Here we are, all of us, stuck in our houses, scared, stressed and exhausted. Some of the people we love are very sick or worse. People are justifiably worried.
Reading the news is enough to raise your blood pressure so high, it becomes a risk factor for COVID19 all by itself. Which is particularly problematic, because you can’t get a regular doctor’s appointment now unless you have Ebola (thankfully under control now in Africa).
As a break from the non-stop misery feed, I have been trying to laugh. You have to laugh during times like this if you can. There is not enough Xanax in the world to be as solemn as the situation demands. I don’t mean to minimize the horrible challenges facing many people. I’m just saying, if you are one of the lucky ones who is safe while under modern-day house arrest, laughter is a good way to stay sane.
There’s a reason we have a technical term called “gallows humor.” If New Yorkers were allowed to leave their homes, I would already have asked someone to swim out to the Statue of Liberty and change her plaque to say:
“Give me your anxious, your stressed out, your huddled masses yearning to go anywhere, even the Comcast store, The wretched refuse of your unshowered, LuLuLemon hordes. Send these, the shut-ins, tempest-tost to their PC. I lift my lamp from inside your Zoom background!”
For those with small kids, the brazen screaming and swearing that colors so many senior management meetings gives a whole new meaning to NSFW (“not safe for work” for you are not up to date on your hipster acronyms). The challenge is keeping your kids from hearing the stuff you say at work without their demanding that you put $1 in the swear jar. I know a few people who would go broke in about two weeks if they enforced that one. I’d be one of them if my kid weren’t grown up already.
NSFW may also apply to that moment on the Zoom meeting where you get up to refill your coffee and everyone else gets to see you’re working in boxers or briefs, the new business casual. I have been on at least 11,947 Zoom calls in the last week and a half. It has been hilarious seeing people’s cats, kids, funny hair styles, burgeoning beards, breakfast foods. Suddenly every day is casual Friday. I have been alternating between the same two pairs of leggings and T-shirts pretty much every other day. They are all black, like my mood. I have also decided “to hell with makeup.” Sorry, MAC and Bobbi Brown. Messed up times call for un-dolled-up faces, though Zoom has an app for that.
(If you are not aware of the Zoom feature called “Make Me Look Better,” you haven’t lived. If only they had a feature called “Make Me Look Taller,” I’d be enjoying this working from home thing a whole lot more).
Speaking of NSFW…for every company that is teetering toward bankruptcy, there is also one that is able to capitalize on the situation in some way. My favorite opportunistic marketing gimmick so far is from CamSoda, an adult entertainment site.
Their press release states:
“Coronavirus has left much of the U.S. stuck inside. This has not only taken a toll on people’s sanity, but it’s had – and will continue to have – a terrible impact on businesses, especially those in the entertainment space, who have been forced to shut their doors,” said Daryn Parker, VP, CamSoda. “In an effort to provide consumers with some top-of-line entertainment remotely, and to enable businesses to earn money, we’re leveraging our technology that allows adult entertainers to broadcast to millions annually and launching CamSodaLive.”
CamSodaLive, you see, is working with StandUp NY to broadcast comedy for when the porn just isn’t working for you anymore. Comedians get to make some money, consumers get a diversion, and when they’re done, they’ll probably be ready to come back for some more porn. Genius.
I love the idea of bringing more comedy to the masses (even if they are naked masses). I have been using Twitter largely to broadcast amusement. I call it “Comedy as a Service” (CAAS for the venture capitalists out there looking for new business models with cool new acronyms). My favorite example so far is this:
The best line in that song is how bad this would all be without the Internet. Can you imagine? True, we couldn’t see things on endless repeat that make us worry the end is nigh, like Tony Fauci hitting his forehead with the palm of his hand. But without the Internet, we would be forced to speak with our family members ALL DAY LONG. I love my family members, ages 64 and 24 (plus those that are 5 months old and 13 years old if you count the puppy and the cat), but all I can say right now is: Thank God for Doors.
Among the many things that people are doing more of (besides sighing deeply about the general fuckitivity of it all) is cooking. Food delivery companies are working overtime, but many consumers are nervous about them, reasonable or not. I have decided that one of the 7 signs that this is an actual apocalypse is that Burger King is now doing home delivery.
We are venturing out to go grocery shopping occasionally. We have started a shopping list to inform the efforts of the unlucky one among the three of us who loses at rock, paper scissors and has to venture out among the germs. We have dubbed our shopping list “The Apocalyst.”
Given all of the sitting around we do planning for the next meal, I can only imagine how our collective national weight gain is going to look in a few months when we get released from sorta solitary. You know how when you go to college, you gain the Freshman 15? We are all going to gain that COVID 19 before this is over. That is likely an understatement if you are already in “make mine with extra cheese” mode. Yes, there are on-line exercise classes to help you burn off some of the extra comfort foods being ingested, but I would like to know the relative utilization of those vs. utilization of CamSoda’s core business.
From talks with friends, a few common themes have emerged.
- Among women, the greatest source of panic is lack of access to hair colorists. Our roots are growing out. We are going to look like a nation of skunks before long. Thank God for enterprising hair-dressers who are finding ways to ship us the goods so we don’t need a Zoom setting called “cover my white roots.”
- It is five o’clock EVERYWHERE AT ALL TIMES. This would be a great time to buy stock in Diageo or Constellation Brands. Both companies sell a lot of hard liquors. And now they have a supersized Total Addressable Market. But poor Constellation is also home of Corona beer. There are actually people who are afraid to drink Corona beer right now, and it’s not because they lack the sliced limes. Um, really? I have dubbed these people “Covidiots.” Note that liquor stores are considered “essential workplaces” by numerous states that have implemented lock down rules, proving that politicians are smarter than they look. I have not heard whether cannabis dispensaries are being treated similarly, but I can only imagine the delivery ones are doing a booming business.
- People who have dogs have “license to walk” and are out and about as if their dogs have never had to pee so badly. I took my dog for a walk and encountered so many others doing the same, that some of their butts had to go un-sniffed. So many dog butts, so little time outside.
- Families with teenage kids are totally set because they have built in IT support in their homes. Families without teenage kids are constantly getting kicked out of their Zoom accounts and struggling with Comcast. I would offer a king’s ransom for anyone who can help me set up my new printer, as my old one took this opportunity to commit suicide. Clearly, electronics can have a sense of humor too.
- There are fierce, if unspoken, competitions to have the most compellingly ironic or entertaining Zoom background. Personally, I am a fan of the aurora borealis background, but I’ve seen some good stuff as people import their personal photos and display them to all their work connections in a way they would never do in real life. Nothing like having a conference call about economic crises while looking at a glittery photo of Las Vegas at night.
- Companies of all types are trying desperately to keep their employees and keep them connected and socializing. People are playing games, sharing recipes, providing group counseling, you name it. Some are hosting happy hours for their teams because…why the hell not?
To amuse myself in the 11 seconds per day between Zoom calls, I started a contest (on Twitter, of course). The challenge was for someone out there to write the best COVID19-related lyrics sung to the tune of “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan. This seems to me the perfect parody song opportunity and I hadn’t seen anyone do it yet. I got but one response, but it was a great one.
In closing, I offer you the best stanzas from the tour de force by David J Whelan of Bespoke Business Strategy (just get the tune in your mind first by going here:
We got six feet between us
(we can’t dance together)
No, we can’t talk at all
Please take me along when you Zoom on by
That’s a lethal virus
We don’t remember the Spanish Flu
It’s hard times repeated
The sole survivors
Trump thinks we’re crazy
But we’re just safe at home
A Corona bold
That fine N95
Make tonight a Netflix and chill
(Tweet it again)
A Corona bold
That fine N95
Make tonight a Netflix and chill
Here’s to hoping all of you are safe, healthy, and chilling as best you can.
Lisa Suennen is the leader of Manatt Phelps & Phillips digital and technology businesses, and the firm’s venture capital fund. Her role spans technology across sectors, although she works very closely with Manatt Health, engaging with payers, health systems and companies to provide strategic advice on innovation, digital strategy and growth.