The Quarantine Diaries – Calgary Edition

Everything is changing, seemingly day to day in the wake of COVID-19 and the advertising business is no different. The Message put out a call for folks to tell them about the new normal they are finding in their lives and I was more than happy to do so. The Message was kind enough to post an abbreviated version of this on and allowed me to post the long version which was incredibly cathartic to write.


We made the choice in early March to make a long planned trip to Calgary and be with family for a little while. We talked long and hard about whether or not to cancel given the quick spread of the virus but ultimately decided that we would rather be with family in a smaller city than in Toronto. The airport experience was tough with a curious and energetic toddler but we made it through pretty well – it was emptier than usual and we were able to maintain a decent amount of distance from everyone else. We did see something pretty interesting though:

When we landed, we got the news that Ontario schools had been shut which made the decision to hunker down in Calgary much easier, even as this city closed ranks around us. The first weekend, when the wind chill got down to -30 something, was pretty tough but as social distancing kicked in the weather has heated up so we’ve been able to enjoy some appropriately spaced-out walks and find ways for the kids to keep active.

I work with a talented group mainly on the west coast so being on Mountain time has actually been a little better for staying connected. From the off, this was a dispersed team and we are lucky to have built a culture in the team that promotes remote working – Slack, Box and Webex have been and continue to be invaluable. 

Have you developed any good habits about working from home?

A makeshift standing desk on top of an old dresser

Any bad habits?

You’ll see why in a few moments but snacking from the city’s best stocked pantry has been a big problem!

Favourite quarantine meal?

My mother-in-law is a fantastic cook so we’ve been spoiled rotten the whole time but there was one amazing prime rib roast…(and the meatballs…and the bbq chicken…and then there were some fire pit s’mores)

Piece of advertising that can always make you laugh…

With no live sports, I’m grateful for Reddit users posting old highlights and ads including this NFL/All Blacks Rugby mashup which I really enjoyed:

Thing you miss most about the office…

The frisson of conversations off the side of your desk and the law of unintended consequence. One of the podcasts I’ve been listening to talked about the importance of ideas needing to “have sex with each other” which I thought was a lovely way to put it. One of the things I’m interested in seeing is how the need for in-person interaction in our, and many other industries, is married with the desire for more flexible working times and locations. Will the idea of The Office become more nebulous – becoming more important yet less populated at the same time?

What books are you reading? Loving it? Hating it?

I’ve gotten up to date on the Gray Man series (classic spy-action-escapism) but there are plenty in the hopper:

Any TV, Netflix or streaming recommendations?

In times like this, I turn to the old classics for some comfort so if you haven’t already seen it, now is the perfect time to be introduced to The Wire. In my mind its the best TV series of the modern era. Not only does it have some inspirational advice about self isolation, but it acts as a powerful commentary on the institutions we think are there to help us but which are manned by people out to help themselves.

What song best represents your current state of mind? Or what is on your quarantine playlist?

The Wheels on the Bus (go round and round and round and round and round) is getting heavy rotation these days – which makes a good podcast on a long walk even more appreciated.

Advice you’d give yourself six months from now…

It’s the same thing I always try to remember in this crazy business: don’t let the highs get you too high or the lows get you too low. Be resilient and strong for yourself and others.

Any technology challenges/triumphs?

Getting Webex to call me rather than dialing in each time made me feel great but FaceBeer/Tea/Rioja with old friends has done the best for my state of mind.

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