Fear of Flying COVID

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When my son and daughter-in-law bought an older home on the other side of the country, I decided I should head over to see if they needed help fixing anything that was broken. This wasn’t a fixer-upper, but there were a few things off the rails so to speak.

No one in our family has travelled since March. It was time to leave the old normal and find out what the new normal looked like. Plus, my wife told me to go. So I left the confines and safety of our home in Manitoba to fly to Victoria.

Let me tell you that the new normal looks like the old normal that you might see in any science-fiction movie dealing with a virus. Everyone seems like a strange person in a strange land.

I arrived at the airport about 30 minutes earlier than I normally would. I did my online research. Entering the terminal, everyone had masks on at all times. The airport air smells somewhat like pocket lint since that’s where I keep my mask. In the old normal, I can’t see anything without my glasses, and in the new normal I can’t see anything past the constant fog on my glasses. Things change, but ultimately remain the same.

I downloaded my boarding pass to my phone the night before and that allows me to move directly to the kiosk and scan my phone. I need to check my bag since I have filled it with various tools in order to break things apart and put other things back together again in Victoria. The bag weighs in at one pound under the allowable limit! Later I found a nice note in my bag from Canadian Air Transport Security saying they opened and checked my bag, too. They put in a similar note for the return trip too.

The airport emanates an unusual post apocalyptic aura since the terminal remains mostly empty. Kiosks selling the country’s most overpriced coffee remain closed. But when I near the Tim Hortons kiosk I feel like I’ve stepped into a fantasy movie since, for the first time ever, there is no lineup. I treat myself.

Hand sanitizer pumps stand like sentries everywhere. I use one and it dispenses enough solution to do my hands. And forearms. And a bit left over to sterilize my elbows. I can’t leave the sanitizer till I use all the liquid in case someone thought that foaming elbows was a symptom.

Our friendly airline announces that they are now open for boarding. Everyone lines up almost socially distant. The line snakes down a bit further than normal. A pleasant attendant comes by and asks everyone the now familiar COVID-19 questions of whether they have been feeling ill or in contact with anyone with COVID-19 recently. This reminds me of the midway rides as a child, when they lined you up against a “you have to be this tall to be on this ride” sign. Now it’s more of a “you have to be this healthy to be on this ride” rule. I start sweating, thinking I might not pass the criteria.

But just to make sure, gate staff take my temperature by one of those remote thermometers. The attendant smiles and raises the device and I try not to think of Javier Bardem’s character in No Country for Old Men, who dispatches a hapless victim with a similar looking captive bolt pistol.

We know to keep our masks on at all times – except when we show our government-issued identification to show that we actually are the same individual actually boarding the plane.

Upon entering the plane, all passengers are treated as if they are in business class. But instead of a hot face towel, everyone gets a lukewarm germicidal hand wipe. Only use it for your own seat area. Wiping down your neighbour’s seat will only get you looks. Or so I would assume. Safety tip: Do not use it on your face. Or any open wound.

Eventually, the seats beside me fill up. Social distancing appears to be a relative concept. Attempting to purchase the eight chairs surrounding me appears to be relatively expensive. So, I grin and bear it. Not that anyone can tell.

The pleasant young woman beside me asks if she can pull down her mask in order to drink her coffee. In a moment of supreme forgetfulness, I pull down my mask so I can clearly smile and tell her that it would be fine. I had to, I’d instantly lost all moral high ground if I pulled my mask down to tell her “No, and could she keep her mask on.” That would have made me the male equivalent of a Karen. Is that a Ken?

My airline follows normal survival training when it comes to service. You can survive three days without water and about 30 days without food. The benefit appears to be that the aisle is mostly clear most of the time. But since no one has any food or water, no one uses the washrooms anyway.

We land quickly and easily. Upon landing, flight attendants ask that everyone not stand up at the same time to grab their luggage and strongly suggest only moving once the people in front of you have left. So the theory seems to be that you should socially distance when standing and not worry about it when you were sitting down in even closer contact with your neighbours. 

When I do retrieve my luggage this seems like the same old normal. Retrieving my rental car takes me back to the new normal. All services areas now have the ubiquitous Plexiglas that impede virus and sound transmission.

I believe the sound impediment becomes an unintended but not unexpected consequence. The company-issued mask for the car rental attendant seems far more efficient than my mask in sound stopping capability. When the attendant asks me questions about insurance and the collision-damage waiver on my credit card, I can’t help myself and poke an ear around the Plexiglas to find out how much I would be liable for in case of an accident. I pull back. Don’t be a Ken, I thought. I’m sure the insurance company would be understanding and accepting. Unless I really needed them for something.

After short drive I arrive at our son and daughter-in-law’s new house. I enter a new social bubble and a new interprovincial health guideline. Proper adherence to both allows me to give both kids a hug. And I feel a bit of the old normal slip in ever so slightly.

Things are going to be okay after all. 

Until I fly home. 

#covid #flying

The importance of holidays!


We started holidays for a couple of weeks and headed off to the cottage to be closer to nature. Job one involved unloading all the stuff at the cottage. Job two involved brushing off all of the spiders from the gazebo. Normally not a problem, but if you haven’t been up for a few weeks, the spiders have baby spiders.

Once you finish removing all of shelob’s webs and carcasses, you start to realize that you have not dealt with all of the microscopic baby shelob spiders climbing around your legs.

One must persevere to be close to nature, but perhaps not have it that close in Steven King sort of way. One can possibly start to miss the relative sterility of the office.

#motivation #inspiration #business.

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Phoenix Failure


The mythological phoenix rose from the ashes every 500 years. Did that mean it failed?

I don’t know about you, but I hate failing at anything. Learning to love failing simply does not appear to be a successful strategy.

Barings Bank failed 25 years ago when rogue trader Nick Leeson conducted a series of unauthorized arbitrage trades and caused a loss of $1.3 billion. So the bank would have learned to supervise his activities a bit closer if they weren’t so happy with the money he initially brought in. So failure seems to suggests being unwilling or unable to try again.

If your strategy appears to have failed, and you try a new strategy to achieve a goal, then you haven’t failed at achieving your goal. You simply learned that your initial approach to achieve your goal would not work, so you tried something different.

Leeson was sentenced to 6 years and got divorced. That sounds like failure, but he must have learned something since he got remarried, wrote two books one of which was made into movie starring Ewan McGregor.

They say fail often, and quickly. But if you pick yourself up and try again, then you haven’t really failed since you haven’t stopped trying.


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Retirement Untethered: National Burnout Vacation; Can Retirement be Better?

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Clark Griswold:
Despite all the little problems it’s fun isn’t it?

No. But with every new day there’s fresh hope.

National Lampoon’s Vacation


Like many people, you may have gone on vacation, or perhaps you plan to go on vacation.  So, what constitutes a vacation? And would retirement be one extended vacation? Webster’s defines vacation as a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation, a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended, a period of exemption from work granted to an employee, a respite or a time of respite from something.

So, did this actually happen? Did you totally go off the grid for that period of time when you had a choice? Probability suggests you checked your email, perhaps late at night or first thing in the morning before the family woke. A little quality time with your iPad perhaps.


Why do people go on vacation? Chance of pace? To get away from it all? Family pressure? To de-stress? Perhaps test what retirement might feel like?


Perhaps you hope that this de-stress hormone lasts for at least as long as the vacation itself. Or that you can you store the de-stress hormone up as easily as the extra weight you may have put on from the extra consumption of alcohol, fats, carbohydrates that you would have otherwise avoided.


In a 2018 American Psychological Association survey of more than 1500 US workers, two-thirds of the respondents said that the mental benefits of vacation disappeared within a few days. So the vacation calmness disappears far before the weight loss does.


The reasons for increased après-vacation stress can be obvious. The workload undoubtedly accumulated in your absence, things moved on during your gallivanting. Now you must move double time to catch up and all of that stress filled time you spent before the vacation appears not to have been enough to keep you ahead.


If you feel stressed before the vacation, and even more stressed after the vacation, then one starts to wonder about the efficacy of going on vacation in the first place.


This becomes a good time to talk about burnout. In the 2015 edition of Acta Psychopathologica, work-related stress occurs when the demands of the work environment exceed the employees’ ability to cope. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5 states that disorders precipitated by specific stressful and potentially traumatic events in the workplaces are included in a new diagnostic category, “Trauma and Stress-related Disorders”. Mind you, this abstract was dealing with the police in Italy.


If you sprain your ankle playing tennis for the first time since forever during your vacation, you likely know RICE, rest ice, compression and elevation. The same RICE can identify burnout with Regret, Inefficacy, Cynicism and Exhaustion.
Over 40% of California lawyers would do something different if they had to do it over again. This constitutes a high level of regret. Lack of actualization can lead to a feeling of inefficacy, and difficult as it may seem, burnout indicates even higher levels of cynicism that what you normally have. Exhaustion likely originated during articling and never dissipated.

A number of firms insist upon employees taking vacation. The firm’s rationale could range from an actual concern for employee health or for the ever expanding health benefit costs. If an employee leaves as a result of stress, there comes the extensive cost of locating, rehiring and training new staff. Far better to maintain the mental health of the existing staff.

In addition to vacations, employers should be considering breaks during the work cycle. Standing up and getting that wilted salad to eat in front of the computer does not cut it. An employee requires greater dedicated time to mental breaks along with physical activity on a regular basis. The same APA study found that staff became far more productive and content with their position when employers cared about employee’s mental health.





The Gig Economy

woman playing guitar while singing beside man playing bass guitar near microphone
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Should we embrace the gig economy? Although this seems relatively new, musicians in 1915 called short-term engagements as gigs.

Now days, gigs comprise short-term engagements which allow employers to engage workers for short periods of time. This certainly allows for substantial cost savings. Gig workers can be hired to fill in when demand for the employer services rises. Of course, benefits are rarely payable, and defined benefit plans have gone the way of the polar icecaps. Slowly retreating.

The downside of gigs becomes apparent with the workers. Insecure periods of paid work. Lack of work life balance, which was a major concern just a few years ago. And now the main concern is simply finding work in the first place.

Ultimately the employer suffers too. The culture of the organization slowly melts away, returning to the icecap metaphor. In addition, innovation will eventually suffer. Innovation initially starts with inspiration, which is hard to achieve when you are busy learning what your new ‘gig’ is all about.

Retirement Untethered: Devil’s Playground

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After travelling out of the country, we self-isolated. This is sort of like retirement. Twice the husband and half the income. So of course I organized the pantry.

An idle mind is the devil’s play ground. I thought about organizing items according to ability to open them. Perhaps cardboard on one level, bags on another and cans on a different another. Using mind-mapping, I decided on three levels. The first level would be food regardless of packing material. Salmon and pasta. The next level would be stuff you put on food. Tomato sauces, panko crumbs. The top level would be stuff you put on food, but probably shouldn’t. Things like syrup and jams.

Fortunately, my wife only laughed. Retirement looks positive!


Retirement Untethered: Practice

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I had a good chance to see what retirement might look like when we were sequestered for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 requires serious action. But, admittedly, there are the occasional lighter aspects.

After a British Columbia board meeting, my wife and I decided to fly over to Phoenix to see some friends just for a few days. Of course, after we arrived then the talk about shutting the border came up, so he headed home. I’ve always used the hand sanitizers at airports, but now they seem to be set at jumbo ejection discharge. I struggled to wipe it all over my hands. With all the foam still covering my palms and back of my hands, I felt I couldn’t walk away from the hand station since I am sure everyone would be askance as  to whether foaming at the cuticles was a new symptom. I resorted to cleaning up to my elbows.



Retirement Untethered: The first step

adult adventure beautiful climb
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1.  Alice in Wonderland

Time to be existential


“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain


If you just recently came back from your vacation, you likely addressed the greatest of all existential questions. When can I retire?


Not that we all hate work, but some of us long for something more. Or perhaps just something different.


But what does retirement mean? Is this simply stopping work? Most of us stop work while we sleep. Some of us may dream of work, but that requires greater psychotherapy than what we have time for right now.


Retirement becomes a transition from one phase to another phase of life. Some consider retirement a transition into leisure, which requires its own definition.


Robert Stebbins, a sociologist, wrote a number of books including The Idea of Leisure, First Principles. He describes leisure as an uncoerced, contextually framed activity engaged in during free time, which people want to do and, using their abilities and resources, actually do in either a satisfying or a fulfilling way. Although this seems to suck all of the fun out of it, He suggests taking four different ways to achieve this type of leisure.


Firstly, a person requires a good balance of activities. Constant leisure may be a difficult thing to achieve. One must include any number of things one does not want to do. Call them duties.


Secondly, leisure also requires positive continuous improvement. Sitting on a beach with an unending supply of tiny umbrella drinks sounds pleasant, and it likely could be for the first hour. Or two. But he suggests continuously improving oneself, even though this sounds exhausting


Thirdly and fourthly, he suggests positive relationships and positive interaction with the community. We are better overall interacting with the rest of society. After all, we are all in this together, and no one is getting out of here alive anyway.


Retirement then involves leisure hopefully, but it involves much more.





Retirement Untethered: Crisis nudge

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That’s still a long list


Never let a good crisis go to waste.
—Winston Churchill

Churchill recognized the basis of good change management. If you needed to get something done but couldn’t under normal circumstances, then a good old-fashioned crisis usually allows you to get the changes you want.


Following a new path requires some serious change management thinking. Setting some small achievable goals, getting some quick wins, obtaining buy in from the top amongst others. Getting buy in usually means your significant other. But having a bit of urgency always helps the change management process.


Nearing, or entering retirement the sense of urgency should become more apparent. The ride of your life is starting to enter the end game, so it’s time to up your game for what is ahead. This is not the end of times, but you can start to see it from here.


That seems a bit morbid, but the time to change what your future might look like begins now. Now is the time to seize what the future can actually look like.




#retirement #motivation #inspiration

Retirement Untethered: List#10 The future

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10. Envision the future since shit happens when you are busy making other plans. Trying to maximize your happiness/contentment/bliss (HCB) requires planning. Although enlightenment requires serendipity, all other forms of actualization can require a bit of planning. You should not expect that going off to the deck with a cup of coffee and the morning paper is going to maximize your HCB. Maximizing your mini umbrella collection will not cut it after a while.


#retirement #motivation