Wednesday, March 18 2020

box forts, difficult conversations, and my trump impression



Dear Journal,

Good morning, brave fellow quarantine-ees. Hope you are feeling healthy and strong this morning. I went to bed last night expecting to wake up to a rainy, dreary day. But instead, it’s snowing outside right now. There’s a beautiful layer of fresh snow on the grass, and it’s still coming down. It’s almost too pretty to be upset about it, and besides - it’s not like we were planning on going anywhere anytime soon. Spring be damned - now I’m rooting for a blizzard.

Sip. Yesterday was a good, full day. In the morning during our team’s stand-up, Zoom was having some issues. So to conserve bandwidth, we all turned off our webcams and just resorted back to audio.

I also learned something new about myself during stand-up. I do a really solid Trump impression, but in order to get into character, my webcam needs to be turned off. As official team business was winding down, using Trump’s voice, I started to spout industry jargon and ramble about what our team was working on.

We are building thousands… thousands, people… thousands of new servers in Amazon Web Services. Jeff Bezos - wonderful guy, great leader, I know him very well - said it’s the most servers they’ve ever seen. Just a beautiful cloud platform they have. And we have built servers in multiple availability zones. Our servers span availability zones, and we are very reliable - folks - very reliable.

Chuckles were heard on the call. The team let me run with my bit for a minute or two. I know the Trump Impression is kind of a tired trope at this point, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally throw my hat in the ring.

After stand-up, I spent some time writing docs and communications before Marissa joined me upstairs for coffee. “Maybe we should make it a rule at coffee time that we don’t talk about coronavirus,” laughed Marissa.

“Hey, I think we should talk about whatever we need to talk about,” I replied. We spent the next few minutes talking about the virus, and things got a little heated. “That was a tough, but necessary conversation,” I said, staring at the wall and breaking the long silence.

“Yeah, I feel close to you right now,” replied Marissa.

I think at a certain point, it’s normal to argue during times like these. With the reality of a global quarantine setting in, everybody is pretty stressed, angry, and depressed about the state of the world. I think now is not the time to question people’s sense of safety or challenge what is important to them. Let people make their own sacrifices around the things they care about, and focus on finding compromises.

I joined Marissa and Rodney in the living room. They were building a box fort. Marissa was cutting notches in the sides for windows, and Rodney was scurrying in and out of the swinging cardboard door. I climbed inside so Rodney could give me the full tour. After carefully climbing out of his fort, I wandered into the kitchen to heat up some leftovers.

After lunch, I attended our first work ‘tea time’ - a regular, open remote meeting set aside to chat and get some social stimulation. It was fun to joke about things and let the small talk naturally develop without worrying about derailing a work agenda. But I was distracted by a follow-up Madison news conference going on.

“People in the YouTube chat are saying they expect a total lockdown,” said Marissa over slack.

“Lol - I don’t know about you, but I’m hiding the youtube chat during this thing,” I replied. Thankfully, Evers didn’t announce a total lockdown, but the restrictions for group gatherings and restaurants were, unsurprisingly, made more strict.

After work, I made a trip to Hy-Vee. This would be our last stock-piling grocery trip, picking up canned fruit, fish, and vegetables - as well as a haul of Marissa’s favorite blueberry muffins. I also managed to scrape the last three boxes of Frozen shaped Mac ‘n Cheese boxes from the back of the aisle. Moments after entering the house with the groceries, Marissa had already broken into the muffins.

“Ah, I figured you were probably jonesin’ for blueberry muffins by now. All we had was the banana nut muffins,” I laughed.

“I was picking out the walnuts too - some of them. You can’t get them all out,” she laughed.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to reiterate my appreciation for grocery stores right now. The people working in grocery stores our heros. I’ve seen the same set of people working each time I’ve been to Hy-Vee - God knows how many hours they’re pulling right now, but I’m thankful for them. Grocery stores are easy to overlook in the good times, when we have restaurants, outdoor patios, and late night take out to amuse us. But I think grocery stores are the heartbeat of a community.

After whipping up some fried rice for dinner, we went upstairs for a remote hangout with my family. Sarah & Philip, Kelly & Jeremy, and my mom & dad joined the call. Rodney eagerly began babbling into the microphone. After a few minutes of chatting, Rodney lost interest and started fiddling around with things in our room, so Marissa put him to bed while I continued chatting. The conversation shifted into some light teasing, as I was the only one who had an external microphone.

“Alex, you are kind of dominating the conversation whenever you talk,” said my mother. I took the opportunity to ham it up, cutting to each person on the call like a radio DJ. Thaaaaat was Jane Recker, thanks for sharing your thoughts, gonna hand it over to Marissa for an update in Madison. Marissa, you’re on the air!

Thanks for stopping by this morning. Whether you are watching a house full of kids who would normally be in school, or you are absolutely alone in an apartment, we’re in this together. Stay informed, but guard your thoughts. Do your best to make each day feel new, and try to be patient with one another.

I have the best readers. Beautiful readers, there are hundreds - maybe thousands of them, I think. Thousands of readers click on my blog every day, and these are smart people. They’re the most brilliant friends and family I know, and these are smart people. We talked about very smart things last night, we did. My parents are good people, last night they told me they met with my sister and had a beer in the driveway staying six feet from each other - beautiful people, wonderful parents. And my family is the greatest family in the world. And my wife is a very tough, very smart woman - she can do anything I think. So much so that I think the deadly’coronaviiiruss doesn’t stand a chance. Not when we have the greatest family in the world behind us.