My three unfair advantages in the COVID-19 era

A lot of people have had to make a lot of adjustments to life in the pandemic era, from work to home life to eating and shopping.

I’ve had three serious advantages–some might even say unfair advantages–that made my transition smoother than most. Probably the most disruptive element of the shelter-in-place and travel restrictions for me would be the extra people in the house all day, and that’s still a bit unsettling at times.

But let’s take a look at the advantages, and see if they might help you as well.

1. I’ve worked from home for the past six and a half years.

This one is hard to do retroactively, of course, but in terms of remote access, working without coworkers face-to-face, and making my own coffee every morning (several times, most days), I was training for the pandemic since I started working for Cisco in 2014.

Before the pandemic, I did have opportunities to get out and see my colleagues in person, whether for our sales kickoff in Las Vegas or conferences or team gatherings at company headquarters. Those have mostly dried up, although I did see a partner engineer briefly a couple of months ago when dropping off a couple of pieces of hardware for him.

I have had to adjust the home environment for the new “coworkers,” including a high school student and a non profit program director who were doing their daily grind in the house, the latter in front of my “daily grind” machine farm… never quite got around to setting up a coffeemaker in my home office, but I did get a second beverage fridge set up.

I have to admit that I hadn’t really prepared for the letdown of virtual conferences, but I wasn’t entirely surprised. On the upside, almost all of the content from the half dozen conferences I’ve “attended” has been made available more promptly afterward, so I can go back and review a lot of it rather easily.

2. I’ve spent weeks in Las Vegas over the past decade

You might be surprised by this advantage, but it definitely prepared me for some of the personal hygiene issues that we’ve been asked to address to slow the spread and reduce risk of contracting the virus.

After the first time or two that I got sick after a trip to Las Vegas, I learned to wash my hands frequently and to never, ever touch my eyes or face unless I had just washed my hands or had a wipe to use.

As a melting pot of bacteria and viruses and just ordinary grime from all over the world, Las Vegas is an easy place to pick up something you didn’t want, whether from handrails, escalators, elevator buttons, door handles, and the like. Browsing through electronics and thrift stores could sometimes leave “weird stuff” on my fingers, but nothing like the handrails at Planet Hollywood or elevator buttons at Mandalay Bay.

So getting in the habit of washing my hands regularly (not just after going to the bathroom, although that’s one a lot of dotcom workers never quite figured out), and keeping my hands away from my eyes (one of the two easiest places to get things introduced to your bloodstream), helped reduce the risk of getting something in Vegas, or in conference facilities elsewhere, or partner offices, or just around town.

I’ve overused subscription services for several years

Note: This section contains affilliate and referral links. You can obviously search for the sites yourself if you don’t want to toss me a few bucks here or there, but I appreciate those of you who do.

There are usually cases of toilet paper and/or paper towels, and plenty of antibacterial wipes and sprays, on a shelf in the garage or in the front closet, thanks to the Amazon Subscribe and Save program. Some brands and products have disappeared from the program over the past few months, and others have popped up (including the “pick 8 scrabble tiles to name your brand” sort of companies), but between these offerings and the occasional sale at Target, we were pretty well positioned on paper and cleaning products from the start. Yes, there was one $1/roll toilet paper purchase, but

I also have to admit to keeping my breakfast/snack drawer under my desk stocked through this program as well (Clif nut butter filled bars, Kind bars, Belvita breakfast biscuits).

This program does mean that at the beginning of every month, I have to review what I’ve used as usual, and what I don’t need for another month or two. And I would recommend comparing the pricing and varieties to what you can get locally, as sometimes you’ll find a better deal at a grocery store or big box store. But as a backup in case you forgot to buy napkins or paper towels or car fluids or even underwear, it’s worth looking into the option.

Check your credit cards for Amazon promotions, or look into one of the Amazon branded credit cards. For example, Discover Card has 5% back on Amazon purchases for the fourth quarter of 2020, for example, and Chase Freedom has them sometimes as well. (These are refer-a-friend links, and I will likely get a modest reward if you sign up for a new card through them.)

And if you’re more inclined toward boutique cleaning and hygiene supplies, you may want to look into Grove Collaborative. They had toilet paper when other online sellers were running low, and they carry Mrs Meyer’s method, Seventh Generation, and their own house brands of various products for bath, kitchen, and general household cleaning.

They can be pricey compared to mass market stores and brands, but if you’re looking for uncommon products and environmental friendliness in your purchases, it’s worth a look. We’ve bought two large boxes of their supplies, and will probably look at restocking for the holidays, but we still mix these products with the more common brands.

Where do we go from here?

I’m hoping that things continue to stabilize, and I’m already looking forward to a careful visit to Las Vegas this winter, and a car club weekend run in the late spring. I’ve added disposable masks and hand sanitizer gel to my car club trunk bag, but we’ll see what else becomes relevant as normal comes back closer to normal.

What have you learned from the pandemic adjustments? Share in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

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