Sunday, March 22, 2020

Strange Days

I know last summer I said I was going to diversify a little here on Inventory Full but I didn't plan on straying into real world politics or giving my opinions on live news stories. I'll leave that to the Gevlons and Tobolds of this world.

It would be strange to carry on as if nothing was going on right now, though, wouldn't it? And after all, many bloggers I follow already have a longstanding tradition of including anecdotes or episodes from their non-gaming life, something I did more than my fair share of last year.

As evidenced by a number of recent posts, plenty of bloggers are now working from home, voluntarily self-isolating or on lockdown, as Wilhelm tells us he is under California's oddly romantic-sounding "shelter at home" policy.

It's notable how fast attitudes have changed. I don't think Naithin will have been at all unusual in thinking that there might have been some level of media hype involved when this thing started rolling. We all know better now or at least I trust we do.

I'm in the unusual position of having had a week's holiday booked that then turned into two, right at the time things really began to move.That's afforded me a certain, peculiar perspective.

When I walked out of work two weeks ago with nothing but leisure time on my mind there was still no real hint of what was coming. The outbreaks in China had been in the news for weeks and the virus was moving around the world but I went to visit my eighty-eight year old mother a couple of days later and we barely even mentioned it as we chatted.

Just a couple of weeks later she's in isolation. It's Mothers' Day in the U.K. and normally I'd be visiting but this year the flowers got delivered and left on the doorstep and we kept our contact to a phone call. It's likely to be three months before we meet face to face. If that soon.

I was due to start back to work today but yesterday I had an email from my manager querying whether I would be self-isolating. She'd just received detailed guidelines on the vulnerable groups and she thought I might be in one of them.

I'm pretty sure I'm not. It was quite reassuring to find none of them applied to me at all but there was one gray area: I had chemotherapy last year. One of the effects of chemo is the depression of the immune system and anyone undergoing it or who's had it recently absolutely should not set foot outside the house at the moment.

I was warned strongly last year, long before Covid-19 was on anyone's radar, that even getting a cold could be dangerous. I took a lot of care to avoid that. I wore a facemask for a while and avoided anywhere with people.

The advice I received at the time, though, made it quite clear that within a month or two of completing the course my immune system should have returned to normal. I should be fine now, getting on for six months later.

The text of the advice, however, is not entirely clear. I went into work this morning to discuss it and the upshot is that I'm back at home, typing this instead of standing in an empty shop staring into space. I'm self-certificating myself for a few days while my manager seeks clarity from our HR department over whether or not they believe I should be working.

By the time that's sorted out, with any luck the shop will have closed anyway. As I walked through the almost-deserted city center the difference from a couple of weeks ago was almost surreal. All the coffee shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs were closed as expected but so were the majority of shops of all kinds.

The government here hasn't quite yet gone as far as a full lockdown but many people think one's coming and soon. If it doesn't, we may have to close anway through sheer lack of people to keep the shop open. We always run close to the wire on staffing levels anyway - this could push us over the edge.

Our MD, however, is apparently very keen we should stay open. He's making a case for bookshops as an essential service, something that sounds as likely to convince the authorities as Gamestop's similar argument did in California.

Until government decrees otherwise, though, it looks as though our doors will stay open. If they do, I am expecting to have to go in eventually. At that point the choice is going to come down to whether I want to keep my job, which I'd quite like to do, or whether I consider my life to be sufficiently at risk that I have to quit.

[EDIT - And as I wake up this morning and check our website I see that by the end of the day the company I work for, like most other retailers in the UK, will have closed its doors to the public "until further notice" . Better late etc.]

That's probably overly dramatic. My feeling is that most of us are going to get Corvid-19 at some stage no matter how hard we try to avoid it. And most of us will recover. The trick is for not too many of us to get it all at once, so those who need it can get the care they require.

I'm expecting this to last months not weeks and I don't believe many countries are going to be able to survive or even sustain a lockdown with no obvious end in sight. What that means for day-to-day life for most of us is difficult to imagine.

This is going to be a long, strange year and things could get a lot stranger yet. The world will be different after all this is over. I just hope everyone reading this is there to see how different.


  1. The shop should close, period.

    My employer directed us all to apply for unemployment immediately, although we've not been laid off (yes, that actually makes sense here). Any options available for you and your collegues?

    Weather's gorgeous here today, but going out is inadvisable at best. Rains due this week, but, as you've reminded here, MMO skies can be pretty beautiful. (I'm partial to sunset at Gorowyn, but GW2 art never gets old either.)

    Take care.

    S. F. Bay Area

    1. Yes, they definitely should close. It was clear my immediate manager thought so when I went in and talked to her today but of course it's a decision way above branch level.

      The weather forecast this week is amazing - unbroken sunshine for about four straight days. I foresee problems with people gathering outdoors. There's already been a problem with that and really nice weather is just going to make it worse. Oh, the irony.

  2. And it looks like Borris Johnson has announced a full lock down now, so I imagine it will be closed!

    I hope you and Mrs Bhagpuss manage to stay safe throughout all this, it's amazing how fast things are moving with even NZ moving to implement a lock down, announced yesterday and to be implemented from midnight Wednesday onward.

    PS: Recently, I've been havign major issues posting comments here. It seems whether I try as google account or just with name/address details, something, somewhere, gobbles them. I'm trying again now with a different script blocker config -- so hopefully it works now. But it had all been fine in the past and out of nowhere just stopped!

    1. Yay! It worked. Not sure what precisely was newly objecting to being blocked, but it was something uMatrix Origin was picking up and putting in the naughty corner for the last few weeks for some reason.

      So if any future person has trouble commenting here; try disabling uMatrix Origin for this site if you're running it. (It goes on both Firefox and Chrome; so could be either.)

    2. People occasionally comment on the difficulty of commenting. I get issues at some sites too but it varies. Glad you could make it through!

      Everything is still as clear as mud here. I'm definitely at home for the immediate future because my company is trying to get clarification on what they can and can't do. They were planning on havign people in today and tomorrow, behind closed doors, to finish up stuff, then most staff would go "on furlough", which means paid leave of absence. They are only guaranteeing that until the end of April after which there may be mass redundancies.

      What they want to do is keep using the larger stores to supply online demand, again behind closed doors, which our branch already does. If I go in for that it will keep me actively employed and protect me from redundancy so I may volunteer for it. I said I wouldn't but I didn't know about the redundancy then. However, until they get clarification from the govt. they don't know if they can go ahead with that plan so nothing will happen for a few days.

      The aftermath of all of this is going to be long-lasting and potentially more apocalyptic than the disease itself, I think. Wouldn't be surprised if I end up taking involuntary, unpaid early retirement...

  3. I am glad you are home and safe. While I understood you were in Europe somewhere I was never 100% certain you were in the UK. It's also good that your shop closed and I would expect that you would not have to quit if they reopened and you felt that you should not go in. With a recent health condition and today's environment the HR dept. would not chance it. Now an unpaid leave might be another story.

    I am in Virginia in the US. Luckily, I have a fairly secure job that I can easily WFH. My wife is a teacher and I have a daughter who goes to the same school. It was just announced yesterday that the remainder of the school year is cancelled and we are to continue the learning at home. So we are just continuing my daughter's lessons and doing our best to keep a 5 year old entertained.

    Thank you for posting on this, as I do wonder how everyone is handling this situation and how safe they are.

    1. Good luck with your five year old. I dread to think what it would have been like if we'd had to go on lockdown with our three!

      I think the warnings about redundancies are because there will very likely be permanent branch closures if this goes on much longer than the end of April. My branch is a big one, though - the whole company would probably have to fold before we shut. We're guaranteed our jobs until end of April whether we work or stay home, anyway, and I really don't mind going in to pick and pack internet orders behind closed doors if that's what ends up happening. We often say the shop would run so much better without the customers - now we may get to find out if that's true!

    2. Relatable. Dang customers... ;)

      Meanwhile, far too many people here are still going out and grouping. Twitter's been passing around the clips of mayors in Italy going off on their citizens about it. The notion of flamethrowers came up once. The mayor here would probably like to be in one of those clips, but the mayor of Walton, Kentucky beat her to it. Refreshing. (I'm not about to articulate it here. heh)

      A mixed bag of activity in Congress at the moment which, at least, may result in some realistic financial coverage. Not there yet.

      Anyhow, do be careful and all that. Always good to read you here.

      -- 7rlsy


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