James Owen, who works in the information technology field, describes what daily life has been like since the Safer at Home order social distance measures were put in place. James shares a couple of moments on a national level that have had an impact on him during the early spring of 2020.
Narrator Name: James Owen
Interviewer Name: Andres Torres
Date of interview: 4/27/2020
[00:00:00] - Start of Interview
[00:00:27] - Your experience with the Safer at Home order
[00:05:01] - Leading up to Safer at Home order
[00:06:47] - Were you able to transition to working at home right away
[00:07:24] - Home preparedness for staying at home
[00:08:03] - Supplies, food, daily necessities
[00:09:25] - Concerns for family
[00:10:43] - Particular images, stories, or moments from the past month that stand out
[00:12:08] - Was that the naval carrier at Guam
[00:12:53] - Wrapping up
[00:13:08] - Thank you
[START OF RECORDING]
Interviewer: Hello, my name is Andres Torres. I am here with Stories from a Distance, part of the Living History Project. Today is Monday, April 27th, 2020. Now the narrator will introduce themselves.
James Owen: Hi, my name is James Owen, and I’m going to be talking about some stories I have during COVID-19.
Interviewer: All right, well, thank you for being with us today, James. And, I guess we’ll just go right into it. I just wanted to ask you what your experience with the Safer at Home order has been, and if you can talk a little bit about the last month or so.
James Owen: Yeah, so, I guess I’ll just start with a brief background. I came down to Madison about five years ago for work and doing work in the IT industry. Currently, I’m working downtown Madison and have been living here four years of my five; the first year I had been commuting from a nearby town. Three of the years, I actually had been working remotely for a different company than the position I am currently at. So, I guess I am a little bit more adverse(??) in, like, being able to handle a work-from-home situation than some people who had just transitioned to it.
As far as COVID-19 goes, I think, I mean everybody, at some point, reaches a point in their lives where they’re, like, not even able to comprehend how much this is going to impact us. And, those moments you just have to kind of take a step back and breathe. As part of daily life, you know. I have a pet that kind of helps with things. You know, being cooped up, you do have to also find time to get outside; that’s one of the big things that helps with coping. Staying away from screens. Doing a lot of reading and exercising is another big coping mechanism. I feel like just cooped up in front of a computer screen all day is definitely not healthy for anyone. So, yeah, doing those little things is one of the big things.
Another shocking thing to me, I think, was how unprepared we were as a nation from the top down. I mean, dissenting opinions, misinformation, just really, really unprepared for things, and it just kind of slammed all at once. I feel like, you know, you read these stories in the news about lack of equipment in hospitals, and how are people working from home going to be able to handle internet connection if we don’t have the infrastructure in place. And, I mean, that’s a big one for me since I work in IT, so being able to, you know, have an internet connection that lasts eight hours without VPN dropping. I feel like that’s a big thing and I mean all these new terms that people are like, We have a Zoom meeting at nine o’clock, and Make sure that you connect to the VPN first, are things that I have to, day to day, walk people through, so being adversed(??) in it myself is very important, so there was a lot of research I had to do prior to the transition. Also helping people get set up with laptops as opposed to desktops, is a big thing. I can’t go into too much about my work, so I’ll try to stay basically with my daily life activities. I mentioned little things that help, like going outside and working out, but I’ve also been trying to learn hobbies that I’ve been wanting to for awhile, like woodworking, getting back into that; some programming stuff.
Interviewer: I wanted to ask you, in the time leading up to the Safer at Home order issued by the governor; can you maybe just kind of reflect on the days before this really got really serious for all of us? And what that was like for you. Was there any anxieties, or anything going on in your life at that time that you would like to talk about?
James Owen: Yeah, there’s definitely some anxieties. Basically, I think the big thing was that I do most of my work on site, and how am I going to transition from an onsite technician to a work-from-home technician again? It’s a little bit of getting used to. The other thing is, you know, I live with someone who works at a hospital. So, one of my roommates, who’s a certified nursing assistant; how’s that going to affect me? If they’re in an area where there’s a patient that might potentially have that COVID-19, and then they come home; what are the steps I can implement to make sure that I’m practicing safe social distancing? Big shoutout to a friend of mine who got me a mask. That was very important.
Interviewer: Were you able to transition to working at home right away?
James Owen: No. It was a little bit of time before we transitioned, just because we needed to prepare with a set of processes at my current position. So, we had meetings on this to just make sure that we were all prepared. But, yeah, it did take a little bit of time; nothing was immediate.
Interviewer: What about your home situation, as far as preparedness is concerned? Did you have time to prepare for, you know, staying at home for extended periods of time? Or were you caught off guard?
James Owen: As far as my home situation, I was able to transition pretty seamlessly because I have the setup to work from home already. There wasn’t anything that I really needed to be able to work from home, you know.
Interviewer: What about supplies, like food and, just like, daily necessities and stuff?
James Owen: Yeah, so, there are a couple apps that I used, like, not EatStreet, I forget the name of the app, but it allows you to order groceries online and get it delivered to your house, and then, basically, I would make sure that most of the stuff I ordered wasn’t perishable, so that I could allow it to stay twenty-four hours in our entryway. And, that way I’m still abiding by, I think it’s twenty-four hours that they say you can, like, it’s best to have things sit just so that any germs aren’t still on there when you bring them into your house. But, yeah, the other thing was just, even when I did bring them in, making sure that I wipe everything down, and wash my hands, and have a bunch of alcohol wipes available for myself. Which I already had because I, computer wipes that have ninety percent alcohol that I use, so that was pretty good.
Interviewer: What about your family? Do you have family here in Madison, or in Wisconsin that you’re having concerns about?
James Owen: I do. My mom actually is, or had been, working at a daycare in her retirement, her time off, she’d been helping out at daycare. So, I was kind of concerned about that, and I said to her that she should probably, you know, take some time off, but then they actually ended up giving her paid leave, or something like that, I can’t remember what it was, so she’s no longer there for the moment. But, yeah, that was the big concern. And my sister has a younger girl that’s, I think she’s like one and a half now, so that was another thing; with a young child, how is she going to be able to handle working from home, and, at the same time, being able to make sure that her kid is safe, because there’s the risk factors for older people and younger. But now I hear that it’s not as bad as we thought for younger kids. Even now we’re still getting day-to-day information, updates of what we hadn’t always known. So, yeah.
Interviewer: That’s been one of the frustrating, at times, things, is how fast the information changes. Seems like on a daily basis we’re getting different information and having to, you know, plan accordingly, on a daily basis. I guess, one last thing: are there any particular images, stories, or moments from the past month that stand out for a particular reason that you can reflect on?
James Owen: Yeah, I think—well, I don’t want to get too political, but I think some of the bigger ones were that Navy commander who got fired for advising, I think it was the Pentagon or something like that, to prepare his troops, like get them out of here, because, basically like, it’s going to be a lot worse if we don’t evacuate some of these people on this Navy carrier. And then he eventually got fired, and I don’t know if there are plans to reinstate him, but that was one news article I had seen that was kind of impactful for me.
Interviewer: Was that the naval carrier at Guam?
James Owen: I’m not sure where it was located. I think his name is, is it Captain Crozier? Something like that. Cozier? But, yeah. And then, the other one was President Trump telling us to inject bleach into our lungs, or disinfectants, I should say. That was kind of shocking to me. But, yeah, I’m sure there are a couple more, I just can’t think of offhand, but those are two big ones.
Interviewer: Yeah, pretty, pretty outlandish things have been coming out of the president’s mouth as of late, but—Well James, is there anything else you care to talk about before we’re done?
James Owen: Nope. That’s, that’s pretty much it.
Interviewer: Alright, well thank you so much for sharing your story, and being here with us today during these very strange times.
James Owen: Thank you.
[END OF RECORDING]