The changing nature of humor in a pandemic

Things that were still funny as of 10:43 pm on 6/4/20

  • Jokes about how slow the Internet is
  • Jokes about hygiene
  • Jokes about not wearing pants
  • Knock-knock jokes
  • Sitcoms not set in hospitals or funeral homes
  • Caricatures of historical figures
  • Pratfalls

Things that are still funny as of 12:24 am on 10/19/20

  • Our own flaws
  • Minor romantic missteps
  • Nothing

Jokes that will never, ever be funny

  • At one time, Donald Trump was President of the United States

The Big Move: Epilogue

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020, 9:04 pm

We are loving the apartment, honestly, which is super lucky given we found it 100% online. Even while sheltering in place, we’re in a great location. If we turn left from the front door we see a lake; turn right and there’s the Capitol building. And the gig is going well, even if I’m totally remote. I’m kind of getting used to that. Last week, my first full week, I had fourteen video meetings in five days. This week, fewer meetings, but lots more email: drafting plans, providing social media help, compiling links, and so on.

So far, so good.

The Big Move: We made it!

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Sunday, April 19, 2020, 6:25 pm

After almost a day here, I think the new apartment is pretty good! It’s bigger than our old place and has great amenities, including a washer and dryer in the unit, a dishwasher, two bathrooms, a balcony, and a heated indoor parking spot. It also has good light most of the day and lots of stores and restaurants nearby (even more than when I lived here 20+ years ago).

Unfortunately, as one might predict would happen in a college town while living relatively near campus, some of our drunken neighbors made insane amounts of noise last night until 4 am. [Ed. note: luckily, this has not been a constant thing, and the noise has been more tolerable than we expected based on night 1.]

Today we picked up brunch and dinner from a coffee shop a few blocks away. It was a neat feeling to walk past the Capitol to get there.

Still exhausted from the drive, but we’re going to slowly get situated. The cats are getting acclimated. They’re glad we didn’t get in the van today! The movers will get here with our stuff between the 22nd and the 24th, and my first day “at” my job is April 22nd.

Monday, April 20, 2020, 6:11 pm

Did a big and successful outing today for:

  • an epic amount of supplies;
  • a cable modem and cable box, critical for working from home;
  • and my work laptop, monitor, mouse, and keyboard. (Kudos to the folks at DoIT for getting my stuff set up quickly!)

My initial impression of the people of Madison in relation to COVID-19 is that many of them will likely get very sick at some point. Masks are few and far between and social distancing is rare. We want to be at home as much as possible at this point, so it’s good we like the apartment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020, 1:24 pm

The movers left an hour ago, and I had my first meeting with my boss today. Aside from the intense amounts of unpacking and reorganizing we have to do, I can now say this: We have successfully moved.

The Big Move: York to Madison

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Saturday, April 18, 2020, 11:26 am

We are now in Iowa—just one state away from our new life!

Saturday, April 18, 2020, 11:11 pm

We are in our new place! Got here a little before 8 pm. Our rental minivan is in our new underground parking spot.

We knew that our stuff was highly unlikely to get here before we did. So that we would have something to sleep on the first few nights, Dawn, brilliantly, ordered an air mattress to be delivered here before we got here. So, right now, Marley is on the air mattress with us and Boris is hiding under a blanket at the end of the bed. We are exhausted but happy.

April 18 driving stats:

  • 9:26 am to 7:40 pm (10 hours, 14 minutes)
  • 449 mi
  • 7:20 driving; 2:56 breaks

The Big Move: Rawlins to York

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Friday, April 17, 2020, 3:05 pm

We just crossed into Nebraska. Wyoming was varied but in terms of people’s use of masks, it was generally a shitshow. We are of course always wearing masks outside the car. I also use rubber gloves every time I gas up, and we mercilessly sanitize our hands until they bleed and frequently wipe surfaces down in the car with Lysol wipes.

We also had a couple hours of traversing blowing snow in Wyoming. When I say “blowing snow,” it doesn’t at all capture the image of waves of snow blowing horizontally across the wide, flat land and accumulating surprisingly quickly on the highway.

Saturday, April 18, 2020, 12:11 am

I was just wondering, “When is the next time I’m going to stay in a hotel after tonight?” Who knows?

Anyway, 1564 miles down, 529 miles to go. Today (Friday) was the best day yet. Aside from the aforementioned (very treacherous) blowing snow the first couple hours in Wyoming (40 mph gusts of the finest, driest snow that was also melted to slush on the traffic lanes), it was a fun and relatively easy drive. We’ve been in York, NE since 9:20 pm central time. We will get up early and make it to Madison by dinner tomorrow!

April 17 driving stats:

  • 9:50 am to 8:20 pm (10 hours, 30 minutes)
  • 546 mi
  • 7:33 driving; 2:57 breaks

The Big Move: Wendover to Rawlins

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Thursday, April 16, 2020, 10:15 pm

All right—we are now all checked in and settled in in Rawlins, WY. The third day of driving was even better than the second day. Utah and Wyoming are beautiful. We really enjoyed the drive today.

We picked a well-reviewed hotel (Hampton Inn) to get to before sunset, which we did successfully. (It’s 16 degrees F now, with a forecast low of 8.)

Honestly, with our masks and incessant use of Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer (and washing our hands), it hasn’t felt any more risky than being in SF and going to the store. Happy to be here with plenty of time to rest so that we can get going even earlier tomorrow, allowing us to have a Plan A and a Plan B.

April 16 driving stats:

  • 11:31 am to 6:51 pm (7 hours, 20 minutes)
  • 410 mi
  • 6:04 driving; 1:16 breaks

April 16 drive

The Big Move: Reno to Wendover

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020, 2:25 pm

Given how jangled and totally exhausted we are, we decided it was important to pace ourselves slowly today. We checked out as late as we could—right at checkout time, thanks to how much Boris liked the hole in the box spring he’d found. After checking out, we spent a couple hours reorganizing, getting supplies, and trying to calm our nerves.

We are just getting back on the road. Tonight we will probably only go as far as Wendover, Utah—just over the Nevada border—then more rest.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020, 3:44 pm

Gassing up in Sparks now. Thursday should be a little better. We realized we haven’t taken a day off in a long, long time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020, 5:28 pm

We are in the middle of Nevada now (Rye Patch) at a gas station. Our destination is the Best Western Plus in Wendover, where we have a reservation we made today.

What I realized today is this: We have to take it slower than I’d initially hoped, in part because we got out later than expected (which is to be expected) but mostly because we’re exhausted from the move. (This seems to be a theme.) That puts us in Wisconsin Saturday rather than Friday, but it was probably always unrealistic to imagine I could drive 2100 miles in four days after months of

  • looking for a job while working full-time in a very stressful workplace;
  • packing up our place (while living in it);
  • securing movers and a lease while essentially locked down;
  • and the final push, packing the stuff we were still using, getting the place ready for the movers, supervising the move, and cleaning the old place probably more thoroughly than we needed to (but less thoroughly than I’d have preferred).

Thursday, April 16, 2020, 2:00 am

Had a better day today (Wednesday) than yesterday. The views in Nevada were beautiful. We are all getting along well—the cats are surprisingly adaptable.

Between 1:30 pm and 9:30 pm, we got 400 miles in. We settled in at the Best Western Plus in Wendover tonight and it is actually a real hotel, which is nice. Both hotels, at least, had decent front desk COVID precautions. I still have to figure out my mileage capability for the next few days, but I think I can drive more tomorrow than today. It’s all about figuring out how far I can get by sunset (and getting out earlier), since day driving is so much easier.

April 15 driving stats:

  • 1:24 pm to 9:26 pm (8 hours, 2 minutes)
  • 399 mi
  • 5:56 driving; 2:06 breaks

April 15 drive

The Big Move: It begins

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 2:20 am

Today (Monday) went as well as could be expected—all our stuff is on its way to Madison. The moving crew was fast and professional. We are doing our last cleanup tasks and getting on the road sometime tomorrow. Because I need rest—I pulled an all-nighter Sunday going into Monday, and am very sore from all the packing—I’ve decided to not rush out of here as early as possible. Also, since a three-day trip is unlikely, I will pace myself for four (knowing I can do a couple long days then a short day on Friday [it actually took five days]).

Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 2:21 pm

Just going to get the car now—just finished with the apartment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020, 3:31 am

Today, Tuesday, we made it 223 miles between 8 pm and about 12:30 am. We got a late start after packing the car and cleaning the apartment, but (possibly foolishly) we pushed ahead to Reno anyway. Once we got past Sacramento, basically nothing was open thanks to the pandemic (including gas stations and gas station bathrooms), which meant we had to keep going.

The road conditions as we crossed the Sierra Nevada were not great: dark, cold, and a little slippery. I had planned to make it farther on the first day, so my initial research into pet-friendly places to stay was sketchy when it came to Reno. We settled on a La Quinta. I will just say this about this motel: we used a lot of Lysol wipes.

Super exhausted! We will have a good day of driving during the DAY tomorrow (Wednesday).

April 14 driving stats:

  • 7:50 pm to 12:39 am (4 hours, 49 minutes)
  • 218 mi
  • 3:58 driving; 0:51 breaks

April 14 drive

The Big Move: In great shape

While Dawn and I were preparing for our move and in the process of moving, I recorded my observations in my private notes and in text updates to our loved ones. Though I did not post them to this site contemporaneously, I had intended to collect, edit, and post them here; here is one in the series.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 2:24 pm

Everything is in great shape right now! We locked in the mover estimate last week, and just got the lease for the new place today—we will sign and send it in, and then we are on our way! Two weeks from today the movers will be here, and getting ready for the move will be my and Dawn’s only job for a couple weeks.

The only thing I haven’t checked in on is the rental minivan, but I will call the week before and make sure they will have it ready.

Thank goodness for transportation being an essential sector.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020, 8:01 am

Depending on how it turns out, our move across the country is either going to be a triumphant story of succeeding against the odds or a cautionary tale of ignorant hubris. But I suppose interesting stories tend to fall into one of those categories.

On the one hand, moving during a pandemic while deaths and cases are going up quickly seems like a bad idea. And yet we are, as my dad put it, “beyond the point of no return.”

I looked at it as arranging a number of individual transactions. Once I got the job offer on March 3rd (remember how different the world was then), I put my notice in at my job. Something not to forget is that we were planning on making the move even if I hadn’t gotten an offer yet, so to have gotten that is huge.

Daily new cases as of 3-20-2020

Changes

For the first two months of 2020, I was burning the candle at both ends, and then cutting the candle in half and burning both of those ends. I use this very specific, vivid, and slightly awkward yet humorous metaphor to describe my time engaging in an intense and focused job search while also working full time—and trying to find time to help plan a move for me, Dawn, the cats, and our stuff from San Francisco to Wisconsin.

And that effort paid off. On March 3rd, I got the call I wanted: a job offer from my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Starting April 22nd, I will be a Strategic Communications Specialist within UW-Madison’s office of University Communications. Dawn and I had been planning to move to Madison in April whether or not I got a job, but this makes it far more possible—especially now.

Because, of course, the context today, March 20th, is worlds away from the context of March 3rd and pretty much each of the individual days since. We’ve seen huge increases in COVID-19 infections and deaths worldwide, voluntary self-quarantines, the physical closing of non-essential businesses, most of the rest of us working from home (including my future co-workers at the UW), orders to shelter in place at the city and state levels, hospitals running out of supplies and having to make terrible no-win decisions. We live in a new world that is changing by the minute, and we have only vague ideas about our future course—aside from the almost certain fact that millions of people will die from COVID-19.

I don’t even know how to describe witnessing a pandemic unfold in real time. It makes you rethink everything you’ve valued and failed to value. It certainly reinforces my opinions of capitalism and plutocracy. I can’t help but think about, and worry about, our family and our friends, their health, the health of all their loved ones, and the tragic and profound losses we’re seeing worldwide in every facet of life.

My and Dawn’s continued health seems good as we take it slow and easy. I’m grateful (and lucky) that my soon-to-be new job is with a state university and not a more precarious organization. They made the offer, they need me and my skills as much as ever, and the hiring process continues to move forward.

There will be all kinds of unpredictable side effects of this crisis. One somewhat random one: right now, I’m not at all inclined toward comparison shopping. If a mover or an apartment rental company is willing to engage with us now, and the price point is reasonable, I want to give them our business and not waste anyone’s time. They need to make a living and we need to get there. So far they seem to very much want our business and that’s a relief. The possibility of not getting to move when we planned has been one of my immediate worries since this thing started.

I was hired to work to promote the Strategic Partnerships unit (which does federal, state, tribal, community, and business relations). Right now, it sounds like my team is doing crisis communications more than anything else, which I’d be happy to help with. I love jumping in and doing what’s most needed. No matter what, I am excited to work for my alma mater in a role that fits my strengths and in which I’ll be able to actively build meaningful connections between UW-Madison and the larger community.

For her part, Dawn will be leaving the VA and opening up a brand-new private psychotherapy and training practice, and will be available for tele-mental health referrals later on this spring.

In this last year, Dawn and I have been thinking and talking a lot about our lives and the direction we’re going. Losing my mom last February drove home the point that we want to prioritize family more than we have. We have also faced the fact that—even on one federal salary and one non-profit salary—we will simply never be able to have a better place to live in the Bay Area than our one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, under current conditions.

These are the main reasons we’re picking up these roots and moving them to Madison. (Back home to Madison, in my case—after 20 years.) We’d been incredibly excited about a new adventure and a different pace of life. We still are. Now we just have to wait a little longer for some of the things that we were excited about, and that’s okay.

So many of the things that were planned in the old world are going to suffer drastically. One of my good friends just lost his mom this week. The fact that he won’t get to gather with friends and relatives young and old, the way I and my family did last February, seems to me like it would compound the sense of loss. The associated expressions of love and connection and sense of closure (to the extent that it is attainable) will have to be deferred and/or happen some other way. One of Dawn’s former trainees was going to have a wedding this spring. It’s not going to happen the way they planned.

I’m grateful for many things in my life. Now I’m grateful for a whole new set of things I never realized I took for granted. Having a wedding with 80 guests. Having a celebration of life for my mom. Not being sick.

More to come.

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