Mar 28, 2020

Change is in the Air - Part 2

Click to read  PART 1

March 11-12:  While I was struggling with the fallout of Expo, I also knew my employer was keenly aware of the COVID-19 situation.  A load test was arranged for the following week.  Everyone with remote access was to log on from home and test the waters, so to speak.  I remembered as a kid, my friends and I would go into the girl’s bathroom at school and flush all the toilets at once.  We were sure it would flood the building and we could go home.  The goal with all of us flooding our servers all at once was to not break anything.    

In my area, we are divided between three locations; two in Nebraska (different cities) and a location in Texas.  About 30% of our associates are teleworkers.  I've had remote access for years.  I used to travel a lot for work and living 30 miles from work, it's nice not to have to negotiate bad roads on bad weather days.    

As we waited for local schools to make a decision about closures, it was business as usual for the most part with one eye on the business continuity plan.  Having all of our offices in the midwest, I envisioned a tornado taking out one or two of our buildings or loss of power from a blizzard or what we know now as a bomb cyclone, the cause of last year’s flooding.  Will our plans work if we have to shut all of our buildings?  We are not dealing with a decision equal to canceling a horse show - this is big business with thousands of employees.  No COVID-19 cases had even been reported in Lincoln.  

March 13: Just like it did for Expo, things progressed quickly.  Schools announced they would be closing indefinitely.  The load testing was moved up to Friday the 13th and associates with remote access were told to work from home the following week.  This could help alleviate issues with child care and help reduce the population in our buildings, therefore reducing the risk of contamination.  

I left the office early as I hadn’t stopped at the grocery store all week.  I was starting to get a little concerned with the toilet paper situation and was sure my local store was not one of those where shelves were emptied.  It was like Black Friday and shopping for a blizzard all at once.  There were people all of the the place with carts stacked high with food.  Long lines formed at every cashier and it wasn’t even 3:00 PM!  There was not a roll of toilet paper to be found.  

I went home to do the load testing and planned to go back into town later that weekend, finish up grocery shopping and get the rest of the equipment from my office.  But a little voice told me it felt a bit like abandoning the ship.  I don’t have young children at home, I live in the country and we are pretty isolated and I have to say, even with the panic in the grocery store, I was still a bit in denial about this whole thing. 

I returned to the office on Monday.  This would be Day 1 of 8 - and what we are no calling the “longest year of the week”.  

My March 16 Post to Facebook:

I don’t know how many times today I have said or thought “the whole damn world’s gone mad.” Yet here I am in the throws of the craziness, not wanting to believe but scared not to! Just when the grass was getting green and the south breezes warmer, we are quasi-grounded by the leaders of our state and nation.
Admittedly, I jumped in feet first about a week ago, canceling our horse expo. Our vendors were spooked and our volunteer base dwindling. Expenses were still minimal. Coincidentally, an equine flu was going through some local barns. If truth be known, the horse disease closed the deal for me. Horse people risk their own health all the time, but don’t screw with our animals! Today our governor and the White House has asked we avoid events with groups bigger than ten. We would have been so screwed. For once, the force was with me.
At work, we have poured over our disaster recovery and business continuity plans. When these were being prepared, silly me thought the worst case scenario would be a tornado. Even as we crafted our plans, I was somewhat unbelieving. Sure, I’d go through the motions because its my job, but I somehow felt I was drinking the Kool-aid. I had toilet paper. I bought it at Menards when I was picking up paint. I was such a believer in the madness, I only bought one package of 10.
After work on Friday, I stopped at the grocery store down the block from work. I parked on the end by the liquor store because I was only picking up a few quick items and checkout is quicker. When I entered the grocery area proper, I was aghast. Who were all these people in my store? Carts beyond full with lines down the aisle. I scooped up my pizzas and a few frozen dinners; alcohol. I apologized to the liquor store cashier since I had went over the 8 item limit for that check-out. I didn’t know I needed to prepare for doomsday! I just thought we were going through the motions. Didn’t our President say it was a hoax? When did he become a believer? I always had a fear he might be the anti-Christ, now I don’t know what to think?
Last week ended with a new buzz word: Social Distancing. I could get on board with that. As a horse rider and camper, that is what we do. Distance ourselves from chaos and crowds and head to the country. To put it into practice at work, employees with remote access should work from home to avoid larger groups. I packed a few things from my desk on Friday in preparation for doing just that. But after the epiphany in the grocery store, working at home felt a bit like the captain sneaking off a doomed ship. So until I am told otherwise, I’d continue to go into the office.
The parking lot had fewer cars than a typical Monday. Signs were posted at the door advising the sick to not enter. Immediately it made me want to clear my throat. God forbid I cough! And just try not touching your face when they tell you not to! I closed the door to my office so I could get all that out of my system.
Like a well-oiled machine, my comrades and I worked to implement change coming down from our company leaders and our state. It is not a drill but the real deal, despite the absurdity of it all. While it's been said we will never know if what was done is overkill, not acting upon it when we should, would be tragic. I believe this 100%.
After work, I parked in the regular parking lot of the grocery store. The store was full. I didn’t have a list but shopped like I would on a normal day. A woman, a decade or so younger than me, said conspiratorially to me, “I feel like everyone thinks the world is ending.” I didn’t disagree but yet here we were with our carts. I bought my usual staples and a few extra frozen pizzas and ten pounds of hamburger. The shelves were stocked well, although they were out of Campbell’s Tomato Soup and the store brand bread. I was disappointed and a tad worried to see the toilet paper shelves empty. I spent $192, my biggest grocery bill since both boys lived at home.
I went out to the barn to feed the horses and wondered about spring. Last year it was the flooding. And then I broke my ribs. By the time I healed, it was July and hotter than hell. With last month’s faux spring, I was hopeful for an early ride season. I had entered a few competitions, made camping reservations and started to condition Windy. And here we are. I'm not getting any younger!
I hope when this comes up in my Facebook memories next year, I can reflect on it and know I made the best decisions with the information I was given and everything turned out well and good and the virus did not kill thousands, but quietly disappeared like the killer African bees that were suppose to be stateside decades ago. (I didn’t forget about them!) I’ll remember I was a rule follower. That I chose solidarity over isolation. That I can put personal feelings aside for the good of an organization or company. And I put trust in our leadership.
I’ll remember I should have bought 2 packages of toilet paper.
Stay safe, all. (t vasa)
To Be Continued.

Mar 27, 2020

A Time of Uncertainty - COVID 19 - Part 1

Do people blog much anymore?  By the looks of my last entry, it’s been almost three years since I visited my site; something I used to do a few times a week.  While I still love to write, Facebook and other social medial has reduced my creativity to brief thoughts or a just whimsical notion.  

If I look back at my old blog, it was perhaps a little self-absorbed.  Writing about what I love to do was easy.  Horses were and are a big part of my life.  There are still times when riding that I think about sharing this or that but then it ends up a quick photo and post to Facebook and the long version is forgotten.  

Today’s urge to write has nothing to do with horses unless I count what is going on in the world is taking me away from the horse adventures I’d planned this spring.  I was going to get Windy’s 1,000 competition miles.  Maybe enter The Colt in his first CTR.  I had campsites and entry fees paid.  I just needed to get through The Horse Trail Riding Expo, which I have chaired for six years, and I’d be ready to go!  That and the remodel of my house, which was running concurrently with Expo planning.  (Will someone remind me not to take on things like that during Expo time?)

Expo was pushed back a couple weeks this year due to Equifest in Kansas changing their date.  I was surprised at how the two-week delay reduced the stress of a tight timeframe and pleased with how things were moving along so well.   I should take a lesson in Murphy’s Law.  

In mid to late February, we start hearing more and more about this virus or flu which has crippled China.  I have become pretty numb to national news.  The days of trusting the likes of Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley are long gone.  Hell, even the weather forecasters tell you the sky is falling over a summer thunderstorm.  It’s about ratings and politics and when those things dry up, fear-mongering ends up being the story of the day. So now we have some “coronavirus” which is going to take out the world.  Looking at the numbers of people in China afflicted by this virus compared to the population of China, it was minuscule; shouldn’t even be a blip on anyone’s radar.  Italy?  It’s the size of California.  Of course it would be more concentrated!   

February 28:  My Expo co-chair called me and suggested we should have a Plan B around the coronavirus.  I thought he was being a bit paranoid.  “Let’s just keep an eye on it,” I said.  I probably rolled my eyes at the time, too.  I am sure I damned the media on Facebook for spreading the fear.  Then had a fun weekend in Kansas City; ate at a very full restaurant, stayed in a hotel, attended a horse conference and went shopping.  

March 9:  Met with the Co-Chairs about the status of Expo.  I was asked what we would lose is Expo was canceled.  While we had incurred some expenses, it wasn’t a lot.  Programs and tee shirts were ready to go to print.  We decided to call the printer and get a “drop dead” date for printing.  They gave us until Friday, March 13.  We would watch the news and meet with our Board of Directors on Thursday, March 12.  Print or don’t print.  Plan C was refunding the advertisers and just doing a schedule handout.  

March 10:  Happy Birthday to me.  My hopes of retiring in three years is now only just a dream.  I fell asleep with the TV on and woke up to dire predictions of the stock market going to hell because of China and this idiotic virus which couldn’t make me any sicker than I was at that moment or at the end of the day for the next several days.  

March 11:  Just 17 days ago.  Really?  I keep looking at the calendar because it doesn’t seem possible.  Again, another discussion with my Co-Chairs.  Things were heating up in Omaha.  We started to hear mention of “social distancing” and limiting activities to small groups.  Our event sponsor backed out.  Other vendors were calling and were concerned…

Meanwhile, another flu was rearing its head:  Equine Influenza.  While not a killer among horses, it is a social disease which can quickly go through a herd or barn.  Cough, snotty noses, fever and listlessness.  While just 17 days ago, a lot of my crowd hadn’t even paid homage to the coronavirus, the idea of horses catching equine influenza at our Expo was my bigger concern.  That, combined with seeing what was happening on Wall Street, the fight was out of me and I called Uncle.  Before we could meet with the board of directors, our team decided to pull the plug on Expo.  

The back lash to canceling this event was mixed.  Many said we were doing the socially responsible thing while others complained on Faceback that “a horse show was canceled over fear of this virus - really?”  I have to say, I woke up the next day with a lot of weight off of my shoulders.  A premonition of sorts, perhaps.  I say more like a God-send.  

To Be Continued:  PART 2