My Work-From-Home Experiment Begins

For ten years, the Snoopy coffee mug sat on my desk at Diamond, first on Greenspring Avenue, then on York Road. I’d bought it some years before at the Big Lots in Eldersberg. I liked the message — “Is there no one to rescue me?!” It seemed… apropos.

As I gathered up things in my office Tuesday afternoon, things I thought I’d need, for starting to work from home on Wednesday — as the office was shutting down due to the COVID-19 outbreak and we would be joining the great American experiment in working remotely — I almost forgot the coffee mug.

My collection of tea? Check.

Back-up files to a flash drive? Check.

My reading glasses? Check.

The bottle of Labetalol for my afternoon dose? Check.

My Rubik’s Cube, a favorite fidget toy? Check.

The coffee mug…?

For a moment, I thought of leaving it. I have other coffee mugs at home. A ridiculous number, same with pint glasses. But this mug, this was my work mug. Need a break from writing? Pick up the mug and go for a cup of tea. Receive an email from a colleague so bewilderingly stupid I can’t even? Pick up the mug and go for a cup of tea. Feel my blood caffeine level fall to precipitous levels in the mid-afternoon? Pick up the mug and go for a cup of coffee.

It was part of my work day. And, working at home, there would be for me, just as there had been for Snoopy, the World War I Flying Ace, far above the Western Front, no one to rescue me. I would be on my own, at home.

I took the mug.

My coffee pot has a timer. Every night before bed I set it up, for a ten cup pot of Seattle’s Best Henry’s Blend, and at 6:10 every morning it begins to brew so that, when my alarm goes off fifteen minutes later, the coffee is ready.

I started to prepare my coffee last evening. I put in a new coffee filter, I opened the kitchen cabinet to take out the container of coffee grounds.

Then I stopped. Why was I doing this? I didn’t need to do this. I didn’t need to set my alarm. I didn’t need my coffee to be ready as soon as I got out of bed. I went to my computer and worked on something else — fixing a poorly formatted ebook — but, after half an hour, I returned to my kitchen, measured out the coffee grounds, and added the water. The only thing I didn’t do was to start the timer.

I woke a little past eight.

I had slept fitfully during the night, partly due to worry, partly due to an inability to get comfortable. I tossed and turned to the point where I managed to pull the sheet off the mattress.

I started the coffee pot, fixed a bowl of cereal (Nutter Butter cereal, which I’d picked up at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet last week), and turned on the radio to WRTI, Philadelphia’s classical music station. Once the coffee was done, I poured myself a cup, added a packet of Equal and dollop of creamer, opened the apartment’s front door, and stood there, drinking from my steaming mug.

The view from my apartment, March 18

After a second cup of coffee, I checked my email, then set about configuring my VPN access to my computer at Diamond. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would.

I divided my day into three parts — work in the VPN on the comics text, work out of the VPN in the work CMS (which could always be accessed remotely), and work in the VPN on the toys text.

I’ve worked from home before, such as during weather closings and pitching in during my medical leave, but never on things that needed a VPN and access to the databases. This would be a new experience.

Work in the VPN was sluggish. I discovered that I couldn’t have Microsoft Teams running at the same time as the database, because Teams would slow the database to the point of uselessness. Email I checked only when I was out of the VPN; when I was on my medical leave last autumn, I configured an email client on my computer to connect to Diamond’s Exchange server via IMAP. It was a learning process — to figure out what worked, what didn’t, how things interact.

In the morning, I had a cup of tea. In the afternoon, I had another cup of tea. My morning coffee was in my usual morning coffee mug. My tea was in my work Snoopy mug. I was working, I used my work mug.

I started thinking about how I would “triage” my job duties — what are the priorities, what really needs to be done, what things will be okay if they aren’t done — to account for time and technical limitations. As I said in an email to a colleague yesterday, we’re making this up on the fly, and just because it’s something that’s always been done doesn’t mean it’s something that’s necessary.

On Thursday I will add more structure to my work-from-home day.

At the office I keep a bullet journal to-do list, based on ideas from Sandra Shillington’s Bullet Journaling Habits for Content Writers, which I bought as an ebook two years ago but now seems to be out-of-print. I’ll set up a bullet journal-style list of things to do here at home.

I bought a magazine on Mindfulness at the grocery store last week, or maybe it was the week before, and I want to take a look at that. It has a section on journaling, and I think that would also be helpful, creatively and spiritually, while I’ll working from my apartment.

And I’ll add another post to this work-from-home journal. Maybe it will be a round-up of my day. Maybe it will be a picture from outdoors. I like taking pictures — and do most days — from my office at Diamond of the clouds over Cockeysville; maybe I’ll post some photos from here. Maybe it will be something else. Every day will be a new adventure in this COVID-19 world.

Today is the birthday of Wilfred Owen, the British war poet. His poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” has been in mind recently; I recall quoting the famous line, “Gas! Gas! Quick boys–an ecstasy fumbling,” perhaps on Facebook, though I don’t recall the circumstances. Owen served in the British Expeditionary Force during World War I, dying a week before the Armistice.

Readers interested in Wilfred Owen should check out Standard Ebooks’ collection of his poetry. It may be free, but it’s professional done.

Stay safe, people. Social distancing!

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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