buy beer and pizza is pretty much one of the top checkboxes when evaluating if you are in the third-world or not. "Indoor plumbing? Check. Beer and Pizza? Check. OK, you passed, you're not in the third-world." But what we are feeling, (and I don't think I'm alone in this) is the fear and uncertainty that we often equate to third-world countries, not our own. And maybe most unfamiliar and unsettling, is the reality that a very real loss of life is tied to this. I think about the British in World War II, dealing with the daily reality that Nazi bombers could fly over at anytime and destroy their lives. I keep comparing it to 9/11, but something seems different with this. That's something maybe I'll explore in a different post.

Theory on Why Herbert Hasn't Enacted Shelter in Place

I think Herbert is worried about pissing off the rural counties, who have already complained that the restrictions are too much. Thank god there are smart people in Grand County (Moab) who have convinced the Park Service to shut down Arches and Canyonlands. As much as they depend on tourists, they know better than to bet their limited medical resources against revenue. Look, there are good people in Utah's rural places like San Juan, Kane, and Emery counties, but I cringe when then think they think they are the victims in all this. Now, I don't want to paint them with a broad brush of "slackjawed yokel" that's reserved for Phil Lyman and Mike Noel, but it cracks me up when the argument of overreach is pretty much hollowed out as soon as the same argument is applied to any level of government above you. It's all about State's Rights... until the State tells you something you don't like. "We don't need [insert name of city that hosts level of government above us] telling us what to do." That's basically the contrarian "You can't make me," response of a child.

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