Six weeks into the second year of quarantine, after the storming on the nation’s Capitol and the start of the mass vaccinations, the Texas winter arrived gradually.
The Texas winter arrived gradually.
The Texas winter arrived gradually, then suddenly. Desiree was last seen at work February 11th, 2001. On February 14th, she drove for the last time before the storm arrived to a cheese shop 1.5 miles away from her home to pick up an advance order for a “reasonably” priced cheese tray. If you considered that it came with a full bottle of rosé, you could even argue it was a deal.
Then she settled in for two rushed hours of toddler napping freedom to connect with her spouse over a film about climate change and daughters who aren’t grateful for what their parents sacrificed for them.
Two days later she checked into her remote, San Francisco-based job to let them know she would not be able to “work cross-functionally across the company with Product and Engineering and Product Marketing partners to represent the Design team, with significant contribution to roadmapping, sprint planning”–PS we’re hiring at Loom– but she would be able to contribute to “product and design Slack channels.”
It was 6 degrees Fahrenheit in Austin TX, and there was a very inappropriate amount of snow on the ground. There was no power, the roads were unusable, and soon there would also be no water. On February 16th, she packed two Ikea FRAKTA bags full of non-perishable food, water canteens, and fire-making supplies. It was very satisfying to know just how much fit into these bags, until she would realize they would not be placed into a vehicle. Next, she made up a lie about some snow adventure shit and used it to get her 3 year old and 1 year old to wear four layers of clothing and carry a blanket each. The husband returned from completing another round of pipe insulation checks, a failed man unable to protect his family and property due to an inability to control the weather or his state’s power grid. Then they said goodbye to the cat, and began to walk.
How is she posting on Slack, and more importantly, why? You see, she had prepared. She charged all the travel battery pack swag she had collected over her entire career in the technology industry. Just in case. And indeed, today was the day they would be in charge. Her phone would be responsible for letting her know what was going on, and unfortunately, auto-refreshing Slack was one of the distractions left from the news outlets, who were reporting that something had gone wrong in Texas. Very, very wrong.
Wait, you didn’t answer why she was posting on Slack. And I thought you said she had prepared?
No one is prepared for what it’s like to not know if they can keep their children alive and safe. She works hard and had set up her daughters for success with stability, comfort, and freedom. Hallucinating about work was the only thing that could keep her focused on the future, faith made manifest in womanly grit and grace.
Eventually, the sun rose again and things started to turn around. News that the power had been restored to our block arrived and we returned, along with three other families and their pets. The fears of the virus had long been de-prioritized in favor of this more urgent threat to survival. It was nice to break bread with family and friends like that. It had been a year.
Earth made her point and backed off. But now we had the problem of tiny traces of everyone’s shit in the water.
Look at humanity and technology coming through. Thinking about moving to Austin from the Bay Area, like this guy did, right here? That’s great! You’ll make it easier to negotiate my salary up someday. In the meantime, visit back in June or July.
A few morals to this story. The first is that it taught me how good my colleagues are. I was such a grumpypants and I took it out on a few people and projects.
Then one day I found that they had sent me food and plants, and it was over. Ugly tears of guilt and gratitude and feels of unworthiness and regret and the very major realization that I had just gone through a very traumatic experience. And traumatic experiences are not one’s fault. In those moments, it’s good to just be still, and let those who love you take care of you for a while.
Didn’t stop there.
Thank goodness, we’re all okay. All that’s left is the insurance paperwork, our weary eyes, and piles and piles of dead vegetation to continue clearing out. But it got hard. Somewhere between February 14th and 22nd, I stopped cracking jokes.
An orthogonal moral of this story was getting a deeper sense of how much more work and sacrifice the previous generations of women in my bloodline had. On a lighter note, it was nice to be able to put all the rancho life skills to use, I think? Maybe that’s why Mexican food takes half a day to make–it gives you a way to keep the room warm. And setting up a system to manage and conserve potable water. Cuadrilla vibes, I’m telling you. This close to finding a chicken nesting in a clay pot behind the toilet.
Lastly, (tangentially, if you will) I finally felt what it was like to be “caught up with Slack.” It was as satisfying as a cold paleo cookie with a warm glass of cashew milk.