Clock Watching During Quarantine

Earlier today, I sat on the couch with my wife, taking a break. See, in work from home mode, things are fluid. I’d been answering emails all morning (such tiring work, really.) I mentioned being hungry, to which she replied “then get something to eat!”

I checked my watch. 11:30 AM.

“I’ll get something when it’s lunchtime.”

“Well, it could be lunchtime right now! Why are you such a slave to the clock?”

Well…I’m not. I mean, okay, yes, I am a bit of a Time Cop™ in the sense that I absolutely abhor being late. In my mind, showing up “on time” is actually about 5-10 minutes tardy. It gives me absolutely real anxiety and stress to find that I’m running behind schedule. In that sense, my wife was 100% spot-on in her assessment. However, I also have always been fairly flexible with regards to the times things occur throughout the day. Is there a meeting at 1pm? I’ll take lunch early. Nothing on the books? Maybe I still eat early, in order to get to the gym for a bit. Maybe I’m there an hour. Maybe I’m there 90 minutes. Meh. Big deal. As long as the work gets done, who cares? A two-hour TV commercial shoot at 10:30 AM? Guess my lunch is going to be late. No big deal. Things are fluid, life at an advertising agency is always in flux. That’s where my small (five person) agency excels: we’re not rigid, confined by red tape and inflexible schedules. We roll with the punches and find a way to make everything work.

But now? Gosh maybe the spouse is correct. Maybe I have been assigning too much importance to when I take my lunch, or when I shut down for the evening. And maybe there’s a real good reason why.

See, before COVID-19, I had a routine. Not necessarily a hard-core schedule, because of the reasons I mentioned above, but also because during a regular school year I am at the whims of my children, and their school schedule. Father-son breakfasts, honor roll meetings, field trips, all these can play havoc with a hard and fast daily itinerary. Add to that a teenager who is supposed to be at school by first bell at 7:20 AM, but who often needs to be literally pushed out of bed on many cold, dark, January mornings, and it becomes obvious that a person in my position needs to remain agile and reactive.

But even so, there had always been a loose expectation of unfolding events, an order, a series of dominoes that clicked off one after the other.

Get up. Brew a cup of coffee. Feed the cats. Make sure the teenager is brushing his teeth. Get dressed. Check appointments for the day. Browse Facebook while having a bite. Get the kid to school. Drive to work. Open the office. Make sure the Mac is up and running. Make another cup of coffee. Check emails. Traffic meeting. Settle in to write some scripts. And so on. And so forth.

Now? There’s no such routine. There’s waking up, rolling over, checking the phone, and getting to work from my bed. Replying to an email on the way downstairs. Oh, there was a problem with a TV spot upload last night? Might as well get that sorted while the coffee is on. The cats can wait. Huh. A text from the boss. Client wants to shoot a COVID-centric commercial. What time looks good today? Hold on, let me check the weather. Yeah any time. Client says 1PM. Okay. Home by three. Editing until…oh, crap! It’s 7pm! Where the hell did the time go? Did I feed the cats? Are the children awake? Nobody knows. The world is a blur. There is nothing but my Mac and me. Hey, that reminds me of that great Paul Rudd running gag. Did I eat? Yes, I think…

I guess the point is that I’m discovering that on some level, yes, I guess I do worship at the church of the clock, but only as a way of applying some sort of structure to this whole miasma. Waypoints of sorts for a daily journey. Self-checks to ensure that I remember that there is more to this life. They say that in these WFH weeks…months…years? It’s important to try and act like you’re still at WORK work. Shower. Get dressed. Etc. Maybe it’s also important to remember that lunch is at noon, unless you have a meeting…in which case shoot for11:30. (And make sure lunch is more than a handful of peanut M&Ms, mmmkay?) Allow yourself a cocktail when you get “off work” at five. Or six. But just try and keep some sense of a “workday.”

And maybe when this is over, we’ll all take a moment to re-evaluate what a workday even is. Won’t matter, my kid will still be late for school.

What I Did Last Summer

Everything. I did everything last summer. Want to know why I haven’t touched this blog in forever? Because I was doing everything.

Let’s rewind a bit. I began the summer chugging along professionally in a pretty sweet gig as copywriter/digital content specialist for Asher Agency. To sum that position up: I would come up with ideas for commercial campaigns. TV, radio, digital, print, whatever mediums we were going to use, and then the message or thought behind said concept. From there, I’d work with the other creative team members to shape it up into something that made sense and looked great, and we’d produce it. I’d cast actors, guide the graphic artists, write the actual “copy” or words (spoken by actors or printed on billboards, etc.), get it all produced, and then we’d throw it all out there into the world. The process is truly a satisfying experience, watching your ideas come to life, even if only for thirty seconds at a time or on a clickable strip of banner on someone’s website.

I must’ve been fairly decent at this, because I started getting nibbles. People inquiring as to my future plans. Recruiters asking “Hey, how happy are you at Asher?” Finally, an old compatriot called me up and basically offered me his job as creative director. He described the position to me thusly: “you’ll come up with ideas for commercial campaigns. TV, radio, digital, print, whatever mediums we were going to use, and then the message or thought behind it. From there, you’ll work with the other creative team members to shape it up into something that made sense and looked great, and we’ll produce it. Cast actors, guide the graphic artists, write the actual “copy” and then throw ‘it all out there into the world.”

Huh. So, of course I took it. A corner office with windows? A bunch of new business cards? Hells yes. So I took a new position doing pretty much what I did at Asher, only with more perks and a nifty title. So that was cool.


Plus, I mean…a place to hang an old Robert August promo flyer (autographed!) and prop my Scottish claymore against a vintage photo of Fred Toenges?! SIGN MY ASS UP!!



My wife and I also decided to sell our house. We had lived, with our two boys (Simon is 12, Rhys is almost 9) in a nice, old (built in 1920) home in the Oakdale Neighborhood in Ft. Wayne. Tree-lined streets, gorgeous old houses…and very narrow, busy streets. No back yard to speak of. Or front yard, for that matter. In other words, charming as all hell but not conducive to bike riding or football tossing or anything else that growing young men want to engage in. So, when the market heated up, Heidi and I jumped at the chance, trading the urban pulse of the ’07 for the serene spaciousness of the ’15. It was a long, hectic process, selling the old house. Folks can be very particular and selective, even in a sellers’ market. It was stressful, especially since we purchased our new (current) home before we’d sold the old one. But in the end we persevered, chalking up another adventure on the Watson Family history. (An adventure that yielded a three-car garage and the chance to hang hockey equipment up without carting it all to the basement after every practice or game.)


Basically from this…


…to this.



Actually, that’s not accurate. The “next” part. That’s not how this timeline played out. Sorry. I strive for realism, and that’s…that’s misleading. Clickbait nonsense. No, this is actually something that’s been simmering along for a while now, but in addition to my role(s) at a couple of different ad agencies this year, I had the opportunity to write for a fun, exciting new enterprise. The minds at Bound Publishing have come up with a mobile-specific reader, and are releasing serialized stories on it. One of the cool features of the Bound app (learn more here or find them in the iTunes store) is the ability to expand on the story via sourcebook entries, diary passages, bits of propaganda, etc. from the story universe. If you’ve ever seen the Star Wars sourcebook or any of the supplemental Lord of the Rings or Song of Ice and Fire materials, imagine being able to have those open to cross-reference whilst reading the novels or watching the movies. “Oh! The model that Luke is playing with is an actual Incom T-16…and later, during the Death Star briefing, he talks about bulls-eyeing womp rats in it! I always wondered what the T-16 looked like!” Well, the Bound platform is like that, with all sorts of artwork and specific expanded entries, and I was asked to write the sourcebook materials for a science fiction space epic called Purgatorio. Go get the app and download it and let me know what you think. It’s been a great experience, and the Bound guys have given me all sorts of latitude. It’s been pleasant and rewarding, in a very different way than the advertising life.

A mobile-based work of expanded fiction, based on a mobile-based FPS game. Welcome to the future, kids.

So a very full summer now gives way to a hectic fall, because, as many of you know, we’re at the cusp of hockey season. And I live with a hockey family. Both kids play, Heidi is a team manager for one kid’s team, treasurer for the other, and I coach the boys and play in my own ASHL beer league every Sunday. From now until April. And it’s awesome. And we wouldn’t change this life for anything. Which leads me to my other big news…




Seriously, I can’t talk about it, but it’s pretty rad. Talk to you later.

Things I Learned At Work This Week

I work at a radio station.  Sometimes things are crazy, sometimes they’re surprisingly dull.  But I’ve been doing this crap for nigh on twenty years, so there are very few surprises. But as I age, I realize that I’m surrounded by a crew of children.  And I mean that in the most literal sense: I am older than everyone in this building now, and some of our salespeople could feasibly be my children.  They were born about the time I was graduating college.  Damn.

Anyway, this was a good week to learn things from our salespeople.  Like, for example, how little some of them know about stuff that I find very important or fascinating.  I’m not calling our young sales staff stupid; quite the contrary, some of them are very bright.  They’re just…green.  And young.  (Did I mention how young they are?)

We’ll throw in a free remote! Also, I just shit my pants!!

Example number one: One of the cuties in the sales pit asked what I was doing for Halloween.  I proudly answered that I would be going as Captain James T. Kirk.

She stared at me, and I couldn’t figure out what to do next.  I stood there, looking around, waiting for her to say something. And so she did.  She replied “You mean Kirk?” and pointed at one Kirk T. Flatter II, another member of our crack sales team.  Kirk shrugged, because he “gets it” and probably hears jokes about his name every goddam day.  I then tried to explain the history of the U.S.S. Enterprise, but got more blank stares.  Okay. I learned that no everyone is a geek. Fair enough.

I take it all back. They’re both Captain Kirk. Fine.

Later in the week, I had a more fulfilling convo with a Senior Member of our office staff.  Now we’re talkin’. We discussed childhood candy, and I learned that I was not the only kid to collect their weekly cash and then make a mad dash for the local convenience store for an exercise in fiscal responsibility (or at the very least a lesson in worth.)  See, our old Kwik Pik had the standard Aisle O’ Sugar (sometimes called The Golden Mile or Cavity Alley) that featured the usual strata: Snickers, Milky Way, and the like, i.e. the Premium Candy was at the top shelf, and ran at least fifty cents a piece, sometimes more.  Right below that was the B-list candy.  Clark Bars, Charleston Chew, and their ilk. Third shelf was Lemonheads, Wacky Wafers, Lik-M-Aid, Laffy Taffy, Chick-O-Stix.  Finally, the lowest shelf was for those in steerage:  five cents (or LESS!) per. We’re talking That crappy PAL gum.  Bazooka gum.  Jolly Ranchers (not the big ones.  Those were one shelf up, and if you sucked on them long enough you could fashion a shiv in case a playground rumble got out of hand.  Absolutely true.)  But the lesson was always this:  Johnny has $1.25 in assorted change.  Should Johnny go big and pick up two Butterfingers with change to spare or buy Big League Chew for EVERYONE?!?!  In retrospect, I see why my parents let me blow all my money on candy and comic books.  There was a tangible risk/reward system.  That is, until the store put in a Ms. Pac-Man arcade cabinet, and any fiscal conservatism went right out the fuckin’ window.


Back to the cute little 20-somethings in the sales department.  One of them wore some sort of crocheted afghan-looking skirt.  Conservative.  Nice.  Like something draped over the back of grandma’s couch, only with much less cat hair. I asked her if she made it herself.  “It’s knit,” she responded.  Okay. I wanted to learn some more, so I inquired whether it was “knit” or some sort of macrame, and what the difference was.  She didn’t seem to understand my question, so I got a little smarmy and asked if it was fabricated from some sort of nano-particles.  Her reply: “What are those?”  Okay, you got me.

So again, I learned a couple of new things.  One, nobody in this country knows anything about science and two, I am so glad I met, fell in love with, and married my wife, because there’s no WAY I would be getting laid in the current state of the world.

No, really.

The final lesson of the week was from a dude who works down the hall producing a local sports-talk show.  Like everyone in radio NOT doing sales, he’s poor and worries about his job.  But like many of us, he’s also learned that he’s probably not making enough to fire.  In other words, finding people to do what we do and do it well for LESS than we’re getting paid is a longshot, so we’re reasonably safe.  Anyway, this guy mentioned that he’d just gotten a text from his mobile provider telling him his bill was overdue.  I thought that was awesome.  I learned that yes, apparently your cell phone company will keep your phone service going even if you’re behind in your payments…so that they can tell you you’re about to have your service shut off.  That’s fantastic.

“Eligible for upgrade? The fuck is wrong with THIS phone?!?”

See, kids? You really do learn something new every day.