#WFH Diaries: Ben Kunz of Mediassociates
As the COVID-19 pandemic gallops along, we're checking in with creative people to see how they're faring. Here's an update from Ben Kunz of Mediassociates.
Give us a one-sentence bio of yourself.
EVP of strategy at Mediassociates—I plan ad campaigns with math to forecast results.
Where are you living right now, and who's with you?
I live in a yellow house in Connecticut, a few hours outside NYC. It's like the Shire here, very beautiful, and almost nothing ever happens. Ensconced with my wife and two boys, the oldest of whom works for a competing ad agency. We spy on each other.
What's your work situation like at the moment?
Pleasant, circular, endless. My basecamp is the spare room above the garage. Our family all loves each other, but during the day we prowl around like tigers in a cage, seeking the paradox of personal space and proximity to WiFi. NOT NOW HONEY I'M ON A CALL.
Describe your socializing strategy.
Video calls are amazing! Really, truly. Isn't it funny, we've had this wonderful technology for a decade and barely used it, and now we're all discovering the joy of seeing real people we know move on screens? Of course, Zoom doesn't match human proximity—how they smell, the details of dandruff or a button undone. I try to make up by reaching out to others unexpectedly. I video-call a distant friend out of the blue each day, just to say hi.
How are you dealing with childcare?
What are you reading?
Tons of books. I hope Covid isn't carried on them. Reading lots of history to try to make sense of all this: The WWII Blitz of London account by Erik Larson, the history of finance by Niall Ferguson, and a crash course in philosophy by Nigel Warburton. We're all now stuck in Plato's Cave.
What are you watching?
I find it helpful to minimize all TV or web news, which makes this moment seem perpetually horrific, and also most video entertainment in which plots are based on conflict. Instead, after work, I go outside, watch nature, meditate on the real world in small ways. There are birds in the trees I never noticed before. Although I did re-watch Danny Boyle's Yesterday.
What are you listening to?
I've fallen a bit head over heels with Billie Eilish. Also Mozart's Requiem. That chorus makes a great track for trail-running through the woods.
How are you staying fit?
Right before everything shut down, I zipped out and bought new dumbbells for the garage. I try to hike in forests three times a week. It's early spring here and most people don't hit the woods. The nice thing about working from home is you can snack on exercise, sneak in sets of chin-ups.
Have you taken up a hobby?
I like to cook in a sort of bachelor-just-sprung-from-the-military kind of way, chopping things violently and not paying attention to recipes. You can do so many things with vegetables. I'm not good at baking, though. I hate directions.
Any tips for getting necessities?
Shopping is so awkward now! We all skulk around, avoiding eye contact, guilty in our desire to survive while avoiding others. Instead of a virus, it's as if an extreme form of introversion has taken over the world. DON'T COME NEAR ME! I've found if I hit the store at the off-hour of 10 a.m. on Tuesdays, I can avoid socializing with humans.
An awkward moment since all this started.
A woman went for a packet of meat the same moment I did. I retreated. She retreated. I bowed and waved her forward. She giggled and curtsied. In our Covid paranoia, we had started a dance.
Best work email you got since all this started.
Um. All emails suck. Let's destroy that old system and go all-in on video calls.
An aha! moment since all this started.
I love more people than I knew.
What's your theory on how this is going to play out?
We all die. But not for another 40 or 50 years. By July, I think businesses will be back to human groups on-site, but the larger things—tech conferences, movie theaters, anything with crowds—will stay paused for another 12 months. Society will change back slowly, like a block of ice warming in the sun. Then we'll have a vaccine. And we'll all rush to airplanes to visit Iceland. I bet handshakes go away forever, but there will be much more hugging. I can't wait to hug people. I want to hug some of you so bad.