Coronavirus diaries, week 2

The days run into each other. I’ve been cooped up at home for two weeks now, and the situation outside is only getting worse. Hospitals are gearing up for a flood of sick patients, and it remains to be seen if Detroit will suffer a similar dire fate as the likes of Seattle or New York City. All this time to myself has me worried about my own health, the health of my family, and the health of my friends.

A dramatic escalation of social distancing

It didn’t take long for the rest of Southeast Michigan to follow suit and begin isolating themselves at home. The day that I started working from home on Friday, management had an emergency all hands meeting in which they announced that Ford would begin working from home starting Monday, and that all the folks in the office that day needed to grab all the things they needed in order to work from home.

Starting on the 16th, the entire Ford salaried workforce was working remotely. So far, so good; I haven’t had any serious insurmountable issues when it came to getting on the Ford network with the VPN, or getting to my email and documents with the Microsoft O365 cloud.

It felt very weird to crawl out of bed, change into something that wouldn’t embarrass me on a webcam, and “go to work” at a desk that was a mere three feet from my bed. I do my best to use video when I’m doing my teleconferences, using my cell phone as both the audio and the camera for my WebEx meetings, and it makes me happy when I see others using their cell phones and webcams to transmit video too.

Rearranging my den

After two weeks of working in my bedroom, I decided that I needed to move my working space to a different part of the house. I spent most of Sunday rearranging the furniture in the den, finishing the new “remodel” with a trip to the local Wal-Mart for an area rug and some new lamps. Where the couch once sat, up against the wall underneath the wide den window, I’ve put my desk. The coffee table, now sitting on 6″ post risers and full of tools and other things as my makeshift watchmakers bench, is up against the wall, replacing a chair and an end table.

I moved the chair up into my bedroom, as I really don’t have any other good place to put it. The sofa is still in the den, now sitting with its back to the sound system and camera cabinets. It’s not a good place for it; there’s enough space for me to work the stereo receiver and listen to music, but I can’t open the camera cabinet doors or pull out any of my records. I’m thinking that the sofa will eventually get punted to the garage, or perhaps I’ll sell it or give it away to someone.

As of right now, there’s only two seating positions in the den: the office chair at my desk, and the chair plus foot rest sitting next to my bookshelves. I’ve been thinking that since I really never have guests over, I could just permanently make the den a “hobby room” and forget about the idea of entertaining people downstairs. We’ll see how I like the arrangement over the coming work week…

Grocery shopping

I’ve never been a fan of the grocery delivery apps that Darrien is so enamored with, but I can’t deny that the delivery services are very handy right now. For the past two weeks, I’ve done no grocery shopping at all. Part of that is the fact that I bought about one and a half weeks of groceries right before the supermarkets descended into madness, so I’ve had plenty to cook with, but the other part of it is the fact that Darrien is essentially doing all the grocery shopping for me — and paying for the groceries too.

The first time I’d walked into a store was this Sunday, when I needed an office floor protector for my office chair and some new lamps for the den. I got my office stuff, and then walked over to the grocery side of the store to take a look. Darrien asked that I go buy some disinfectant, but the cleaning supply aisle was pretty much wiped clean. That’s what I get for going to Wal-Mart at 7:30 in the evening, an hour before the store closes.

Just walking around the store irritated my eyes. I chalked it up to fumes from the constant cleaning that was taking place in the store. The store was sparsely populated, with the store workers making up nearly a third of the people in the store. A few people had on masks, one or two people had on gloves, but most people didn’t bother with a mask or gloves. I didn’t bring a mask or gloves myself — just a small bottle of hand sanitizer that I’d use whenever I felt the need.

I walked out of the store and noticed that the parking lot was full of these mobile security camera trailers. They looked like those small generator and light trailers that you’d see in night time construction work zones, but instead of blindingly bright lights, they had a pair of security camera orbs, and a massive solar panel hanging off the side. Why the need to watch every inch of the parking lot? It all added up to a very dystopian gut feeling.

Markets are going nuts

At one point last week, the stock market was down nearly 30% from its high this year. Just for shits and giggles, I logged into my 401k to see what the damage was. I had lost $80k in total through the market drop. That’s the most money I’ve ever lost in such a short period of time.

Oh well. Since I’m not spending any money on racing right now, I went ahead and bumped up my 401k contributions.

My father, ever the opportunist, decided to send me some of the cashed out equity from my stake in the family real estate business to invest in the market dip. I’ve got a check for a lot of money waiting to clear in my bank account that will get dumped into the stock market. While I’m glad that my father and I see the same opportunity in the markets, I’m taken aback by his laser focus on making money right now when there are seemingly other things to worry about. It probably explains why he became a successful entrepreneur while I’m working for The Man.

The past few days have seen a quick market rally, but I’m all but certain that it’s a dead cat bounce. Unemployment claims are through the fucking roof in a way never ever before seen in history, and the White House finally admitted that stay-at-home orders should run through the end of April, so there’s no way that the economy isn’t going to keep taking a drubbing. I wonder how far the market can go. 40%? Maybe even 50%?

If the economy stays shut down well into summer, things are gonna get even worse than they are now, which is hard to imagine, as things are already so bad now. I’ve seen some Facebook fundraisers for friends of friends who are artists who are unable to perform or teach and have rent payments coming due in expensive places like Los Angeles. My favorite restaurant and guilty pleasure, Bangkok 96, is no longer open for carry out as far as I know, as I called on Friday and no one picked up the phone. I’m hoping that all of my favorite racing suppliers and auto shops are still around once the pandemic is over, as there’s no racing going on right now, and probably won’t be until the second half of the year. Even then, if the all clear is given and the world slowly returns back to normal, how much appetite will there be for something as discretionary as racing when people will be looking to rebuild their savings and careers?