unexpectedly three in the office
Tuesday, May 5 2020
There will soon be a paroled prisoner living in our basement, and once that happens, Gretchen will never have any alone time. So today I decided to give her some by driving to the office in Red Hook and working from there. I took the Nissan Leaf, which had about 95 miles left in the battery when I set out. At the last second, Gretchen gave me a bag of old toilet brushes to dump in the office dumpster.
Crossing the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, I had no EZPass for the Leaf (which still has a temporary tag — and likely will for months, until DMVs are open again). So I was forced to pay the toll in cash, my first use of physical money since early March. The toll taker wore a mask and gloves. He took my two dollars and handed me back a quarter. I held that quarter in my hand all the way to the office, regarding it and the hand around it suspect for that entire time. I didn't feel good about it until I'd gone to the restroom in the back of the office complex and washed my hands (and that quarter) in hot soapy water.
A few cars showed up in the parking lot in addition to mine, though all the other businesses seemed to be operating with skeleton crews at most. I walked past Chicken Hawk Racing's small factory floor (where they make specialty tire heating systems for race cars) and saw just one guy in there. I think there was also a single employee at the wealth advisory office.
My plan today was to make as little use of public space as possible, though I felt pretty safe about the surfaces within the office, since they probably hadn't been touched by anyone in days (the last person there, I thought, had been Alex). I quickly found a 64 oz peanut jar to piss into, which meant I would only need to go to the bathroom for numero dos.
I was settled into my workday, hacking away at a vexing Linux problem (since I am the only in-house person with Linux knowledge) when the office door swung open and in walked Alex, my boss! He was there to do a tax import (using the importer that I wrote), since he can't figure out how to do one over the VPN. He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. He also seemed sort of disappointed. "You were hoping for some alone time?" I asked. He admitted that he was. I quickly explained that Gretchen's need for alone time was the reason I was there. From the way he's described things, Alex's house doesn't afford much privacy at all. He's got at least one of his adult children living there with him and his wife, and it's not like there is a nearby forest or outbuilding they can retreat to. And periodically an Amtrak passenger train hurtles past in a frightening display of the doppler effect. That train has killed at least two of Alex's dogs over the years. Alex was so unprepared to see other people that he hadn't even brought his mask. For my part, I would never leave home without one (unless Gretchen we only have one and Gretchen has taken it, which can no longer happen).
Not long after that, the office door opened again and this time it was Marcus who had arrived. He'd come hoping to find an empty office and was a little disappointed to find us there. His reason for coming was that he's been finding it impossible to get work done at his house in Pine Plains, where he lives with a one year old baby and a recently-furloughed wife (who, like many unemployed people these days, is getting more from unemployment than she got when she had a job). Other things I learned in the course of the banter that followed was that two of the youngest members of Marcus' team had come down with Covid-19. Though now recovered, one of them had missed a fair amount of work as a result.
As for the three of us being together in the office at the same time, it was easy for us to give each other plenty of social distance. Furthermore, we'd all been sequestered for weeks and it was likely none of us were sick. Still, if one of us actually had the coronavirus, it's likely the clunky old HVAC system overhead would've spread the contagion throughout the space and we'd have to depend on the dilutive power of the air's sheer volume (which, in that high-ceilinged space, is substantial).
Alex's tax imports went faster than expected, so he left after only a couple hours. And then Marcus went for bike ride. As for me, I drove the Leaf to the center of Red Hook in hopes of making a copy of the office key for our third car's keychain. But I found the small hardware store there closed for the rest of the pandemic. I then walked around the corner to the Sipperley's Grog Shoppe in hopes of buying some booze, but when I saw it was only doing curbside service, it seemed too complicated (I would want to browse the selection). So I gave up, for the time being, on commerce in the village.
Down at William's Lumber, I found the place surprisingly busy. Everyone was wearing masks, of course, though many of the employees were wearing bandanas over their faces as if they were in the process of performing a stick-up. (Stick-ups are probably easier to pull off these days as a result.) Ie easily got a key made and an outdoor electrical box (for when I wire up a new 240 volt charging station for the Nissan Leaf).
Next I stopped at the Red Hook Hannaford for some important supplies like stand 'n' stuff taco shells, corn chips, orange juice, mushrooms, and two bottles of diphenhydramine. I didn't bother buying beer so I could go through the automatic checkout, minimizing my human interaction.
At the end of the day, I phoned an order for carry-out from the Red Hook Yum Yum, the first time I'd ever given them any business. I ordered the Asian-style Impossible Burger, Korean tacos, dumplings, and kale salad (that last one strictly for Gretchen). Yum Yum was strict about pandemic rules, and I had to call from the sidewalk to get my bag of goodies.
Back at the house, Gretchen was delighted that for once I'd been the one to get take-out. Though it was a bit chilly for it, we ate our dinner out on the east deck. I'd been unable to find any recent episodes of Jeopardy! to watch while we ate.
I've been paying close attention to the Johns Hopkins United States coronavirus map, particularly the view that color-codes the number of infections of each county in the United States (since I have a good memory of how it looks from day to day). I've been particularly interested in the days upon which the last of the counties of a state turn red, meaning that each has at least 300 known infections. So far, that had only been the case for Delaware. But today, the last county (Salem) in New Jersey turned red. The next two states to change will probably be Massachussetts (Franklin County will be the last to change), followed soon by Connecticut (Windham County). Rhode Island will take much longer, but it will probably be next after them (when Newport and Bristol Counties each get 150 or so more cases).
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