Today I worked from home, and will be for the next while, same as all my Puppet teammates. Al ordered some groceries and had them arrive just after lunch. Not a full-on prepper load-out: Just some staples that we could have held off on grabbing for a week given current supply levels.
I’m still very happy about the pantry I made out of a dismal space under the stairs in the kitchen, so when I opened the pantry door and the automatic light came on I was pretty happy to have some shelf space to put the extra stuff: Some cans of beans, a jar of peanut butter, a couple of bags of rice.
Then I thought about how I’ve never really thought in “pantry for overflow” terms before. Just hasn’t been in my thinking. Stuff I had a purpose for just went in the cabinet, maybe I’d buy the big package of paper towels or toilet paper, but I never really put away even modest amounts of extra whatever. That has slowly changed with the addition of the pantry.
So I stepped back and just stared at the shelves in there. Lots of canned goods and baking supplies. Cartons of oatmeal. Pasta. Dried beans in nice storage containers. Rice.
One of the shelves is the liquor shelf, and I briefly considered the bottles of Jefferson Reserve and Woodford Reserve as material for a joke about stocking up on the staples. They were gifts from friends at work, one for helping out with a dicey retrospective and one for literally just being me. I can remember a time since Ben was born when the cost of a big bottle of Woodford would have stopped me cold, and there it was, given to me just because someone knew I liked it and wanted me to know I was loved.
So I had a moment where I had this profound sense of safety and contentment.
I’d just done my one deep read of the NYT for the day over lunch, so that sense of safety had to dislodge a feeling of unease and disquiet. One of the folks on my team has a one-month-old baby and had to deal with runs on the supermarkets up in Seattle, and the frightening experience of traffic and lines and crowding being so bad that a 10-minute trip took her over an hour. I had skimmed a crowdsourced Google spreadsheet of tech workers sharing office closure information. I had been thinking all morning about how businesses and local governments have been left to figure this out, and how there’s this palpable sense that the litany of “an abundance of caution for the foreseeable future” is just inviting us all to consider the shapeless, open-endedness of the situation, compounded by the ruinous incompetence of this terrible president and his enablers. I thought about how we’re not sure it’s a great idea to close the schools because a lot of meals and social services flow through them to kids who desperately need them. I thought about working parents who are going to be in a really bad way.
That feeling of contentment had to dislodge all that, and it couldn’t. And good. It shouldn’t. How much luck can a human have? I feel like I’m constantly testing that.
So for a moment I stood there in the pantry staring at the shelves holding both sets of feelings and thoughts in my head. So I sat down on the floor and had a cry about all of it. Relief from feeling safe and content and seeing reminders that I’m cared about and matter to people. Worry and care for people this is going to be incredibly hard on. A building full of well-off tech workers can just disperse to their home offices and ride it out, and maybe this is all just sort of an adventure. But it’s not going to be a fun adventure for a lot of people as we go into a defensive crouch in the face of so much uncertainty and fear. My kid’s set: Solid Wi-Fi in all parts of the house, a Switch with a complete library, and there’s enough flour, sugar, butter, and milk to keep him in pancakes. Other kids will be at home with stressed-out parents who won’t be sure if they can make ends meet. Senate Republicans called guaranteed sick leave a political ploy, accused the Democrats of stuffing their bills with unrelated goodies, then said they’d only approve relief packages if they included stuff about no Federal money for abortions. I wanted to grow wings, fly into the air, and breathe fire down on Washington.
Someone recently told me I was a rock for them: A calming presence who makes it all seem doable. I told a coworker today it is part of my job to be unflappable and unflapped, and so I was. She took a moment to say, “yeah, but how ARE you?” so I described the 😐 mood I have recently added to my mood tracking app that is below “good” and above “meh.” It means “I know what I need to do, am doing it, and do not feel significantly tasked doing so, even if some of what I am doing is stupid or distasteful but needful.”
Anyhow, on the first day of bunkering in the home office, explaining how stock markets and panics work to Ben, laying in an extra jar of peanut butter, and looking at a page of Italian webcams all showing empty or near-empty streets and plazas, that’s me.
I hope you’re all doing as okay as can be. It’ll be fine, but goddamn do we make this all hard on ourselves.