Monday, May 18, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: 10 Weeks

Beef shank tomato noodle soup from a local company, Eat Nomz. They sell frozen soups, with noodles on the side,  for ~$10 to $12/serving, roughly the price of my Sweetgreen lunches. They ship by courier within Manhattan and also ship soups (but no noodles) to a few nearby states. We tried pork and lotus root, beef shank tomato, and brisket radish, and enjoyed all three. I first heard about them years ago from Eva Chen.

How are you doing? Has your state or local government started lifting COVID-19 restrictions? I hope that you and your families are well. K and I are doing just fine, and our families continue to be in good health. Starting next month, I might start feeling nervous about potential salary cuts or furloughs at my workplace, because it's becoming clear that we probably can't return to "business as usual" anytime this summer. Still, I've been extremely fortunate that I've yet to see any disruptions to my job security or income.

This month, I made $350 in total donations to the Food Bank for New York City and World Central Kitchen. I plan to continue making some donations until NYC is fully reopened, or until I see large disruptions to my income (whichever comes first). Though as I start getting nervous about possible salary cuts or furloughs and whether I need to further adjust my money management to account for that, I might no longer commit to donating the same amount every month.

I also expect to start shopping less. After a handful of impulsive "last hurrah" purchases between when I drafted my previous monthly shopping post (a few days ahead of posting) and the first week of May - including an additional Elizabeth Suzann item when they announced the closing of this iteration of the company - I've been much better about not shopping. It's hard for me to absolutely guarantee I'll stay away, given the sheer number of unpredictable mood swings I've had about all kinds of things during this time of fairly strict social distancing. But I seem to be getting to a point where online window-shopping is no longer able to make me feel better - even temporarily - about the pandemic, the way it used to. 

Reopening in New York

New York has laid out a fairly detailed phased reopening plan. A few regions of the state have hit the metrics required to begin Phase One of reopening, but NYC is - unsurprisingly - not among them. Phase One only allows limited industries to reopen: construction, manufacturing, wholesale, and select retail for curbside pickup. (Though I should note that "essential" construction - including several residential construction projects in my neighborhood - had previously remained open under the On PAUSE shutdown orders.) 

Professional services, including legal services, are not slated for partial reopening until Phase Two, so the absolute earliest I could start returning to the office - likely on a limited basis - is probably late June. (Though honestly, I'd be surprised if NYC was allowed to proceed to Phase Two by then.) Any initial reopening would not be a full one, it would involve many precautions and new policies to facilitate social distancing, likely including having a large percentage of the workforce working from home at any given time. Anecdotally, many biglaw firms in NYC have given employees indications that the firms don't expect a significant number of attorneys and staff to return to the office anytime this summer.

Small Things 

When the shutdowns first started in NYC, I was already three months overdue for a haircut. With my typical shoulder-length cut, it looks awkward when I'm a month overdue, but by the second month, it looks like I intentionally wear my hair long. It takes a while before my hair next starts looking like it needs a cut again. Now that it's over five months past when I really should have gotten a haircut, my hair is noticeably overgrown. I'm not sure, however, that I'll ever get to a point where I'd try to cut my hair myself, or have K do it, since I can just keep my increasingly long hair in a sloppy bun all the time. 

One small piece of good news: As it turns out, we didn't need to negotiate with our landlord for a smaller rent increase when we renew our lease! Back in early March, right on the eve of my unexpected return from my business trip, their initial proposal was for a ~6% rent increase. And this was on top of a substantial rent increase last year (which actually still left our rent slightly under local market rates for comparable units, so we didn't feel empowered to negotiate at the time).

Last week, just as we were gearing up to open negotiations, the landlord revised their offer so that we could renew our lease with no rent increase. Zero rent increase was my ideal outcome for the discussion, so we've now signed our new lease. Of course, if they offered this so readily with no effort on our part, I now wonder if my starting position for the negotiation wasn't aggressive enough...

Our neighborhood has been having significant problems with USPS mail delivery. Strangely enough, the disruption only seems to affect letters delivered by USPS, not packages. We're receiving a dramatically smaller volume of mail than usual. Some of my colleagues have also tried to mail me things from elsewhere in the NYC metro area, only to have the letters mysteriously returned as undeliverable.

I'm certainly not going to complain or cause trouble for anyone, and I understand that things are likely badly disrupted due to COVID-19 and many USPS employees getting sick. I also believe in the importance of the USPS as a necessary and valuable public institution. (In the end, anything important at work can be dealt with by email.) But I'm concerned that these disruptions will affect the receipt and submission of our absentee ballots next month. (New York state is no stranger to voter suppression.)

Slow Acceptance of the New Normal

When it comes to the health and safety of my parents and extended family, I've been extremely lucky that everyone has always taken COVID-19 very seriously (definitely more seriously than I initially did; I myself was quite slow on the uptake, and I wasn't even originally that worried about all my international business travel in March). And the vast majority of my extended family lives in Taiwan, where COVID-19 has been well-controlled from the start, so I don't really have to worry about them. 

While speaking with my mom on Mother's Day, she mentioned that she didn't expect that she (in the California Bay Area), my sister (near Washington D.C.), and I would be able to see each other in person until there is a vaccine. Deep-down, I had probably already realized this, as I have a hard time imagining getting on a plane or train for fun anytime before a vaccine is available and before I've received said vaccine. But it did make me sad to actually hear this said out loud. 

There are, of course, various circumstances I could imagine that would potentially force me to undertake essential travel before there's a vaccine, including for work or - god forbid - if there was a family emergency. But I hope no such situations arise, because I really don't want to be forced to make difficult decisions about the risk to my own health or the added risk I'd then be imposing on other people. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear from anyone who might be reading! Please feel free to leave a comment or question.