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Day 16:The Day We All Became Epidemiologists

4/23/2020 (Permalink)

The number of expert epidemiologists has risen 3,000,000% in the last 45 days. Traditionally, this is an academic career path that takes nearly a decade of studying, a keen sense for numbers and statistics, requires tremendous discipline and patience and extreme focus. Esteemed within the public health community, these professionals investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in human populations. Prior to the outbreak, I knew what an epidemiologist did in general terms but I had never talked to one, didn’t know one and had probably never used the word ‘epidemiology’ in a sentence. In the last month and half, I have met and talked to dozens of them. They have honed their craft over the last month by skipping the traditional 7 -10 years of education for 60-second sound bites and regurgitating headlines. Why read the article when you can get the gist from these great memes? I jumped on the bandwagon too and registered for a six-week online course, “Learn the Complexities of Virus Origins, Mutations and Vaccines to Cure Them." They guarantee you pass or your money back. Three easy payments of $49.99, couldn’t turn it down. I cannot even begin to count the number of mistakes I have made in my business. Once I bought an F350 for $4,000 and sold it two weeks later for $700. (Turns out you should check for oil leaks.) I paid a monthly software subscription for three years that we never used – not once. (Turns out watching money literally burn would have been a better use.) I have sent crews to Ohio for flooding in residential basements. Turns out if you live in Florida, there is no reason to go to Ohio for anything. All of this to say, the recovery and the people leading the efforts are going to be challenged, make mistakes and it will not be perfect -- but it will all be okay. The path to any outcome is generally not linear. On the bright side, Ohio is off my bucket list, and in five weeks I can give you an accredited opinion on the virus and pending vaccine.

Day 15: The Day My Zoom Reflection Made Me Reflective

4/22/2020 (Permalink)

The idea of the Zoom or Microsoft Teams conference video is to provide live stream with colleagues to make it feel like a real live meeting, where people are having conversations and collaborating. However, everyone appears to be staring at their own self. After a month of these calls, I am still trying to figure out why everyone else’s head looks so big on the screen but my head looks small in the picture. Does my head look big on their screen or is there something wrong with my head? Those thoughts quickly shift to thinking about the bags under my eyes accentuated by these office fluorescent lights- can we do something about this? And then I move on to, ‘Why am I wearing pants right now anyway?’ A friend warned from personal experience, if you don’t wear pants, make sure a mirror is not behind you – good tip. My early studies conclude it is not just me. The deadpan straight-ahead look is on almost everyone’s face. These studies are finding people are just trying to mask over the fact that they binged on “Ozark” Season 3 last night until 1 a.m. and they are just hoping to get through the call without having to participate. These early studies also suggest as the Pandemic Groundhog Days keep churning, blow-up dolls will soon take the place of people, just to see if anyone notices or, better yet, if anyone cares. A friend told me if you angle the camera just right, you can slide your phone under the camera, hit the mute button and complete your grocery list on Shipt all while appearing completely engaged. My studies have not confirmed this as fact. This seems like an advanced technique, more of a pro’s pro kind of move. So, if you see me driving down the road and I appear to be in a complete trance, just know it is not you nor it is personal, I am probably just on a Zoom hangover. Feel free to snap me out of it just don’t say anything about the bags under my eyes – I have already seen them in glaring light. On the bright side, the Bucs are rumored to sign Gronk. All is good in the world.

Day 13: The Day I Licked Cheetos Dust Off My Fingers

4/21/2020 (Permalink)

I am not sure how the idea started; it felt innocent enough when I was first approached and quickly signed off on the deal. A few days passed, I didn’t think much about it and then one day I walked in and there it was plugged in and ready for my money. The first time I walked by it, I swear I heard a whisper that said, 'Put your apple down and get a bag of Cheetos.' Our office has a vending machine. Hopes of not gaining the COVID 19 diminishes with each quarter dropped into its reservoir. A bag of Cheetos is only 50 cents and its RIGHT there. With no one in the office to observe and judge my intake, I have had more than my far share as of late. I can even be disgusting and lick the powder cheese without anyone seeing – the definition of freedom. Turns out one vending machine is not enough, you cannot have snacks without drinks. So we have a drink machine too. All the soda and energy drinks you can imagine and it even offers Yoo-hoo. Nothing reduces stress like chocolate water sweetened with corn syrup. During this time of quarantining we are thinking about the things we could accomplish. You know, "I am going to start doing (insert here)." It is a like New Years Goal in April. With Tom Brady coming to town, I ordered the TB12 book. I figure now is a good time to start. There is not a single food item within the vending machine that meets the TB12 standards. I was doomed before I started. I did read an article that said it is okay not to do much during the crisis other than survive – I am nailing that, my kind of goal. I read this in The New York Times – so there has to be some credibility, right? On the bright side, my boys think the vending machine is the coolest thing they have ever seen. I now have three bucks in quarters at all times in my truck, so feel free to stop by to commiserate with a guilt-free Coke and a bag of Cheetos on me. Just stay your distance and don’t lick the powdered cheese off your fingers -- because no one wants to see that. -JG

Day 14: The Day I Considered Corona's Impact on N-95 Couture

4/21/2020 (Permalink)

In the restoration and remediation industry, we have been wearing N-95 particulate respirators for years and systematically include them in our regular supplies. The masks have always been slightly uncomfortable, hot and not flattering. Over the years, I have seen people wear them upside down, with one strap around their head instead of two, and on their forehead because it was too hot and what’s a few mold spores going do to me anyway. Hard to argue with that logic, I mean how much harm could a few microscopic particulates do to a person. This is where I insert the hand hitting the forehead emoji. I see people in their cars with windows rolled up, air conditioning cranking, radio jamming and a mask around their face. I wonder if they know something I don’t. I am excited though, maybe COVID-19 will do to the respirator industry what Uber did to the taxi-cab industry. The bland hospital white look that screams, ‘there must something wrong with that guy,’ could be replaced with something much cooler. I am not creative enough to know what that is, but I know the bar is so low it would be hard to be disappointed with any attempt. Get Nike or Yeti or someone like that involved and we have a chance for something better, I think. Anyway, in the meantime, I will keep doing my part and wearing my N-95 in public like it is Halloween. In case you see me driving around with it on, roll down the window and wave. Just know that I want to talk to you, it is not personal but it hurts my jaw too much with it on. I wonder if they make children’s sizes for the house.

Day 9: The Day I Taught My Son to Bump Elbows

4/16/2020 (Permalink)

Day 9 In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he can see a future where we do not shake hands anymore. I know people who, prior to the pandemic, would only fist or elbow bump to say hi. I thought it was weird but I guess they were ahead of their time. Heck, before all of this, I had no issues with a Golden Corral buffet – but now I am thinking twice. In our business, we are inside many properties; most are fairly clean and organized, but some not as much. We all have a lot of stuff, but some have more than others – I try not to judge. All of this makes me think the service industry may never be the same after COVID-19. Perhaps in the future our team will begin a project by setting containment areas around all work areas to protect everyone while we work. Meaning, by design we do not have much interaction with our client and we seal off the area we are working in regardless of the service being provided. Will air scrubbers, with the HEPA filters that can remove particulates as tiny as 0.3 microns from the air, be required in work spaces? If an employee calls out sick, for any reason, does this mean they stay home for two weeks? I guess we all have to wait and see what happens. On the bright side, if I see you at the Golden Corral, life is back to normal. This is my new barometer on normal – will I eat at the Corral? So when we dip our strawberry into the same chocolate trough, just as the previous 139 (hygienic) people before us did, just know that I want to shake your hand – but an elbow bump will have to do, you know, because our hands will be full with plates of chocolate strawberries.

Day 10: The Day

4/16/2020 (Permalink)

Day 10 I can verify that, despite COVID-19, every company’s A/R (accounts receivable) department is up running smoothly right now. The invoices are printed almost ahead of schedule, then mailed, emailed, faxed and texted to you. On the other hand, the A/P (accounts payable) departments appear to be having major technical difficulties – does COVID-19 affect the ability to print checks to pay bills? (Really guys, I saw it on the Internet – the virus can smear ink! JUST JOKING) Trying to get ahold of anyone in an accounts payable department at a mortgage company, for example, is like changing a diaper. You are kind of used to the process and do not think it will be that bad, only to realize this next experience is worse than you could imagine, makes you wonder how it was even possible to reach this level and you think about your life choices for a second. Once you do get through to someone, chances are they are just taking messages. This person always makes me feel confident the message is taken accurately and sent with urgency to the exact person I was seeking. So, for now, we will keep sending emails and leaving messages. On the bright side, the Bucs signed Tom Brady. Life is good. -Jeremy George

Day 11: The Day Someone Sneezed Four Times

4/16/2020 (Permalink)

Day 11 They had to come inside. Outside the front door they stood, clutching a check and looking earnest, kind even. Under normal circumstances, they could turn the door handle and walk right inside. But in the Covid-19 world, I had to unlock the deadbolt myself. Through the glass door I made eye contact – they appeared ok so I turned the key. The check was surrendered without issue, and then they did something unconscionable. It was beyond belief. They sneezed. Not just once, but four times. (In case you can’t picture it: “Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!”) Two months ago, I probably would have said, ‘Bless you’ (I actually do not know why I say this), offered a tissue and forgotten about the incident. Today however... I wanted to channel my inner Hulk and heave them through the glass window that I had just looked through and decided they were ok. I thought horrible thoughts about their character, I made judgments about their values and sense and I contemplated giving them their check back. (I quickly got over the last part and made the deposit with ease.) As a sneezer myself, I realize my life will probably never be back to normal. I have tried to hold a sneeze in, but the inner forces always win and somehow create what is now considered a disgusting hand. I suppose I could sneeze in my mask but that seems potentially messy too. I get it, I do not want to be around us sneezers either – sneeze at home, weirdo! Anyway, on the bright side, you can still bring your sneeze-riddled checks to the office but you just have to put it under the front mat while we stare at you from the glass window, in a non-judgmental way of course. If you need a tissue, just ask: We will crack the door enough to offer you one, just try not to touch the box. Or sneeze. --Jeremy George

Day 12: The Day My Wife Asked What I'm Doing Online All The Time

4/16/2020 (Permalink)

Day 12 I’m a little worried. My searches on Craigslist, AutoTrader, Ebay – you know, the hours I pore over the website at night after my early-bird wife falls asleep, am I the only one? – are becoming more and more random the longer this situation drags on. I believe I am looking for things, I am not sure what things but things that could potentially help our business. So far, I have looked at a pizzeria for sale in St. Pete, someone who had 9 paint sprayers with 17 ladders and another guy with a bucket truck. None of these are helpful to me but I did text two sellers to see if the items were still available. For anyone interested in a pizza shop or a bucket truck, I know a couple guys. In this era of social distancing, the bucket truck might make for a nice delivery vehicle. Over the years I have found some success with these searches. We now own dump trailers, portable storage units, a flatbed trailer, a couple of box trucks, an F150 and two forklifts -- thanks to past late night searches. I mean, why would you only have one forklift when you can have two? Not every online purchase is a winner. I did buy what I thought was a tow-behind smoker off the side of a guy’s house for $200. I had to put in another $800 to make it safe to pull around, and turns out it is a grill and not a smoker. I use it once a year. When our first son was born, I wanted to get Nora the best breast pump available. So obviously, you would search CL – right? I found what I thought was a steal of a deal. I drove to arguably the worst part of Tampa to the house, where three looking dudes were hanging out outside and immediately realized the deal was not the “steal” so to speak. I was happy to pay and get back into my truck as fast as possible. Anyway, I hope the COVID-19 pandemic passes sooner than later so I do not find myself looking into that plasma cutting equipment I saw. On the bright side, with all this time, we are going to look into retro-fitting the grill into a smoker this week for about $600 and we should have some ribs going on Friday. Feel free to stop just stay your distance. — JG

Day 7: The Day No One Else Was Around

4/8/2020 (Permalink)

Day 7, 5:59 p.m Struggled a little bit today… I like people. I like being around people, I like talking to people and I like interacting with people. I consider myself a people person. I know a lot of different kinds of people and not all of them are ‘people people.’ The longer this drags on, I am starting to understand their thought process more. People I have found, in general, can have a lot of needs. One of my favorite George Carlin rants is when he talks about people’s needs in a way only he could: “We hear this all the time now, ‘My needs aren’t being met.’ You know what I tell them? Drop some of your needs.” If only it were that simple. For now though, the roads are empty, the office is empty, the phone calls are slower than normal and I am wondering when do I get to see all the people again? In the short term, I will handle the silence but look forward to people’s needs, interactions and laughter. I am not sure when this over but until the national TP shortage has ended, the office will remain empty because that is one need that cannot be dropped.

Day 8: The Day No One Laughed

4/8/2020 (Permalink)

Day 8

They have all been exposed.

Every one of them.

The smiles, the chuckles, even the belly laughs...

Each morning, we hold the Work-In-Progress meeting, and until last week they happened around a white table in our conference room. I cannot help myself from making a joke or two. Admittedly, some of the attempts at humor are not good, but complete bombs are rare – at least that is what I thought.

The in-person meeting brings at least a few laughs, but attempting jokes on Zoom meetings is a different beast. They generate nothing. I think everyone might have been pretending to laugh the whole time. Maybe it was just a pity laugh - ugh, the worst kind.

In their defense, they have a variety of excuses to choose from to explain the crickets. “I did laugh but I was on mute and by the time I could unmute the subject had moved on.” Or, “I was laughing but the internet connection was unstable and I had to reboot my internet browser,” “I accidentally hit ‘leave meeting’ because I was laughing so hard,” “You cannot see me laughing because my hand is in front of my face and I am muted.”

Lastly, “No, you are right I am not laughing because it was not funny anyway and it is annoying being on this Zoom call wishing three other people on this call would understand what the mute button actually accomplishes so forgive me, nothing is actually funny right now.”

All this time I misread the crowd, I guess they really are the more serious type. Maybe I should look into introducing complex spreadsheets into our Zoom meeting and ask everyone to take part in explaining a different section. That actually sounds worse.

On the bright side, without all the fake laughs, now our WIP meetings should really zoom.

Terrible, I know. I do see their point, I have to get better.