Note: I stole the title from an email I received, thanks Kevin!
Disclosures and Disclaimers
I'm not usually one to comment on "current events".
That said, when "current events" are "modern society is looking a little rough around the edges", it's kind of hard not to comment. Of course, I'm talking about
limited-edition Shrek Crocs the COVID-19 pandemic. Now I've never aspired to be a source of information or disinformation, and I'd like to keep it that way, so: get up-to-date information from WHO, the CDC, or your local Department of Public Health, not your friendly neighborhood truck man.
With that out of the way, I've been getting a lot of questions about how I'm handling the current happenings, so I'll talk a little bit about what I've been up to, and then more generally about tangential topics, like having good routines, stock market crashes, and how I handle sickness. In retrospect, those should probably all be their own posts, oh well.
It all started…
…a few weeks ago, when my employer instituted a voluntary "work from home" policy. It seemed a bit premature to me at the time: there were only a handful of cases in the entire US, but of course I had never heard of the concept of "flattening the curve" and I wasn't aware of the severity of situations in Wuhan or Italy, so it didn't make a ton of sense to me. In any case, I continued to go into work, because working from "home" isn't really something I have a desire to do. I've told my co-workers I live in a place near campus (true), with a few roommates (not true), and have generally described my home as a place I don't like to spend my time (very true). As such, my desire to continue working from the office didn't seem all that unreasonable or suspicious.
Days passed and the situation changed quickly. Voluntary work from home became recommended work from home, which promptly became strongly recommended work from home, a recommendation I dutifully continued to ignore. I was one of maybe three people in my office; it was lovely and I got a lot of stuff done. With the transition to strongly recommended work from home, the office cafeterias stopped serving breakfast and dinner, which I remedied by biking to my favorite cafes in the morning, making more meal replacement shakes, and leaning a little more heavily on the office kitchen snacks. I ate a lot of Rice Krispies that week.
I had plans to go to Aspen with my girlfriend (who lives in Colorado) and some co-workers. I found out those plans were cancelled…when I landed in Denver. So instead, I spent a few days ambling around a mid-sized Coloradan city, which wasn't altogether unpleasant. I was scheduled to leave Monday night, but then we got the Bay Area shelter-in-place order.
In light of the order, my employer strengthened their language to mandatory work from home. To show how Super Serious they were, they also closed down most of the offices. This sounded like a bad time to be living in a truck, so I moved my flight out a few days to assess the situation, and to play house with my girlfriend in her 400 sq ft apartment. After a week of the two of us working from home mere feet apart and me driving her halfway up a wallkiddinghopefully, I headed back to the Bay. That was three days ago, so where does that put me now?
An exclusive sneak peak at United's new Basic Economy Private Jet Class.
Seriously though, there were like 5 people on my DEN -> SJC flight, which is cool, but also stupendously wasteful.
I'm not going to keep you in suspense: I'm at an Airbnb in Oakland. I had originally planned to try and rough it from the truck, but then I realized the gyms on campus were closed (and all gyms in a 50 mile radius for that matter, I checked). This made things difficult for me. You see, the campus gym is my lifeblood: it's got things to pick up and showers, the sum total of which keeps me sane and mostly smell-free.
Now, when I say the gyms were closed, the buildings were technically still accessible; my work badge still opened them. But all of the following conspired against my conscience to keep me out of them:
- Explicit instructions to not use them - Now I'm all for living at the margins of rules and laws, it's basically my pastime. But outright ignoring an explicit instruction from my employer, an instruction with the explicit purpose of keeping people safe and healthy, that didn't seem like the right move.
- Security roaming around at a much higher frequency - I'm not trying to make the security folks' lives any harder (by making them deal with me). I also just don't want to have to explain myself.
Two fun Covid-19 facts - When combined, these facts make me a liability to the gym (and vice versa):
- Healthy people can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus - Meaning I could COVID-up the gym and not even know it.
- It can live on surfaces for 72 hours - Meaning anyone who used the gym three days before me could get me sick, and similarly, I could accidentally get any other rule-breaking gym-goers sick up to three days later.
I think I could have made the truck work, but it wouldn't have been particularly fun: the constant eating out or deluge of meal replacement shakes would have been either expensive or extraordinarily boring and I'm not about to break my "No Food in the Truck" Rule. And with the aforementioned gyms being closed, there weren't a whole lot of reasons to stay put, all of the resources I normally have were gone. So I bit the bullet and got an Airbnb. As someone who owns very little and travels a decent amount, this effectively amounted to moving. I loaded up my car with my work and personal computers, a monitor I
stole borrowed from work, my bike, a few books, five days worth of clothes, and a yoga mat (we'll discuss that later). All together, it looks something like thing:
Left/Top: I'd never actually had to disassemble my bike before, I learned a thing or two about the brake assembly and the anti-theft wheel lock system, the unfortunately named WheelNutz.
Center: My new office for the next week. I always keep a water bottle at my desk, gotta stay hydrated in these trying times. Screens feature me working on this post, for maximum meta-ness.
Right/Bottom: My re-assembled bike and pretty much everything else I own. I borrowed the GameCube controller from the office so my co-workers and I can attempt to play games online together.
I'll be working from here this week and leaving on Saturday, at which point I'll evaluate the situation and likely get another Airbnb somewhere else, perhaps even farther away. Now, here's a potpourri of tangentially related things that should probably be their own posts.
Routine is very important to me. There's lots of research to show that having a solid routine and building good habits has lots of positive ripple effects through the rest of your life. Obviously, working from home for weeks on end or, like me, packing up everything you own and going elsewhere, will necessitate some routine changes. Here's the new routine that I've carved out for myself, effective tomorrow.
4:45 - 5:25 am Wake up. I'm going to try and keep my existing sleep schedule, though it may be harder to leave my cozy new digs than it usually is.
5:30 - 7:30 am (ish) Bike ride. I went through quite a bit to drag my bike here, and I intend to use it. In the absence of strength training equipment, long, scenic bike rides seemed like a decent alternative. It's one of the reasons I picked a place so far away. I've already picked and downloaded my route for Monday morning. From my Airbnb, it's a ~30 mile jaunt around the shorelines of Oakland and Alameda. Since the ride coincides with sunrise, I'm expecting it to be quite pretty.
7:30 - 8:00 am Breakfast. For the first time in a long time, I went grocery shopping for myself. I'm going to attempt to prepare meals without injuring myself or the kitchen.
8:00 am - 4:00 pm Work. Tippy-tapping on keyboards, Important Business Meetings™, all the standard fare, but with more video calling and "I think your microphone is muted" than usual. Food will also be cooked and consumed in this interval.
4:00 - 5:00 pm Yoga. I wanted a clear signal to myself that says "you are now done doing work for the day", and I figured an hour of chill yoga would serve that purpose nicely. It's especially important to me now that my "doing work" and "personal shenanigans" computer areas are the same place. I've done yoga on and off for years, I think it's great for mental health and, for me personally, flexibility, which is key for not injuring yourself when strength training. I lost a bet with a friend a while ago, the net result being that I eventually had to write a post about doing yoga in the truck (titled Troga…eesh). I came very near to doing Troga on Saturday when the gym was closed, but thought better of it and went for a walk instead. This is likely as close as I'll ever get to writing that post.
5:00 - 9:00 pm Assorted debauchery. Errands, books, games, blog posts, and projects.oh my!
9:00 pm - 5:00 am Sleep. Rinse and repeat.
I don't expect to stick to that routine exactly, but I'm going to use it as a strong guideline. Without the normal structure of work, it's easy to either work way too much or way too little, so some gentle bumpers will help here.
Stocks, Stocks, Stocks
I've been told that the global economic system is presently in free fall. In all likelihood, I've lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in monopoly money. Since I'm not retiring for at least the next few years, this doesn't really matter to me. I'm going to continue to do what I've done for the past five years: buy more stock at every opportunity I get.
In fact, stock is on sale right now, so I'm going to get more than usual, which sounds pretty good to me. If you aren't planning on retiring in the near future, you probably shouldn't be panic-selling all your stock, especially if it's in a 401k or similar fund that penalizes early withdrawals.
That's a Generally Bad Idea™.
A while ago, in a Q&A post, I got a question about what I'd do if I got a "debilitating case of viral gastroenteritis", which in retrospect is suspiciously specific. Anyway, I answered thusly:
My primary plan is to rely on my good health, nutrition, exercise, and sleep schedule to prevent debilitating cases of viral gastroenteritis in the first place. But if I were to find myself involuntarily returning the contents of my stomach with regular frequency, I'd probably take off work and grab a hotel room for a few days to sleep it off. Luckily, I get sick pretty infrequently and haven't had to resort to the suite life just yet. Fingers crossed.
And that's pretty much my all-around "getting sick" strategy: hunker down somewhere and ride it out. I'm fortunate in that I rarely get sick (less than once a year), and when I do get sick, it's usually over in a day, and not completely miserable at that. We'll see what COVID-19 has in store.