Day 72 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

At about noon there was a knock on our door. I looked through the peephole and didn’t see anyone. I assumed it was a delivery left in front of the door as it is usually done these days. I opened the door and there they were – Bert and Ernie sitting there looking up at me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 Live to Blog from the Laundry Room

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation in the Time of COVID-19 – #alonetogether

Thank you for allowing me to stray from the drivel track yesterday. I had to get it off my chest. I’ve been thinking a lot about character and ethics recently – for reasons I’ll explain below. Now, back to the drivel.


Idiocy Abounds!

When we last heard from Bert Left and Ernie Right, they were refusing to come in off the deck. There has already been so much loss and sadness in our world that I had been waiting for the right moment to tell you that Bert and Ernie had been lost. Last Friday morning I went to the deck to try to coax them back onto my feet but they were gone. There had been a strong breeze all Thursday and well into the night. I assumed they had been blown off the deck and were lying about somewhere in the Maryland National Memorial Cemetery, about a 100 yards from our house. I didn’t want to trespass over the holiday weekend but decided I’d go hunting for them today.

But I didn’t have to. At about noon there was a knock on our door. I looked through the peephole and didn’t see anyone. I assumed it was a delivery left in front of the door as it is usually done these days. I opened the door and there they were – Bert and Ernie sitting there looking up at me.

  • Ernie: Hey, bonehead! It’s about time you opened the door.
  • Me: Bert! Ernie! I thought you had been lost! How’d you get here?
  • Ernie: Nah, we ain’t lost. We know exactly where we are.
  • Bert: The Uber driver dropped us up here. Nice lady! But you should give us a key, you know.
  • Me: Uber driver?!? What were you doing in an Uber?
  • Bert: We had a little trip.
  • Ernie: Yeah, we got tired of just hanging on the deck and we definitely did not want to get back on your smelly feet.
  • Bert: So we went on a little trip.
  • Me: Oh really? How’d you get off the deck?
  • Bert: We just wiggled out of the clips and the wind carried us gently to the ground. Then we called an Uber.
  • Ernie: And the Uber took us to Ocean City, baby!
  • Me: Wait…you’re telling me you went to Ocean City? To be the beach? When did this happen?
  • Ernie: Real early Friday morning. We had all weekend at Ocean City!
  • Bert: Yeah, all weekend, bonehead, and it was great. You should’ve seen all the gorgeous yoga and tennis socks over there! Hey, Ernie, what was that cute little striped number’s name again?
  • Ernie: You mean Chloe? Or was that Maria? No, wait, it was Keisha, yeah, that’s right…Keisha! Oh man, she was somethin’ bonehead, but she wasn’t your type, you like wool socks.
  • Me: Are you guys telling me you spent the whole weekend on the beach?
  • Bert: Yeah, what’s it to you, bonehead?
  • Me: What’s it to me? You’ve got to be kidding! What’s it to me? Tell me something, did either of you geniuses wear masks and keep six feet apart from people?
  • Ernie (giggles): Hey, Bert, did you wear a mask and keep your distance from Keisha?
  • Bert (giggles back): Oh, yeah, Ernie I stayed just as far away from her as you stayed from Yvette.
  • Bert and Ernie erupt in laughter.
  • Me: Okay, I get it. So you did the same thing alot of other Stupid People did over the holiday right?
  • Bert: C’mon man, you’re really too uptight about this thing. I mean, jeez, it’s not a big deal. Look Mr. Trump doesn’t wear a mask and he’s always getting close to people.
  • Me: I really don’t care what Mr. Trump does because he doesn’t live here. You do. And now you can’t come back in the house until you quarantine for 14 days.
  • Ernie: What? What are you talking about? Where are we going to stay?
  • Me: I don’t know, but I can’t bring you into the house just to take you to the deck. You’d probably just wiggle free again.
  • Bert: Hey, that’s not fair!
  • Me: You know, I’m getting really tired of you two complaining that things aren’t fair for you. What’s fair for me and Clemencia? We are doing everything we can to stay safe and avoid infection. Then you two pull this crazy stunt. You are no different than some of our neighbors who don’t wear masks. You are the same as all those other people we saw in the news who went to parties and the beaches who didn’t wear masks and didn’t keep a distance. You are selfish and self-centered. And now, you leave me no choice.
  • Ernie: What do you mean no choice?
  • Me (lowering a plastic bag to the floor): Get in the bag. You’ve ruined it. I have not choice now but to wash you.
  • Bert: No you can’t do that! We are living beings! We are you!
  • Me: No, you aren’t me. I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier but I’m not stupid. You were safe here. You blew it. Get in the bag.
  • Ernie: No way! You can’t do this!
  • Me: Yes, I can and I will. You now pose a risk to us. In the bag. And if you don’t get in it willingly, I’ll nudge you in with my shoe.

By 1:00 PM Bert Left and Ernie Right were transported from the washing machine to the dryer. They were good friends to me and I miss them already. I’m very sad, though, for their stupidity. They were, too, in the end, apologizing profusely to me. Still, they had to be washed and disinfected. To be clear, I did not spray them with Lysol nor soak them in Clorox. They just needed a good washing. In fact, I think they appreciated it. I swear I heard Ernie say to Bert during the wash, “Hey, Bert, this ain’t so bad. In fact, it is little bit like that roller coaster we rode on last Saturday.”

If the opportunity arises for them to return, they’ve promised me they will. The next time, though, I hope they will be a little nicer to me and bit more humble. But we’ll see. For now, rest in peace in the sock drawer, Bert and Ernie – March 16, 2020 to May 26, 2020. Aged -I mean really aged! – 72 days. They will be missed but their stench – and attitudes – will not.


Pondering Character

Character and ethics have been on my mind a lot during the pandemic. I’ve been reading a couple of books and finishing up a long-over due project, which probably explains why.

One book I’m reading is a textbook entitled Ethical Leadership: A Primer. It is a college level book that examines and compares a variety of ethical theories. It is not the light reading I do at night before bed…but it is very interesting.

The other book I’ve been reading in a rather meditative way is David Brooks’ The Road to Character. It is a great book for reflective reading because the book is a reflection by Brooks on what he has learned about character. Brooks is a New York Times bestselling author, a writer for the New York Times, and a regular commentator on the PBS News Hours on Fridays. When I attend Quaker Meeting I sometimes need meditative reading material to help focus my mind and quiet my spirit. The Road to Character has been very good for this purpose.

The other thing that has been causing me to ponder character and ethics is work I’ve done recently to finish a project I started over two years ago. It was the WWJD Redux Project. I decided to self-fund a study to understand more clearly how people view the leadership of Donald Trump in light of the ethical and moral lapses he has been accused of. The study was accepted for presentation at the 20th Global Conference of the International Leadership Association meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida in October of that year. I had promised, as I was doing the study, that I would send the results to everyone who participated. However, that promise got away from me in the busyness and business of life. Over the past few weeks I shot a video of that presentation and am now am making good on the promise. This link, WWJD Redux Project, and the one above, take you to the project page on the Tenacious Change LLC website where you can find more information. If you are interested in watching the video presentation (its roughly 29 minutes in length), you can watch it on that page or below on the Tenacious Change LLC YouTube channel.

If you take time to watch the video and learn about the study, I’d be interested in hearing what you think. It is still relevant to our time…perhaps even more so in the midst of this pandemic.


A View of COVID-19

This image was taken from the website of the Johns Hopkins project that is tracking COVID-19. The view is of “Cumulative Confirmed Cases” worldwide. There is an old expression that seems appropriate here…let’s say it together: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 40 – Chickenman has followed the Teddy Bear into a party in the hotel, only to discover he is at a costume party hosted by the Teddy Bear. The Teddy Bear is, in fact, Scarfce O’Banyon, a highly respected Midland City dentist. When it was time to unmask, though, Chickenman found himself in a difficult position. But could he just fly the coop? Or just fly?


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your face, keep wearing your mask, and, please keep being smarter than Bert and Ernie.

Tom

Day 71 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

I am a political person but I strive to be fair. I try to vote for the person, not the party, though my leanings are clear to most people who know me well. In trying to keep this blog as apolitical as possible I have weighed this question carefully: Would I be writing this regardless of the person and party of the President? The answer is yes because character and ethics are transcendent.

Monday, May 25, 2020 – Live to Blog on Memorial Day

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation in the Time of COVID-19 – #alonetogether

Today is one of, if not, the most solemn Memorial Day in the history of the United States. The death toll for COVID-19 is nearing 100,000. It is possible that it could reach this mark before the day is through. It does not seem ethically or morally right to spend this day as we have spent so many other Memorial Day holidays – with outings at the beach, family gatherings, barbecues, or a day on the golf course. For this reason, today’s blog will be different from anything I’ve written before. Tomorrow I will return to serving the usual hot steaming cup of drivel.

Golfing in the Midst of a Forest Fire

I have spent this day reflecting on what it means to have lived to witness the death of nearly 100,000 people in my country in only 86 days. The first COVID-19 death in the United States occurred on February 29th. Since then the pandemic has been a wildfire burning through the country. When we calculate the numeric average, we find Americans are dying at the rate of 1,162 per day. Let’s put all of this in perspective:

Despite this devastation before your eyes and mine, our President appears to be unconvinced of the severity of the situation, uncommitted to full disclosure, and unwilling to model behavior that shows understanding and builds confidence in his leadership. All in all, Mr. Trump is simply golfing in the midst of a forest fire. For this reason, I’ve decided to make today’s blog an open letter to Donald Trump.

I am a political person but I strive to be fair. I try to vote for the person, not the party, though my leanings are clear to most people who know me well. In trying to keep this blog as apolitical as possible I have weighed this question carefully: Would I be writing this regardless of the person and party of the President? The answer is yes because character and ethics are transcendent. By the way, if the following letter speaks your mind, please feel free to share it with others.

A Letter to President Donald J. Trump

May 25, 2020

Dear Mr. President,

Should you ever see this letter and take time to read it, thank you for considering its message.

Mr. President, our country needs you to be your best self in this moment. I do not know you at all and so I do not know you well enough to know who your best self would be. I want to believe that your very best self is:

  • A person who genuinely cares about others more than you care about yourself.
  • A person who deeply grieves the loss of 100,000 souls and has shed tears, as so many of us have already, for those we love who have died in this pandemic.
  • A person who is self-confident enough to show us the grief he feels.
  • A person who is strong and brave enough to speak the truth about the nature of this pandemic, even if it is not popular with your political base or anyone else.
  • A person who trusts the public health and medical expertise that is availalble to you.
  • A person who is humble enough to admit when misteps have occurred, errors have been made, and failures have cost valuable time and lives.
  • A person who is willing to use his words and actions to for healing in our country.
  • A person who is willing to knit together the partisan political divides that keep us from working together as effectively as we could and as we need right now.
  • A person who understands the power of example.
  • A person who understands that leaders “go first” in setting that example by publicly following the counsel of rigorous science and our country’s finest public health and medical experts without complaint, pushback, or ridicule.
  • A person who shows no favor in who gets equipment, testing, treatment, and vacinations (when they become available) and how quickly they receive them.

All in all, Mr. President, we need you to be each of these things and more. We need you to be the very best idea of what it means to be fully human. I know it isn’t fair to put all of this on the shoulders of one person. However, that is the burden of the presidency in the United States. That mantle is a heavy one. From what I’ve observed in my lifetime, only those who are capable of being their best selves, and who are willing to be so most of the time, are able to carry it well. However, they don’t carry the burden alone. They enlist the support of the country and they do so by calling on us to similarly be our best selves.

We need you to be this best self and so much more at this time, Mr. President, because the majority of people in the United States have very little confidence in your honesty and most do not trust you. I know those are harsh words and I apologize if they offend. May I, however, illustrate them with a brief story?

Each week during the pandemic I have been meeting with a group of people for mutual support via Zoom. Last week we were talking about when a vaccine realistically might be ready. One person commented, “If the President announced it was ready today and that I could get innoculated, I don’t believe I would. I’m not sure I can trust anything he tells me to be true anymore.” Everyone in the group, yes, including me, agreed. None of us are anti-vaxxers but we don’t know that we can trust anything you say right now.

Mr. President, we need to be able to trust you. We want to be able to trust you, even if we didn’t vote for you or plan to vote for you in the Fall. Why? Because our lives may depend upon it.

But our trust has been broken. I know personally how hard it is to restore trust once it has been damaged. It is very difficult to repair and sometimes it can’t be fixed, especially when there has been so much destruction and grief related to it. However, we must always try.

You must try, Mr. President. By trying to repair trust you may actually save many lives. How do you try?

  • Start by speaking truth with humiliy, kindness, and compassion.
  • Call a truce on all political wars and be the first to walk to the middle of “no man’s land” with your arms extended and hands open.
  • Find it within yourself to believe the press and the Democrats have better intentions that you can imagine. Remember, just as you feel hurt by them, they feel hurt by you. Everyone is feeling wounded and sore right now.
  • Give us an example to follow in deed and speech. Wear your mask in every public appearance.
  • Keep physical distance between yourself and others in your public appearances and news conferences.
  • Only promote the treatments and solutions that your public health and medical experts tell you are viable when they are available.
  • In fact, step back and let them speak their truth.
  • Avoid denegrating the press. Though the American press is not perfect, they strive more often than not to be accurate and fair. They are still our best source of information.
  • Avoid all appearances that you or your friends may be benefiting financially during or from the pandemic.

Finally, from one golfer to another, put your clubs away for a while, please. There will be plenty of time to play golf in the future. Right now though, on this Memorial Day weekend, it appears disrespectful and, even more, highly insensitive. It suggests you don’t care at all about the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths we may be reaching today or tomorrow.

Thank you for your time, Mr. President. I wish you success in turning things around because our lives may depend upon it. I don’t know that there is anything I can do for you but I do promise this. If you will release this best self to help us, I will meet you with my best self.

Mr. President, stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask every day, and keep trying to be the best version of yourself that our country needs.

Respectfully,

Tom Klaus

Day 68 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Friday, May 22, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Beginning of a “Holiday” Weekend

Keeping Social Separation
Keeping Social Separation Together in the Time of COVID-19

Ah yes! The Memorial Day Weekend! The unofficial beginning of Summer! How shall we celebrate? I’m going to fire up the grill and cook up some bratwurst. Then I’m going to sunbath on our deck – with apologies to all my neighbors. And, once again, I’ll try hitting a few golf balls off the deck. No. Actually, I won’t be doing any of that. I’m going to be at home watching the second season of Homecoming on Netflix.

Instacart Success!

I’m happy to report that my second attempt to grocery shop using Aldi and Instacart was an amazing success. Everything went like clockwork! The delivery window was 10:00 AM to Noon today, and it arrived at 10:07. We had the most delightful delivery person. Her name is Oluwafolakemi but she goes by simply Kemi. She was amazing! She was careful, thorough, fast, and efficient. She got a five star rating and a good tip! I wonder if Instacart allows you to ask for specific delivery people? I’ll have to check into that as I don’t see us going to stores again anytime soon. (P.S. I did not accidently double our order this time.)

COVID-19 Gets Closer

If you’ve been faithfully reading this blog (and, of course, I know you have…who wouldn’t want a daily shot of drivel?), you know that we live in the midst of one of the three biggest COVID-19 hotspots in the U.S. Don’t be jealous…there will be more! Honestly, it is difficult to see the rules relaxed around the country and our state when we see the devastation of the virus all around us.

Today our county, Prince George’s, has over 13,000 cases and nearly 500 deaths. If our county were a state, we’d rank 27th in the number of coronavirus cases, between Mississippi and Alabama.

COVID-19 got close in other ways as well this week. Two days ago I learned that a young colleague in one of my work projects was very ill with COVID-19 for several weeks. Late last night I learned that the mother of a good friend died of complications of the COVID-19. We heard that a woman in the building next to ours tested positive for the virus.

And still…people are being stupid. Look, I’m not talking about the people who have to go out to work. Most of the people I’ve seen doing that are wearing masks, especially if their work means they have to be inside buildings. Today Kemi from Instacart was masked up. Words cannot express how appreciative we are for her not only wearing a mask but also doing the shopping for us. Instacart better be treating her well. We did our part.

No, I’m talking about the people who refuse to make even the smallest concessions to preserve the health and well-being of others. If I could get all those people in a room together (of course, they wouldn’t be wearing masks…but some would probably be carrying guns…go figure), I would say something like this:

Look stupid people. It’s not about you though you think it is. It’s about you and everyone else. Maybe you think you’re immune. Fine, everybody is entitled to any delusion they like. Maybe you don’t believe this is a real thing. Okay, you also have a right to be wrong no matter how right you think you are. Maybe you don’t care if you get sick. Well, fine to that too. Even though I think you are stupid, it doesn’t mean I want you to suffer and die, but it is your choice. I won’t try to save you if you don’t want to be saved. However, remember, this is not about only you.

You have no idea whether you are an asymptomatic carrier and neither do I. That’s the problem with this virus. We actually can’t see it coming. For this reason, you and I both need to wear masks when we are in public and still keep a distance from each other. When we each give up a little bit of freedom by wearing masks, we can all have a lot more freedom to come out of our homes and resume a something-closer-to-normal life.

Is that really too much to ask that you faithfully wear a mask when you are around other people and keep a distance from them? Really? If it is, I pity you. You have not only misunderstood what it means to be free in America, you are clueless about what it is to be a decent human being.

A reader sent me a link to this article in The Atlantic, The Real Reason to Wear a Mask. It is an insightful, thorough, and instructive article. If you already “get it” and understand the most important things masking up does, you can skip the article. However, please forward it to anyone you know who doesn’t seem to get it yet.

A Drivelous Idea?

Here’s a thought…probably half-baked. People are dying and the economy is in shambles. What if we had taken that $3 trillion allocated by Congress and simply divided it equally by the total population of the United States? This would mean every person would get an equal piece of that humongous pie. If my calculations are correct, that would be $9,175 per person ($3 trillion/327 million). This would have enabled the vast, vast majority of people in the U.S. to shelter-in-place for a number of weeks and only the most essential workers would have needed to go out.

Now, if everyone who received that money but didn’t really need it, because they could work from home or were essential workers, refused it, think of the potential. Then the families that really needed it would have that much more money available to shelter-in-place, shop for groceries online, order in food, hire online tutors for the kids, and stay out the stores where they wouldn’t be tempted to buy up all the dang toilet paper. We could have extended shelter-in-place even longer. Instead, the money got sucked up by a lot of organizations and businesses that didn’t need it. They wouldn’t have needed it either, if the money could have been put back into the people’s hands so they could have purchased their goods and services.

I know. I’m not an economist, I should stay in my own lane, and this may be the purest of drivel. I can’t help but wonder, though, what if we really believed in and practiced the Golden Rule or even just a Golden Rule? What if we really believed in helping our neighbors? What if we really lived by an ethic in which others were at least as important as think we are? Just wondering.

This video is required viewing by MBA students in my classes. We have to remember that the possession of money changes people. It is a very thought provoking video. That is why I assign it.

Funny Things from This Week

How tough has the sheltering-in-place been when a frozen pizza tastes like a fresh made, right-out-of the oven pizza?

No, I don’t mean a baked frozen pizza, I mean an actual frozen, frozen pizza.

In a Zoom meeting this week with about 25 people I asked this “icebreaker” question: “What is something you are learning during the pandemic that you hope to take forward and use in the new normal?”

One young woman, who is balancing working from home with homeschooling her children immediately responded, “How to ‘carry the 1’.” I’m guessing there are a lot of parents strengthening their math skills during the pandemic…as well as building their history, science, geography, and social studies knowledge.


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 37 – Chickenman is tailing a teddy bear and contending with an obnoxious operator.


To End the Work Week…Some Good News

Well…not really. I was getting ready to run the 8th, and as it turns out, final episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News. This has been a free YouTube show that relied heavily on contributions from fans – who were not, as far as anyone knows, compensated for their contributions. He sold the show to CBS after a substantial bidding war and, of course, that means a lot of money. At this time, I haven’t been able to find out how much he made on the deal. Krasinski won’t be involved in the show except as an Executive Producer.

When I first heard about this show, I had doubts that a well known couple (his wife is actress Emily Blunt) could actually do something so selfless. Turns out my doubts were well founded.

Many fans, including myself, are not pleased. Of course, Krasinski can still redeem himself. Maybe he can share what he made on the deal with the many people who shared their stories and sent him their own material? Maybe he can donate his profits to organizations providing meals and other relief to families who won’t be selling shows to CBS and may not have incomes anytime soon. I’m a fan of Krasinski’s TV and movie characters, but I’m less a fan of him as a person today. Shame!


Okay, we are closing in on Day 70. Let’s see…OMG, that is ten weeks! How are we going to celebrate? How about this…

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and, this Memorial Day, remember the nearly 100,000 people who were in our collective lives in January but who are no longer here because of the pandemic and it’s horrifically bungled management.

Tom