Making adjustments in Covid World

Making do with what I have, this time doing kettlebell swings.

Though this 21st century plague has been around since December, COVID-19 has only made its presence felt in in my hometown for the last few weeks. It’s definitely becoming more pronounced.

I live close to the urban center of Tulsa. While it’s no Manhattan, it’s typically a busy place with plenty of cars and people going to work, grabbing a meal or going to shows. It’s a destination center for the city.

Not so much these days. What I’ve seen over the past week or so is that the noise of the city has changed. Fewer cars. Less machinery. More birds and breezes in the trees. The city is quieter than I’ve ever seen it.

I mentioned daily disruptions last week, and that continues. I still go to the office for work, but they’ve split my department up, with about half working on another floor now. During my shift, the newsroom has no more that five or six people in it. When my shift is over and I’m doing my last duties, I’m the only one there. I plug in some tunes and get to work on placing stories for the corporate website, send off a few late emails and shut it down without a soul around. On Thursday, I worked from home for the first time. Downside: not having two monitors and dealing with twitchy internet connections. Upside: Five feet from the fridge! I ate well last night.

Speaking of eating, here’s a Covid World first-world problem: The taco joint next door to my office shut down, closed until this mess clears up. So no weekly burrito feast for me (insert sad face). Real world problems: The people who worked there don’t have jobs. They and 3.3 million other Americans filed for unemployment last week. Having been on that ride before, I can tell you this: No one enjoys unemployment. Being broke is stressful.

I’m making other adjustments. I posted a video on Facebook and Instagram showing me doing some kettlebell swings, maybe trying to encourage people to make do with what they’ve got and keep up those exercise routines. Exercise builds resilience, and that can help you fight off the bug. Or maybe get over it.

Anyway, a friend saw the video, commented, and offered to let me borrow an unused barbell and a few plates. She’s  personal trainer and works from her house, and was hoping to find someone who could use the spare gear. It’s not much — about 110 pounds total. But let me tell ya, I’m grateful to have it. I can program in  barbell lifts that I’ve been missing the last couple of weeks. It’s interesting to see how people react in times like these. Some folks are fighting over toilet paper. Other people, like my now-idled personal trainer friend, are looking for ways to help others whose lives have been upended.

One thing I’ve noticed hasn’t changed: People are still getting outside. The parks lining the Arkansas River have been busy. One of my new workout ideas is to do hill sprints on my bike, and there is no shortage of people walking, running, cycling and skateboarding on the trails. I’m not sure how much actual “social distancing” is going on there, and there was enough concern from the city that it and the county closed down playgrounds and basketball courts. I’m getting outside, too, cycling and running until the government says I can’t. I don’t do well cooped up.

Last thing: I think my neighbor’s condition may be improving, and his husband doesn’t seem to be coming down with the bug. We’re keeping an eye on them, mostly because they’re a bit older and fit all too well into that “vulnerable” demographic people keep talking about. I’m not worried about catching the bug from them. It’s the spring breakers that concern me.

As for me, I’m getting a little fluffier around the middle, but otherwise healthy. I’ve still got a job. I think there’s toilet paper around here somewhere (I know a place to get some that isn’t overrun by panicked suburbanites). But like a lot of you, I’m warily eyeing those infection numbers, wondering when the next shoe will drop, and hoping this thing doesn’t last too long.

Stay safe and well, my friends.

Bob Doucette

My own story of The Great Recession


It’s been a rather trying week in many ways. Family medical issues, a wonky work schedule, forced trips out of town to take care of lingering and pesky business. It came to a head in ways that have put a serious crimp in my training.

As of this writing, I’ve lifted once and put in one three-mile run. That’s it.

And there’s a good reason.

If you read this blog much, you might think that my life is all about great hikes, trail runs, epic sessions at the gym and fantastic summit views. That’s definitely a part of my life.

But there is a lot more to it than that. The life that builds “the life” has been far from ideal.

At this point, I’m going to get pretty real with you. And way off topic from what I usually write about in this space. I want to talk about the recession. The Great Recession.

I’d say my life is a good metaphor for what this country is going through right now. The U.S., in short, went through the most traumatic economic downturn since the Great Depression, and years after the financial crisis hit, we still haven’t dug out from underneath the avalanche of woes that buried us. I don’t want to talk about blame here, in terms of our lengthy and painfully slow recovery. Let’s just agree that it has been slow, painfully slow, and we’re not done yet.

When the Great Recession hit, I was working in a totally different city. I had a good job, a modest home and a career path that seemed to be stable and rewarding. Soon, though, the layoffs hit. I survived the first. And the second. But the second led to a change in jobs (a demotion, through no fault of my own, I was told). And months later, a third layoff in the same company.

I didn’t survive that one.

After 10 years, I received a nice lunch and a rod-and-reel set from my employer. Two years later, while visiting my terminally-ill brother in another state, I got a phone call telling me my services were no longer required.

And that’s where my journey through recession really began. I was unemployed for four months, kept afloat by a severance and unemployment insurance benefits from the government. It all went fast.

When it ran out, I was fortunate enough to find a new job. No small task. I applied for scores of jobs all over the country. I got two offers. One was for less than half what I made.

The other was much more, but still a pay cut and would require a move to a new city. I snapped it up gratefully, and it has turned out to be a pretty sweet little gig.

But we in the media often live paycheck to paycheck. For every high-flying media star making millions, there are a hundred-thousand getting by on working-class wages or less. Things like car repairs, new tires, replacement appliances or medical bills not covered by insurance don’t fit in the budget. They end up as debt. That is where I was before I was laid off in 2011.

The new problem — selling a house in another city while renting a new home in a new city, and still having to manage old bills and everything else on an income not strong enough to pull all that weight. Renting the old house out only slowed the bleeding. Two offers to buy over two years fell through. The bills continued to pile up to the point where I cannot say for certain that everyone I owed was going to get paid. Solvency was in question. Thank God for friends and family who helped along the way. We wouldn’t have made it otherwise.

It is only now that I can say my recession nightmare has ended. Well, sort of. The unwanted out-of-town house is sold (at a sizable loss), but the patient is finally in the recovery room, so to speak, with the hemorrhaging finally stopped. That one transaction made a lot of other dominoes fall in a positive direction and it no longer feels like the boot heel of debt is smashing down on my neck.

I’ve told you all before that my runs in the city or on the trails were about escape, and it’s true. A couple of hours weaving my way through the trees did wonders to keep me sane as endless hours of worry and a lot of sleepless nights passed by over a period of 28 months.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this here, in this space, other than to say that behind the facade of every blogger or writer you see, or anyone else for that matter, are real-life stories that are not glamorous, victorious or otherwise idyllic. I’m a real person who felt the sting of “the new economy” in a pretty bad way, one that didn’t end when a new job was found two years ago. A lot of others have had it far worse and will continue to struggle for quite some time, even if they find work.

Be good to each other. Recognize that a whole lot of folks are under the weight of enormous national events that weren’t an abstract realization that comes from reading a headline or watching the news. They lived it, losing a lot (losing it all?) through no fault of their own. We’re not “takers.” We’re not looking for a hand-out or even a hand up. We’re just trying to escape some seriously rotten circumstances. We, like our country, are still recovering from that trauma dubbed “The Great Recession.”

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088