�Ơ This is my second publication in my series on Covid. Check out the previous post here.
Furor over the virus was growing the past month. The university and other more liberal (or government funded) facilities began shutting down in early March.
Trump was talking about the virus spreading from China and I believe he closed off travel from there. China closed off Wuhan and did not allow commerce or travel to or from the region. The media eviscerated Trump for this action, calling him racist and xenophobic. By mid-March I think most international flights had been canceled.
I had started at Epic near the end of 2014 and had a lot of friends who were planning on taking their 5-year sabbaticals in the Spring of 2021 and had to cancel them.
Near the end of March, I remember news reports and rumors that the virus had been engineered by Chinese researchers, and inadvertently leaked out into the world. I believe (but am not entirely sure) the Trump administration openly brought up this possibility as well, with Trump defending his actions of closing the borders to China around this time.
Soon thereafter though, the media turned against this idea, effectively presenting anyone who supported the lab leak theory as a racist conspiracy theorist.
Reflecting on this media frenzy calling the Trump administration comments about the virus being engineered racist.
I think the media really screwed the American people in this scenario (amongst many in which I felt their reporting has been irresponsible during the pandemic), by allowing their political agenda, bias, or other motivations to cloud true investigative journalism.
Respected scientists were painted as conspiracy theoriesby the media or other scientists for even conceding the possibility of the lab leaktheory.
Almost a year later it has been shown that very early data (that is still seen to be trustworthy and precise data) contains significant evidence that the virus was possibly manufactured by humans and subsequently inadvertently leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
By Mid-March, Epic was one of the last firms in Dane County that had non-essential (i.e. corporate) employees coming into the office. I’m unsure (or don’t recall) if they relented and allowed people to work remotely due to county ordinance or of their own volition, but my assumption is the former.
As soon as my employer notified us we could work remotely, I packed up my car and drove to Cincinnati. My home in Madison felt depressing. Of my five roommates:
- One left and bought a house
- Two lived outside of the home with their significant others
leaving just Bedania and I (which was fun, and we got a lot closer during this time, but we did work on different hours of the day, so I sat home, by myself, with very little to do).
The following week, Epic announced through a series of cryptic and increasingly clear emails, that employees working remotely needed to do so from Madison. I chose to stay with my family, where I felt safe, a part of a community and not entirely isolated from the world.
I am going to omit the vast majority of details from the saga of my employer’s attempt to control the location from which we worked, but in summary, this was an episode of my life that incurred (unnecessary) extreme stress, ethical dilemmas over the correct course of action, and an outcome that, while in my favor, made me determined to never treat employees as my employer treated me.
Mid-March – June 2020
Life in Cincinnati
Enjoying the little things
I really enjoyed being home in Cincinnati these 3-4 months. After dealing with the fallout of working from Cincinnati rather than Madison, I had little vested interest in my remaining time at Epic, and determined to focus on starting my company, enjoying my time in Cincinnati, and hanging out with Molly, Connor, and my parents.
We had a blast.
During this time I built my own bow and arrows.
We started a garden together.
My mom and I nursed a bird back to health (mostly).
We played lots of board games.
And had plenty of drinks (definitely too many).
While I’m still working off the weight I gained during this time period (and mad at myself for allowing it) I have no regrets. I think my experience here was emblematic of sentiments a lot of families had during Covid, enjoying the slowing down of society, more time spent with family members, and appreciating the little things in life.
My dad and I watched a lot of “Forged in Fire”–learning all about iron forging and knife making. I really appreciated getting to know Connor’s girlfriend and the three of us taking walks together, gossiping about the neighbors etc.
During our time in my parent’s neighborhood, the cul de sac had a little get together where all the neighbors sat outside and had drinks. A neighbor at the far end of the neighborhood played his bagpipe every day at 6:00 and many families would come out with a few drinks to watch him for 15 minutes or so.
It was a lot of very small intimate get togethers that were not so common before the pandemic, and I assume less common following it, but it really was a great time.
The Beginning of Masks
I’d estimate sometime in April Anthony Fauci and the CDC began to officially promote masks. I remember going to Home Depot with my dad, Molly & Connor and our mom made us where two masks, an N95 (we had a bunch from sanding work) and a bandana over the mask…according to my mom to keep that mask clean…it didn’t make any sense from the start.
People were kind of staring at us, as most people in the line at that time didn’t have their masks on, and I remember my Dad’s dreaded acceptance that he needed to comply with my Mom’s recommendation and enforce our compliance. I felt very stupid.
Home Depot had at this time instituted a cap on the number of people in the store, and had personnel with clickers at the entrance and at the exit of the store to track how many individuals were in the store at each time. The line spanned the length of the whole parking lot (which isn’t small) as people tried to give room for one another and avoid spreading the virus.
I remember there being confusion in how to visit the seedlings which were on the exterior of the store, but not lose our place in line to get into the store, and my dad giving a worker a hard time for berating us.
Living at home with my parents, I didn’t have that many occasions to get outside and experience the early months of Covid, as my mom or dad did most of the shopping etc..
Pretty much from the get go, the beliefs held by the media, the population, and the politicians seemed to be divided amongst party lines–Democrats wanting to shut down the economy and jobs, and Republicans wanting to allow employees the choice to work or not.
In private and in small groups, it seemed like people didn’t care about Covid. We had our neighbors over to our house, and they had us over to theirs for long nights of drinking, Euchre, and potluck meals. I never felt endangered during this time, and I didn’t really even know anyone with or who had even had Covid.
It felt very far away.
Sometime in June my employer was really pushing to have employees come back to the office beginning mid-July. I made plans to return back to Madison to enjoy the summer with my soon to be girlfriend Margaret, and to start returning to the office.