Co-founder Source of the Spring.
How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
That’s the funny thing. I’ve been living like this for years. I have my office and that’s where I spend most of my time. It’s just not that much different. My day-to-day existence hasn’t really changed – except for the fact that my wife is home now and she’s working and I have to respect that she’s on video conference calls and do the minimum to try not to disrupt them in anyway. Fortunately we have a flexible floor plan. In terms of being around during the day, I mow the lawn, I do laundry, I weed the garden.
I’ve always been a voracious reader, and as long as I can remember I’ve always been perfectly happy to be home alone with a book. It does not bother me to be home alone with a book. My wife jokes that I never want to go anywhere.
Are you working more or less?
The news business has slowed down in terms of the variety of what I’ve been covering. Right now there are just no news stories that aren’t related to the virus. Even the county council and the state – they are very much focused on trying to deal with various aspects of the virus, helping small businesses, those sorts of things. Financially we’re in a rough spot, but we’re not the only ones.
What are you most afraid of?
My wife and I talked about this – you hear about people who are stressed out and they have anxiety, but that’s not really affecting us. If I was retired and dependent on my IRA it might be a different story.
What are you most hopeful for?
I’d like to see all this end, like anybody else. I’ve been joking that when we get out of this alive, I’m going to go around hugging everyone I see until the police arrest me. Obviously I’m not actually going to do that, but I could see that happening because people are so starved for human-to-human connection. We talk to our friends via Zoom almost weekly. We have a Friday virtual happy hour. We stay in touch that way. It’s not the same as sitting around in someone’s kitchen or going to a restaurant, but its something.
What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
I’ve never experienced anything like this. I don't think any of us have. It’s one thing to go through a recession, but this is not like that. You could argue that we are in a recession and we’re not going to pull out of it for awhile. But the whole stay-at-home thing puts a completely different spin on it.
I have this new granddaughter, Madelyn. She is two months old today (the day this interview was conducted). We had hoped to visit over Easter and spend time with her, but we’re under stay-at-home orders. Madelyn and her parents are in Pennsylvania and they’re under stay-at-home orders. We’re living vicariously through their Instagram and Facebook photos, or things my son texts me. That’s the one thing that I wish I could do that I’m not able to do. Theoretically, I could go up to Pennsylvania, but why risk it?
Is there anything – even a tiny thing – you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
Well, my dogs love it. When my wife previously worked from home, our dog Odin used to be clingy and demanded attention. Now that she’s been here for 5+ weeks, he has eased off that. Both of our dogs like to be where we are, and they like having people around the house all day.
One interesting observation: the first week or two of the stay-at-home order, there were so many people on the sidewalk walking around the neighborhood. I was seeing people I’d never seen before. But the novelty of that seems to have warn off. The volume is just not what it was for the first couple weeks.
What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
Probably nothing. I know it sounds cynical, but when you think about big events, what do we learn about anything? 9/11 happened and now we take our shoes off in the airports...
I’d like to think that there would be a new appreciation for the workers who are getting this through this. Not just the healthcare workers like nurses and doctors, but the people in the grocery stores and pet stores. The guys out there picking up our trash. The restaurant workers who are still able to work and provide us with carry out or delivery.
The thing that would tell the difference is if we start paying these people a respectable wage. Some in Congress don’t want to give them anything. You compare what other wealthy nations are giving their people on a monthly basis – ensuring citizens have a steady basic income – and we’re sending out $1200 checks. It’s just laughable.
I don’t have a whole lot of hope for things like a $15 minimum wage, especially nationally. But if there was a real change, that’s where you would see it and that’s where it would make a real difference. We need to show these people that we appreciate them.
How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
The same way I always did, but with less exercise. That’s the one thing I miss – I played basketball every Sunday night at one of the high school gyms. The guys I play with and I are no longer able to do that. It was nice to see those guys every week. A couple of them would tell me that that pick-up game was the highlight of their week. They’d work long hours – some of them are gov’t attorneys, things like that - and that was their chance to get away and forget about things for a while.
When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
I would probably tell my granddaughter about how strange the whole experience has been, and about the different ways people reacted and coped – the different things people did either to keep themselves busy or feel some sort of human connection.
What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
I’m still alive. Local news is still important. It has a role in building a community. It gives the community a common source of information, and I hope Source of the Spring creates a sense of community in Silver Spring and Takoma Park.