Wednesday, March 04 2020

work, shyness, and our basement pot farm



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have plenty of coffee to drink on this chilly Wednesday morning.

Despite all my hemming and hawing yesterday about how this was the perfect ultra regular week, I think that may have been wishful thinking on my part. As much as I’d like to have the perfect ultra regular week to counteract last week, this week’s summit is a bit of a shake-up. With several teams represented in a large conference room, visiting from San Francisco, Ireland, and Australia, weeks like this remind me of how shy I really am. While trying to follow along with the discussion, my head was racing trying to remember everyone’s names and roles at the company. To add to the pressure, many of these people have been with the company for as long as I have, and we’ve even worked together remotely in slack conversations and remote meetings. And there’s nothing more embarrassing than introducing yourself to someone who already knows you, and whom you already met with a webcam.

The discussion is good - there’s no replacement for being in the same room, and we’re figuring out a lot of things this week. But the inner introvert in me cries out for space, quiet, and routine.

I had a quiet morning at my desk. Most of my team is either out this week or tied up in work for the Summit. So I had a quiet morning to listen to music, catch up on communications, and take care of some house keeping. I also spent some time reviewing slides for a presentation. This week, as part of my new duties on the engineering onboarding squad in Madison, I’ll be taking a group of new-hires through a complete tour of the Zendesk technical stack. The content is already prepared for me, which is both a blessing and a curse. Of course I didn’t need to do the research and legwork ahead of time, but I still need to memorize the material and be ready to speak along slides that I didn’t create. It’s a new kind of challenge.

For lunch, I stole away to Starbucks and enjoyed a bacon panini and bag of barbecue chips in a corner table. The Starbucks on the square continues to come through as a refuge of isolation, and yesterday I needed some time to think and unwind away from the crowded office teeming with visitors. Maybe the sound of the clunky espresso machine and hissing steam wand behind the bar takes me back to my first job in high school when life was a whole lot simpler. Maybe I just enjoy the fact that most people aren’t aware that Starbucks serves lunch food, and there’s virtually no chance of bumping into somebody from work and getting caught off guard. Whatever the reason, it’s a good spot to post up away from the office and browse reddit on my phone.

After lunch, I was invited to attend an afternoon session at the summit, as the discussion would run tangent to our team’s goals and projects. I grabbed my laptop and headed up to the top floor, waiting around near the door of the conference room for things to reconvene. A friendly face approached me, smiling and offering a hand shake. “Alex! How are you?” he said. My thoughts raced, trying to recall his name.”

Rrrrrrrr…. Rafael!” I exclaimed, grateful that my memory came through under pressure. Rafael is a good friend of mine from the Dublin office, but most of our interaction has been over slack. We chatted for a few moments about Madison, and I muttered something about how he managed to visit while there was snow on the ground - a tired cliche that I’ve been abusing as a buffer amidst all the social pressure.

“I owe you a beer for helping me set up Atlantis,” said Rafael.

“Yeah! Let’s do it, I’ll take you up on that,” I laughed in the last few moments before we filed into the conference room.

Despite the awkwardness, meeting people in real life is a fun way to complete your mental picture of things. The observations I gathered about communication styles, body language, humor, helped add color to my mental model of how the company works overseas.

At quitting time, I ducked out of the office to catch a bus, enjoying the cool weather with a extra walk to the other end of the square. Back at home, Marissa was crashed on the couch, and Rodney was busily playing with toys in his room. Marissa was zapped from watching Rodney and keeping him clear of the electricians installing lights in our basement.

I got Rodney out of his room and we jumped in the car, headed for the grocery store. “How was your day dude?” I asked. I did my best to connect with Rodney about something, but my head was still swimming from work, and Rodney was mentally bouncing around the back seat of the car. “GOOD. HEY, DADA, LIGHTS IN THE BASEMENT… GRRBLGLGHGGRRR…,” continued Rodney, throwing his voice on behalf of Baby Giraffe. “Oh yeah? Tell me about it, baby giraffe” I replied, absent-mindedly.

Back at home, I set Rodney up at the dining room table so Marissa could continue napping on the couch. He resisted at first, wanting to play with toys and jump around in the living room, but after setting up Ninja Turtles on the dining room computer, grabbing his markers and coloring books, and further enticing him to remain there with cold apple juice and some taco chips, he gave in, quietly coloring and snacking while I prepared crunchwrap supremes.

After putting Rodney to bed, Marissa gave me a tour of the basement. The electrician added new lights and light switches. “And remember all the cables along the ceiling? They cleaned those up to!” Marissa said excitedly.

Earlier in slack, Marissa had also told me a funny conversation she had with the electrician. “Were the previous owners of the house really into… plants?” asked the electrician scrupulously. “These outlets in the ceiling are at 38 amps - way higher than a regular outlet.”

“Maybe? The basement windows were all boarded up when we moved in,” replied Marissa.

Though I wasn’t there to witness it, I imagine there was a funny moment of silence between Marissa and the electrician where the realization settled in - the realization that our house was likely formerly used to grow pot in the basement. Looking at the basement now, it makes sense. It’s sort of the perfect basement for that kind of thing, liability aside.

“That’s actually kind of a cool piece of history now,” I said over slack. “Think of everything our house has been through.”

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Hope you have a great day today.