Quarantine Diaries — Volume 13

The Quarantine Diaries are an attempt to turn social distancing into a shared experience.

We’ve been asking people to tell us everything from their best working from home habit (and their worst) as well as their go-to selections for books, music and TV.

We’ve been publishing new volumes every few days, and we’ve incorporated an incredibly eclectic Spotify playlist that we’re updating with each submission (see below).

You don’t have to be invited to share your diaries: we want to hear from all of you. And please remember to send us your quarantine selfie or portrait. Anyone interested in sharing their own diaries with us, contact either David Brown or Chris Powell

Erin Kawalecki, DDB (top photo)

Thing you miss most about the office… The ability to leave.

What books are you reading? Loving it, hating it?  Bread and Jam for Frances. If I Ran the Circus. A lot of Robert Munsch.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations? I was watching Tiger King in increments of about 15 minutes a day because life was so busy. But then around episode three or four, shit got so crazy and I had to stay up and watch the rest. Bad life decisions. I also may have started watching Too Hot to Handle. It is the worst of humanity. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone except it’s sooooooooo good.

Advice you’d give yourself six months from now? Status meetings aren’t so bad. Also, any day without homeschooling is a day to celebrate. It turns out I am not a math teacher.

Any technology challenges/triumphs? The first time I booked a meeting directly from my calendar into Teams was a moment of triumph. I will never admit that to our head of account service though, as it will give him too much satisfaction. And it has been a resounding triumph to have everyone work together so well, remotely, in such a crazy time. The people I work with are amazing, resourceful, resilient and all the things. If I was a different kind of person I would refer to myself as #blessed.

Yvonne Ziomecki, HomeEquity Bank

Have you developed any good habits about working from home? I keep my small desk clean and I’ve gone paperless.

Any bad habits? Not getting up from my desk for hours to move and stretch.

Favourite quarantine meal? Breakfast. Definitely breakfast. Double toasted rye bread with caraway seeds, two fried eggs, bacon, tomato slices and tea with milk.

Piece of advertising that can always make you laugh… HomeEquity Bank’s “Move In” commercial (below).

Thing you miss most about the office… My work family, I miss the drop ins, the ill-timed interruptions, the “do you have a minute?” And I miss seeing people’s faces, talking about our weekends, lives. I miss walking to work.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations? Sneaky Pete on Amazon Prime, The Stranger on Netflix. Couldn’t get into Tiger King. I’m watching a lot less TV than I was expecting.

What song best represents your current state of mind? Or what is on your quarantine playlist? George Michael, Van Morrison, Michael Buble, Avicii, The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Blue Rodeo with a hint of ABBA and Pet Shop Boys. No specific song, but I like listening to music while I work.

Advice you’d give to yourself six months from now… Same as always: be kind, work hard, exercise, tell people you love them and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Any technology challenges/triumphs? In the triumphs category: adopted Microsoft Teams because I had no choice, has been terrific. Challenges: when wi-fi goes down I become borderline hysterical.

David Willows, Green Shield Canada

Have you developed any good habits about working from home? I have managed to stay steely focused on my list of work deliverables, even in the small back bedroom that was never built for office work. And despite the nearby presence of a kitchen, I finish each day without having baked bread of any kind… but especially sourdough, which does not taste good. I definitely would vote my stubborn daily refusal to acquiesce to society’s bread-baking surge as my best habit.

Any bad habits? I have reverted to my seven-year old self and consume a popsicle mid-afternoon every day. They come in a box with three flavours: purple, red and orange. You may argue that those are colours, not flavours, but that would reveal you as a non-popsicle devotee. Consistent with my seven-year old self, I judge the darkness of the colour through the white wrapper and eat the purples and reds first, knowing eventually I will be left with only the orange—which, yes, before you point it out, is indeed both a colour and flavour.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations? I am halfway through the first season of Yellowstone, which I have flippantly referred to as a “low-IQ Succession.” But, to its credit, it has Kevin Costner playing a character who looks and sounds a lot like Kevin Costner, and it tries to address indigenous land rights, which is rare in mass entertainment. It does that with soap operatic plotting amidst a stunningly beautiful travelogue for the state of Montana.

Recommended with a bottle of wine open and frequent pours…

What song best represents your current state of mind? Or what is on your quarantine playlist? In a rant which has grown tiresome for those who share my living space, what is not on my playlist are cover versions of deep album tracks whose titles vaguely suggest they could be about our current challenges.

So, pop stars performing on late night shows or livestream concerts to raise dollars, how about not playing an obscure Bob Dylan song that was actually written about breaking up with a girlfriend, not about being in social isolation to thwart a worldwide virus, and instead play a song for which you are famous and people actually like, which is the reason you are on the show or in the concert to begin with…

There, I feel better.

Advice you’d give yourself six months from now… To remember what I have tried to never let my daughter forget since she was in grade school: to live in this imperfect city, in this imperfect province, in our imperfect country… we are more privileged than 99 point something per cent of people on this planet. So if my favourite artists continue to eschew their fun songs for quarantine-themed dirges, I will simply twirl through my own playlists and listen to what I want. Still a pretty lucky life to lead, eh?

Luke Skinner Saatchi & Saatchi

Have you developed any good habits about working from home? Are they habits when they change every other week? My good habits, like my ambition, have come and gone in waves during quarantine. The sun shines between the skyscrapers and hits my balcony at around 3 p.m. I’ve been making sure I take a break from whatever I’m working on at that time to spend some time enjoying the sun. I think that’s something I’d like to continue doing.

Any bad habits? I don’t really wear a ton of clothing anymore…

Favourite quarantine meal? Cucumber sandwiches. Some fresh bread from the bakery, mayo, sliced cucumber, and a bit of fresh ground black pepper. It’s been my go-to lunch when I don’t have a ton of time to cook.

Piece of advertising that can always make you laugh… Right now? Anything with uplifting piano music and a line about being “here to help.”

Thing you miss most about the office… I miss sitting at my desk and looking forward to things.

What books are you reading? Loving it? Hating it? I recently discovered David Sedaris and I’ve been working my way through his catalogue. His comedic essays are a great reminder in these times that a little levity goes a long way.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations? I got a kick out of the Amazon Prime show Upload.

Advice you’d give yourself six months from now… Hang in there buddy… how much longer could this possibly last?

Tracy Smith, The Mark

Have you developed any good habits about working from home?  Definitely taking the time every day to reconnect with past colleagues and friends. This whole experience has reminded me how grateful I am for all the wonderful people in my life—past and present. Also, getting the mail in a unicorn onesie. Why not?

Any bad habits? Bread with every meal… including snacks.

Favourite quarantine meal?  Lots of “butter chicken,” but with tofu and roast cauliflower. Did I mention the naan? I live in the suburbs so also planning to drive into the city to pick up our favourite Thai from Pai. Or maybe Gio Rana’s for some gnocchi.

Thing you miss most about the office…  Where do I start? We recently redecorated and the space is so warm and inviting. I miss the music playing, the heckling due to someone’s song choice; the team having lunch together in the café; and just generally seeing everyone, including our dogs Jaina, Sable Lulu, Stella and our cat, Rory.

What books are you reading? Loving it? Hating it?  While I adore reading, I have found it hard after a long day working alongside our three-year old. I’m optimistically starting Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers as I’m curious about the rapid adoption of new technology, considering the pandemic. For more fun, I will read anything Patrick deWitt and I always love a good thriller.

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations?  I’m addicted to Last Dance as many people are. It’s magnetic. We also just finished Succession (go Kendall!) and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I cannot wait to see what’s next for those shows. Also, really proud of our documentary airing May 24 on Sportsnet—Scotiabank’s Hockey 24 captures Canadians’ dedication to our beloved sport. The stories are heart-warming, uplifting and oh-so-needed right now.

What song best represents your current state of mind? Or what is on your quarantine playlist? Really depends on the day. From ’90s dancehall, to Dave Brubeck to anything Whitney. And yes, the heckling was directed at me.

Advice you’d give to yourself six months from now… Get up and move! And enough bread already. In all seriousness, don’t forget about you. If this time tells us anything it’s to be more humane, more benevolent. Kindness can transform and have such a lasting impact—and that includes being kind to yourself.

Any technology challenges/triumphs? The wi-fi in the burbs is not very reliable. I have figured out the best spots in the house, which oddly include the trunk of my car (my go-to space for quiet, focused work). Needless to say, I’m looking forward to warmer weather.

David Brown