Photos by Daniel Deitch
Since I am a person of “a certain age,” I was one of the first to be asked to socially distance myself from our NBC4 studios in Universal City. As I write this, I have just begun my third week in this strange, new, in-home, do-it-yourself broadcast format. So, the powers that be at Toluca Lake Magazine thought you might find my reaction to my new circumstances interesting. While I’m not taking this situation lightly, I hope I can use this opportunity to bring a smile to your face. Here are a few of the thoughts that have been passing through my mind recently.
This has been a great chance to test the viability of working from home. You use less gas, you see your family more and there’s no management looking over your shoulder. I’m sure there will be studies that prove that working from home is more productive because you don’t have a boss glaring at you from the corner office. Now, they just yell at you via text.
However, it’s dangerous to have your work area 20 feet from your bed. It requires discipline. Just to make things seem more familiar, I ordered a cubicle from Wayfair. Your job feels less important if you’re not sitting in a cubicle wearing a tie. Now I’m wearing the tie with pajama bottoms, which makes the day fairly seamless.
I’m working from home and my daughter’s attending school from home. I was doing a call-in staff meeting and she was doing her online college class, and we both got bored, so we switched for a few minutes. Nobody knew!
When you’re working from home, you don’t feel like you’re wasting your whole life in “that other building.” But going to the office used to be an escape from the problems at home, and vice versa. There’s no more answering your wife’s “How was your day, honey?” with “Don’t ask! I need a bourbon and Red Bull!” Your family finally sees what sort of scam you’ve been pulling all these years. Now that your kids get to witness the daily routine of your job, they’re thinking, “That’s it? Why does he come home so late and cranky?”
This is probably not good for me. I’ve been going to therapy for years to stop being an “isolator”! Going to work was my sole motivation for leaving the house and interacting with other people, my only reason to have a car. Now, thanks to Postmates, Amazon and Netflix, I could hypothetically spend the rest of my life without leaving the house.
But I guess it can be very therapeutic to spend more time in our homes. Normally, we spend most of our time at work, trying to pay for our homes. We spend another huge chunk of time traveling to and from work to our homes. We spend the least amount of time in the place that we spend most of our time paying for! And whatever time is left over at the end of the year, we spend away from home on vacation.
Now, I’m on the air at home, and it’s so weird. I’m allowing people into my inner sanctum. My biggest fear is that while I’m doing my forecast, people are judging my furniture. I thought about having a staging company come in to spruce the place up.
All this has taught me a simple truth: If you can successfully do your job sitting on a stool in your hallway, your job probably isn’t as important as you thought it was. Luckily, I can still get excited about talking about rain, or sunshine, or warmer temperatures. These days, the weather segment is the least threatening part of the newscast.
But newscasts are most valuable during times of catastrophe. We like being on the air. We feel like we’re providing a public service. We offer a sense of community. Even when the news is dire and often depressing, viewers are empowered by getting up-to-the-minute information. It’s the greatest example of “Knowledge is power.”
I’ll admit the plunge in the stock market has me worried. I think it has my kids more worried. They’re calling more frequently now, going, “Hey, Dad! How’s your wealth — I mean, your health?”
I try to compare this life-changing event with what my parents lived through. Every time we would act up or be spoiled, they’d always bring up the Depression or World War II: “You kids have no idea how easy you have it!” I tell my daughter, “This pandemic will be the same thing for your generation. When your kids seem spoiled, you’ll say, ‘You kids have no idea the sacrifices we made! We couldn’t go to school! We had to eat takeout every night! We had to wash our hands a lot! Grocery stores were out of frozen pizza. The worst? We were stuck in the house with our parents for months! Even now, it’s hard for me to talk about it!’”
The grocery store is out of what I really need, so I’m binge-buying things I don’t need. I said, “By God, I’m gonna stockpile something!” I’ve got 10 boxes of Melba toast. And the store was out of milk, so I bought a case of Similac. Close enough. People can’t be as picky shopping! When they’re out of the organic muffins and you have to buy the ones that are chock full of preservatives, at least they’ll last to the end of the pandemic.
When you go out in public, there should be an app on your phone that beeps if anyone gets within 6 feet of you! In the meantime, people are improvising PPE. The other day I saw a woman wearing a bikini bottom for a mask.
It’s eerily quiet. Streets are empty. People’s attitude is gracious. I don’t want anyone to suffer, but I do think, why can’t some aspects of the world be like this all the time? There’s no traffic, plenty of parking spots, and road rage has disappeared because nobody’s in a hurry — all the appointments have been canceled, so there’s nothing to be late to.
People are walking up and down the street just to get out of their houses. Their dogs are probably thinking, “Are we going for another walk? Don’t you have somewhere to go?” People are taking walks up and down the street who have never walked up and down their street before. They have this look on their faces like, “So this is where I live! I like this!”
And they should — traffic along Riverside Drive hasn’t been this pleasant since the late ’60s. The thing about Toluca Lake is that it has always had a small-town neighborliness. Now the whole world is copying us!
It’s hard not knowing what the future will bring. Eventually, the virus will probably leave California to get away from the high cost of living. But here is what I’m certain of: When we come out the other side of this, Toluca Lake will have become even more of what Toluca Lake already is — Southern California’s most stunning example of local charm and neighborly warmth.
My family and I wish you and your family peace and safety. I send you each a virtual hug.