Shelter in Place!

Every time there’s one of these darn global pandemics, new terms and phrases emerge. Back in 1918 during the global flu pandemic, it was “Isolate yourselves!” “Use disinfectant!” “Shower once in a while!”


These days it’s “Practice social distancing!” “Shelter in place!” “Stop hoarding all the toilet paper!”

For those of you that have traditional jobs at traditional places, being forced to work from home might have seemed like a fun change of pace. Until you actually had to do it.


Our oldest son lives in northern California; sadly, he works in the restaurant industry. His restaurant is shut down until further notice and his kids’ schools are closed. He is now a S.I.P. Dad, homeschooling two of his own kids, one in kindergarten and one in 6th grade. What follows is an actual recent conversation on our family text thread:


ME: How did your first day of teaching kindergarten go, J! (Chuckling to myself) Just think, on Thursday, you can start teaching 6th grade too!


J: It didn’t go well. This stuff takes forever! I don’t have the patience. G can teach herself and can also take over as E’s teacher.


ME: Oh, lucky E!


J: Teacher sent wrong link for math video. Made E watch a 25 minute video of the wrong thing. It did give me a chance to clean up the kitchen though.


ME: Laughing emojis and more laughing emojis with tears.


J: I want to jump out this window.


My wife has worked from home for the past 34 years. I joined her about 20 years ago, so we have a lot of experience sheltering in place. It was pretty easy when we lived in a 7,500 square foot house in Wisconsin with a big office and plenty of work space. Now, we live in a 1,500 square foot condo in Florida. Our desks are right next to each other. Remember the old AT&T commercial that said, “Reach out and touch someone?” We can literally do that.


I’ve worked for and with a lot of different people over the years. When it comes to getting along with bosses, co-workers, and others in authority (including my spouse), I’ve come to learn that there’s one principle and one principle only that has allowed me to survive: Keep my mouth shut and do what I’m told.


Last night, I failed to follow that simple principle. My wife had a very important video conference call that was being broadcast to thousands of people all over the country. Typically, when she has a video call, she asks me to be very quiet and work in one of the bedrooms during that time. I was working in our guest bedroom as requested. Halfway through her call, I needed to get something from the kitchen. I quietly opened the door and peeked out. Then I quietly tip-toed into the kitchen. My wife has self-diagnosed A.D.D., so like a distracted predator, she noticed the movement out of the corner of her eye and looked up at me. I froze momentarily before quietly opening the freezer to remove a bottle. That bottle clinked against another bottle and I froze again. I quietly opened the cupboard to get a bowl down. I took the bag of chips on the counter and tried to quietly open the bag. The crinkling noise of the bag could just as well have been a shotgun blast. It seemed that loud. I froze again before taking my provisions back to the bedroom. She looked up at me again, and if looks could kill…


Needless to say, things got tense after her call. I will bring down the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene.


Truth be told, we both love working from home, so being told to shelter in place doesn’t change our routine much at all. Granted, we have totally different work styles. I’m what’s called an ‘ordered thinker.’ Before I can get anything done, I like to have things neat and tidy and orderly. This is my work space:



My wife, on the other hand, jumps from task to task throughout the day. She has piles everywhere. Notes, calendars, electronics, pens and pencils, water bottles and Kleenex boxes scattered about. This is her work space:



This global pandemic will end at some point. The rest of the country will head back to work in offices, factories, restaurants and hotels. We will still be here, sitting next to each other, sheltering in place forever.


Nobody Told Me by John Lennon just popped up on my playlist. Strange days; strange days indeed!

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