Five Weeks in Isolation

Nearly everyone in the world are now in different phases of isolation or quarantine. My experience is anything but unique, but as Seattle was one of the first hot spots on this continent I figure we are probably a week or two ahead of most of North America. As something to stay entertained and sane in my fifth week of isolation I put together a little timeline of how I experienced this pandemic and what I’ve been doing while cooped up.

My Fortunes

Firstly I must acknowledge that I am very lucky to be well suited for this quarantine. My work can be done at home and even before all offices were closed I was already working from home about one day a week. I live in a fairly large house and have an office set up for myself which allows me to have a separate physical space to work and take Zoom calls. I know many who live in small apartments who don’t have a desk, and are working off of kitchen tables. I live with a roommate so I have not been completely devoid of human interaction while isolated.

I am fortunate that a lot of my social life was already online. Before the quarantine I was already keeping up with friends in other states and around Seattle by playing games online. While the home isolation changed many of my social plans, for a few of my social circles very little changed.

Time Line

  • March 1st:
    Some items are noticeably missing while grocery shopping. Mostly just bulk things like flour, rice, potatoes.
  • Week of March 2nd:
    I started limiting the time I spent in the office. Working from home some full days or just going in for the after noon. Around March 5th most tech workers in Seattle were being told to work from home for the next few weeks. I still meet with friends at a bar for trivia and still have people over for Dungeons and Dragons in person.
  • March 7th:
    Last day skiing of the season though we didn’t know that at the time.
  • Week of March 9th:
    A fairly normal work week. Getting work done is a strong distraction from the new isolation. Though everyone is working from home, not too much is out of the ordinary. I still feel like this is a temporary arrangement and things will be normal soon. Pub trivia is now movie night at a friends house to avoid public spaces and large gatherings.
  • March 14th:
    Vail ski resorts closes all mountains nationally “for two weeks”, but the writing is on the wall that the season is over. We decide to cancel a planned ski trip to Utah at the end of the month. This is really where the scale of how disruptive this might be starts to set in as events through June start to cancel.
  • Week of March 16th:
    The weather in Seattle is warming up and it starts feeling very stifling to be inside. Working from home feels restrictive. On March 18th my company makes the decision to close all offices globally for at least the next three months. This is going to be more than a few weeks of WFH, better get comfortable. All socializing has moved online.
  • Week of March 23rd:
    Most of each day is spent at the computer, it is the portal to the outside. Days are spent working and nights are spent online with friends. This is our new existence. Days start to blend together.

  • Week of March 30th:
    I think this was the worse week yet. Most of the time I found it very hard to focus. Very little work accomplished, very little time spent on personal projects. At the end of the week I realized it had been 2 weeks since I last left the house. After a few hours out on a bicycle things are much better.
    A close friend is hospitalized for COVID-19, and is put on a ventilator.
  • Week of April 6th:
    Isolation and staying in start seeming like the new normal. Keeping a routine, including time spent outside and exercise is very important. Passover Seder is a 20 person Zoom call.
    My friend has recovered enough to be taken off the ventilator and sent home.

How I Stay Sane

“There no more Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays, …etc.
There is only Day”

Staying at home for a few weeks and spending pretty much every day in front of the computer, things start to blend together. It was difficult to put together a timeline for this post of what’s been going on the past four weeks; the day to day is slow and repetitive and the news is so fast and quick to change.

I’ve tried to keep the same schedule as I normally would. This means getting up around 7 every morning, showering, getting dressed into not-pajamas, and trying to work normal-ish hours. To try and keep some office chatter going, we have a daily drop in call just for socializing.

Even though we cannot congregate in groups, every recurring weekly social events have still been meeting. Pub Trivia is now online Jack-Box, Dungeons & Dragons is now online. I’ve also done some board game and movie nights online with some fancy software.

There is still a lot of unscheduled time at home, and you can only clean the house so many times a day. This is a good time to indulge in some hobbies or take up some new ones. The first week of isolation I was working on building a new computer. The second week of isolation I did a lot of cooking; and now that I have secured more flour, a lot of baking.

One large project was Adam Ragusia’s three day lasagna that had me rolling out meters of pasta. Last week I was practicing making some sourdough bread, and now that Passover has started I will try some homemade Matzoh.

Now that I’ve gotten this large post out of the way I’ll be posting more incremental updates on the day to day.

While everyone has discovered Zoom as a way to stay connected, there are a few other programs and services I want to call out.

Discord and Mumble; Zoom’s origins are as enterprise telecomunication software, and it shows. Zoom is lacking in a lot of powerful features that make calls with lots of members more pleasant, like a usable push-to-talk or individual volume controls for each member. Discord and Mumble are mostly voice-only clients (Discord does now support video) which were built for online gaming. With this different pedigree there are different set of features supported.

Watch2Gether and NetflixParty; These are browser extensions which will sync up the streams from Netflix/Amazon/ Hulu/YouTube/etc for multiple people, allowing you to still have a movie night with others while isolated.

JackBox Party Packs; Many have probably played a JackBox party game at a house party at some point. Most of the games can be played online with one person sharing their screen or streaming to Twitch/Mixer.

TabletopSimulator; Its very hard to play board games while staying at least 6 ft apart from one another. TabletopSimulator provides a framework to play a lot of your favorite board games on the computer with friends online.

Looking to the Future

While no one knows how long isolation will be recommended, this week is the first week where the numbers have started looking better. The newest IHME models now estimate that Washington may already be past the peak of infections, showing everyone that isolating at home does pay off. I am greatly looking forward to when I can go outside without feeling paranoid or guilty and when I can again meet up with friends for a coffee or a drink.

4 thoughts on “Five Weeks in Isolation

  1. ruthellengruber says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! All my days run into each other…and I find that the more that I stay in, the less I want to go out. Gotta go out today, though, to pick up dog food for the Shim. (Just about used up the quantity I bought a month ago, before lockdown.) Store was out of it when I went to do it yesterday.


  2. Frank Gruber says:

    Jonah — lots of good advice. I especially might look into the three-day lasagna. But that would be a lot for me and Janet to eat by ourselves.


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