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Don Rogers: Little breaks from Groundhog Days

Don Rogers

Feet on the floor around 5:30, feed the whiny dogs, a glance at email and text, then write or hit the to-do list hard from the start. A pot of coffee and some pushups between tasks. It’s Groundhog Day, whatever the calendar says.

At 7:30 sharp, shower and change into work clothes, just as if driving to the office. Well, sort of.

Zoom meeting attire has become a waist-up affair, and so easy to slip up. I almost got on a morning huddle this week shirtless. Didn’t even notice until I clicked the invite. Good thing the closet was two steps way. I just managed to button up before my image filled in my rectangle, video and sound on, hair combed, groomed and professional as I ever get.

Office attire for me now means running shorts, not underwear or pajamas or sweats signaling off-duty. The daily jog has become a workday must, the best antidote to Zoom exhaustion. I can make myself set out down the driveway if I’m ready to go, running shoes tied. Something about setting expectations.

But this morning is young, sunny and warm outside. More pushups, better coffee than I remember at the office, moving now through the go-to websites on the pandemic: the papers, the think tanks, Centers for Disease Control, Johns Hopkins, Worldometer with special attention to the arcs and contagion-per-capita trends.

I take care to read across the spectrums — left-right, deeper-shallower, anecdote-trend, personal-policy. I avoid television, especially cable news, which only saps energy through its tugs on our emotions and toys with our hormones, cocktails of cortisol and dopamine meant to hook rather than inform. Maybe I spare myself some rage and despair.

Lots of webinars, though. Most are specific to my industry, and others with experts of one kind or another concerning the pandemic.

More pushups, some pacing, see what my wife is up to, my daughter if she’s home. Appointments, email, thinking, writing, all the workday stuff without the chatting with colleagues. I miss that maybe more than anything.

Somewhere in there, between lunch and happy hour, comes the run, highlight of the day. So regular have I become that dogs greet me now with more joy than ferocity from behind their fences, others hardly bothering to bark anymore, instead giving me a sort of cool canine nod.

I could almost get used to this.

Tom Sawyer’s fence

I broke out for a rare office visit and to deliver a back copy to Roxanne Miller, expecting some version of better late than never, surprised you remembered, about time. So I had my apologies ready and was sorting through possible excuses when what sounded like a cement mixer catching up in the next lane broke my concentration.

But no cement mixer, no other lane. The ugly grinding roar died when I slowed down. I hardly heard it when I got into the neighborhood, eyes sharp for kids and dogs.

I rang the doorbell and backed off to be socially distant. Roxanne was out on essential business, I am sure. But husband Dan, the county supervisor, was home. She had something she wanted to give me, he said, but he couldn’t remember what. Besides a piece of her mind? I wondered.

Well, no worries, I said. Besides, I’m going to be here awhile fixing a flat.

A flat! Dan lit up like I’d just made his day. Like here, finally, was a simple problem he could fix. He had the jack in place and going, the sticky nuts cracked, while I was still trying to understand the tools. I felt like Tom Sawyer without nearly the sagacity. No doubt this is why Dan keeps getting re-elected.

I’ve never had a better time with a flat tire.

Whodunit

Oh I grumped, my daughter would say whined, only agreed to this nonsense because it was a party for my son’s whole household — boys, wife, him, all their birthdays within a couple of weeks of each other.

Fine, then, but I won’t have fun, I won’t. But I was stared down, brought into compliance, consoled that I’d at least have an excuse to drink wine while jumping into yet another Zoom call. This one had 20 or so people, almost everyone I knew or had at least met, and some I hadn’t seen in years.

We sat across the time zones as if in the same living room. Well OK then, it was kind of fun to chat while the hosts set things up, waiting for the curtain to go up on our silly play.

I had my script and stage instructions, had read up on my character’s motivation, muttering, but happy at least this wasn’t a musical.

Once we got going, it wasn’t long before I wanted a bigger part. This turned out to be a lot of fun, and I don’t think that was just the wine speaking. What a great idea! We acted out a whodunit at a winery in France, trying to figure out a murder most foul, the vintner found in a vat, apparently drowned.

It wasn’t just another night at home, to go with just another day at home, everything blending together — dogs whining before dawn for their bowls, shower and hop into the Zoom suit for the morning huddles, the rest, a blur.

I wonder what will stick when this is all over. Zoom conferencing, for sure. The daily runs, I hope. And I’m eager, actually eager, for our next whodunit.

Don Rogers is the publisher of The Union, Lake Wildwood Independent, and Sierra Sun. He can be reached at drogers@theunion.com or 530-477-4299.


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