So, hey, what’s new? How’s your quarantine going? I mean, we’ve been warned about this from years of historical accounts and scifi movies, right? And sure, I was as surprised as anyone that a global pandemic involved fewer zombies, bleeding from the eyeballs, and government agencies in hazmat suits preparing to nuke US cities for containment and mostly involved conference calls and binge-watching Arrested Development start to finish (finally). There have, however, been a few bright spots and good things to come out so far. So, let me recap with my top five highlights from quarantine so far:

#5. Doordash Epic Fails

Despite my love of cooking and the fact that I’m really pretty good at it, I’ve never wanted to eat out so bad in my life. So much so, that (for the first time) I braved the “gig culture economy” and paid the extortionist Doordash fees and bought two of the most expensive Chicago dogs I will ever buy in my life from Portillos one night. Well, in full disclosure, I “bought” two dogs, and an order of chicken fingers with fries for the kiddo for something like $30 after fees and tips. I “received” the Gray family’s dinner for five: Two italian sausage sandwiches, one chicago dog, one combo beef sandwich, one Big Beef sandwich, and order of onion rings, a chocolate cake, a strawberry shortcake, and a large coke.

Sorry, Mr. Gray.

When I protested, the driver simply said “It’s quarantine. I can’t take it back. Just keep it and call Doordash to get your money back.”

Oh … really? Okay, you’re forgiven. DoorDash, on the other hand is one for three, but at least this one was in my favor for once.

On the other hand, as the rightful owner of the order’s name was on the reciept, I decided to look him up on Facebook … just to put a face to my dinner for the next SIX NIGHTS. I’m not a sports guys, but I’m suspecting if this dude doesn’t play for the Colts, he was was probably a linebacker in college at some point — and it’s entirely possible that this entire feast was dinner for one. Yeah, I definitely do not envy the driver having to tell that guy he’ll have to make due with a couple of hot dogs and kids-sized chicken fingers.

#4. Returning to Programming

Of course, all the fun a mirth of a quarantine is not without its downsides. My own company saw it’s business decimated, leading to a 60% drop in stock value and approximately 8,000 layoffs. Now, given my own amusing history with such things (in the five years between 2012 and 2017, I was laid off four times … and I actually liked two of those jobs and didn’t cartwheel out of the office), I came to the realization that being a “Business Analyst” is pretty much the IT equivalent of wearing a red shirt in the classic Star Trek. Well, someone has to go to prove a point, who’s the least expendable one? Nobody lays off programmers, however. Those little shits always get to hold the company hostage.

Now, personally, I was a software engineer for about ten years, and still did some support programming for a while after that. The sheer frustration of poorly defined requirements, horrible management of projects, and crappy communications between management and customers in general spurred me into BA/PM work just to prove there is a large gap between business vision and what developers really need to know. Unfortunately, as four layoffs proved, nobody cares about that stuff anyway, and — judging by the fact that two of the companies in question inquired about re-engaging with me a few months later — no, not any idiot can do it.

Therefore, as a fallback measure, I finally broke down and went cover-to-cover on a couple of “modern language” books I bought (hardcopy!) about a decade ago, thinking it would be a nice fallback plan. Unfortunately, no sooner had a finished these and rewritten a couple of my old VB and ASP apps just to make sure I was comfortable in the lore, I read a nice article discussing how C#, .NET, and Python are dead languages and I should have been studying any one of ten other languages I’ve never heard of.

Cripes, I may as well go back to pTk and CGI.

#3. Losing 25 Pounds

Crazy, I know, right? If you don’t go out drinking beer 3-5 nights a week, you shed weight like my ex sheds skin. (I mean … moulting … she didn’t have … like … exema or anything … it was a reptile joke.) Okay, it wasn’t just beer, there were a few minor medical issues, but in general I’ve been shedding 1-2 pounds a day and an entire size in shirts, which has been cool.

(June Update: Yeah … put about ten of those back on, but still, better than March.)

#2. Car Repair Bills that Weren’t

So, cool thing about quarantine, you don’t tend to need your car much, especially when you’re walking/biking distance from what little is open. So, the night before the lock down order, as I was headed out to procure supplies (read: beer), this stupid mirthmobile of mine went all “Red Alert! Raise Shields!” with a bunch of stupid alarms and blinking lights. Oh, and one display on the HUD that said something like, “Low or no oil pressure, stop engine immediately.”

Well, that was it, I figured. I just had the oil changed less than a month ago, so it must be the inevitable head gasket that they think “may have an issue” but it’s to expensive to say for sure. Well, if quarantine lasts a long enough, then with not going out and not spending big bucks on daycare, I’ll probably have enough to buy a new car by July or so, and if not, I have enough to pay for a head gasket repair. Stupid I know, but I’m not about to take out an auto loan in this uncertain employment market.

Anyway, after two months of walking or bumming rides everywhere — not to mention stressing out over the major car expense I was about to incur one way or the other, I finally bit the bullet and asked what the damage was.

Yea, it turns out that, while a $2000 head gasket MIGHT have caused that alarm, it can also be caused by a faulty $99 oil pressure sensor. Yay!

#1. Editing that Pesky Novel

So, as previously documented, I wrote a novel back in November (technically I won NaNoWriMo with 59K words in November. The novel wasn’t finished until two weeks later). The problem was, I had neither the time nor enthusiasm to edit that regurgitation of words into something that people might actually want to drop .49 cents (my actual asking price for the finished product) on and spend five or six hours reading. Losing two hours a day in a commute helped that mission considerably.

The only problem was, the novel itself is a satirical commentary on everything from Agile business practices, small-plate restaurants, the rise of downtown scooters and the people who rent them, and the wackiness of office politics in the software industry. So, trapped in my home and unable to so much as go out and have a beer with friends, I suddenly realize, I’ve written a quaint, unmarketable period piece at best, or at worst, a really tasteless piece of black humor. Some of it just won’t hold up in a post-Covid world. Let’s just say there was one scene where our antagonist pays a homeless person with the flu to sit in the middle of an open-office floorplan as a means of corporate sabotage. I mean, hilarious back in November; a bit tasteless a few months later.

So I guess the question is: with this power at my disposal, what do you want me to rid the world of next year?