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Sybil Procedure: Brave new world

Minneapolis public schools are closed. My office has instituted remote work. Yesterday, around 2 p.m., my 6-year-old daughter bellowed at me, “Get me a juice box! Now!” “You are not a movie star, and I am not your assistant!” I yelled back. She stomped off to get juice, as I turned to my husband and whispered, “Quarantine: Day 1.”

In many ways, I am a member of the elite in this new world order. I am a lawyer, not a medical worker on the front lines of a pandemic. I am not wait staff, laid off and hoping to get my job back after the pandemic ends. I can easily work from my laptop. My daughter is home from school, but we have a babysitter coming today to keep her occupied while I work. And my whole family is healthy. So the problems that are currently occupying my new — at home — existence are first world problems. But they still exist. And, in an effort to entertain my fellow remote workers, I catalogue them here for posterity …


At work, I sit in a fabulous desk chair designed by Herman Miller. My desk is sit-to-stand, so — with the press of a button — I can raise my desk when I need a stretch. At home, I am curled in an armchair by the fireplace, laptop on my lap, keeping me warm, like a glowing kitten. My posture is awful. My legs are crossed. Every so often, I stand up and realize that my legs have fallen asleep.  I limp to the kitchen for a coffee refill or a seltzer.  If I keep on working this way, I may lose a leg, so I am contemplating switching to the kitchen island this afternoon …


I am a wild extrovert. Losing daily contact with my fabulous colleagues feels alienating and sad. My colleagues are attempting to combat the loneliness with a group text string. Some of the existential questions that we are contemplating include:

  • Is it wrong that I am thinking of ordering a video gaming system for my kids?
  • Is this the time to consider a dog? Could we just rent a dog during the pandemic and give it back after?
  • How many times in a row can a family watch “Frozen 2” before completely breaking down? (Related question: Does the answer change if you are also listening to the soundtrack on repeat?)
  • Why does Costco think that bagged popcorn is an acceptable offer of substitution for beef and milk (which are “low stock”)?
  • Finally, have we tried unplugging 2020, waiting for 10 seconds and plugging it back in?

The text string is fun—a way to share information (schools are closing!) as well as parenting tips or empathy.


For the past year, my Peloton loomed in the corner of my bedroom gathering dust and making me feel guilty. I think I used it four times. Until last Friday that is. Since we’ve been on lockdown, the Peloton is my lifeline. I can take live spin classes in New York and England anytime I want. The instructors are cheerful and play pop music. They vaguely refer to the fact that “we might be anxious about world events,” but emphasize that we can exercise to relieve anxiety. Peloton is people. Peloton is connection. Peloton prevents me from feeling like a slug who is just sitting at home in her pajamas all day. And it is the antidote to my legs falling asleep.

The news

Just as I did after September 11, I find myself turning to the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Strib throughout the day. Sometimes the news is simply interesting. For example, yesterday Germany announced, among other things, it was closing all its brothels.  I was beyond puzzled. Who was frequenting brothels in the midst of a pandemic that is transferred via body fluid? But I also find myself anxiously fixated on the numbers. How many new cases of COVID-19 are there in Minnesota? How many folks have been tested? How many folks have died? I keep doing the division to compute percentage of folks of dying, but, of course, we have no idea how many folks have it. What is the denominator? In an effort to prevent myself from going mad, I am only allowed to check the news after I have completed a project.

Virtual happy hours

Virtual happy hours are all the rage. Yesterday, my colleagues hopped on a group Facetime chat at 5 p.m. There is a problem, however. I’ve realized that on Facetime I spend too much time looking at myself and how I look in the conversation instead of focusing on others. I know this is wrong, but if someone puts a mirror in front of you during a conversation, how can you look away? I am looking forward to joining everyone again in a setting where I am not distracted by my silly looking gesticulations and can focus on what my dear friends are saying.

This is a brave new world. I am trying to stay healthy and cheerful, both for my daughter’s sake as well as my own. I am trying to remain present for my friends and colleagues — a virtual presence, but hopefully still a fun and reassuring one in the universe. I am trying to get my work done. I am trying to stay informed, but not to the extent that it causes anxiety.

I wish you all the best in your own efforts during this challenging time.

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