I've noticed more than once recently that our publisher has teed-up these essays with the suggestion that I've been too long in lock-down. He has a point. This week marks my fifth month away from Manhattan, working from home. I hope I haven't, in my splendid isolation, let the sound of my own wheels drive me crazy. Still, this marks a good time for a reflective look back.
To begin with, I know very well that I am extraordinarily lucky to be in a profession which I can practice from home. I don't know whether or not lawyers are all that "essential," but my work has not been interrupted and I've not needed to be in harm's or in anyone else's way. I'm also lucky to have a home with more corners than occupants, so we are socially -- and sometimes even anti-socially -- distant here too. And I'm lucky that none of us fell ill.
But it has crossed my mind that working from home, in a profession that punches no clock, is in many ways a throwback to another era, to when owners lived above the store or, perhaps more apt, on the farm. That thought (and also the thought of planting some of this acreage in zucchini) sent me to the Internet wondering about a farmer's day. There are quite a few descriptions of a typical farmer's day on line. Here's the surprise: change the names of a few of the tasks and it's not much different than what I've experienced over the past 5 months. There's a melding of personal and professional to the point where it becomes impossible to say where work ends and life begins. They are all one.
Here, for example, is a typical day at New Moon Farms, in the Central New York hamlet of Munnsville, close to where I grew up, as reported in their website. (http://www.newmoondairy.com/farm-happenings/2015/11/3/ask-us-what-does-a-typical-day-on-the-farm-look-like):
I'm not chasing cows or hondeling over semen, but I'm on the phone, or in Zoomcalls, or reading or writing or arguing or all three on an almost identical schedule. Except for the "9:30 Sleep" part; that never happens. And that schedule says nothing about the financial insecurity farmers face, never being sure who will pay and who will not. I know that story, too.
I wonder if this will be the "new normal" that everyone keeps talking about. Oh, I expect to go back to my office in the Fall, but not for full weeks like before. I'll probably work 3 days in the City and 4 at home. It'll still be a farmer's schedule.
That's where politics and pandemic have taken us. Although my professional work has continued apace, I like the rest of us have had a world of trouble on my mind. And so, these pieces since March have been heavy on policy and light on finance. I didn't set out to be pundit or -- God forbid! -- a "public intellectual," but I make no excuse for it. Peggy Noonan once said that the first rule of being a columnist is to write whatever is on your mind. Heeding that advice, I've foisted on you, my readers, my weekly angsts and peeves. I flatter myself to think that some of my musings might once in a while hit a mark. I know you don't all agree with me, and certainly not all the time. Hell, I myself don't still agree with some of what I've written! That's what a column is, writing out loud, sharing thoughts as they arise, working them out on paper, but all the while knowing they are still in play. Some may lose and some may win, and I've no way to know which. But each one surprises me when it's done. And here's another surprise: this is my 100th column for Broke-and-Broker. To the several thousand of you who take time to read these pieces each week: Thank you.
August is when lawyers used to go on vacation. Farmers don't go on vacation, nor will I. But I will be taking a staycation from [In]Securities until after Labor Day. I need the break, and so do you. For the next few weeks, I'm going to lighten up while I still can, not even try to understand, and take it easy. You all do the same, and see you in September.