Columnist Mark Kennedy says these thift-store slippers are his new "work shoes."

Editor's Note: Times Free Press columnist Mark Kennedy is writing an occasional column about his family's social distancing experiences.


Buried treasures

One of the unintended consequences of Week 2 of social distancing has been my growing energy for spring cleaning.

With no youth sports, movies or restaurants to go to, I'm looking for stuff to do on weekends. On Sunday, I tackled cleaning our two-car garage, which our boys — ages 13 and 18 — had turned into a wood-working wonderland.

Slowly, over the winter, the garage had become home for piles of lumber, work benches, table and miter saws, shop rags, empty Gatorade bottles and piles of sawdust and wood-shavings. The promise is that all this mess will someday migrate to my sister's backyard shed several miles away. There is no timetable, though, and thus no movement in that direction.

So, on Sunday, I decided to at least divide the garage into work zones and walk zones, sweep up the sawdust and get rid of the trash. To his credit, the 13-year-old helped out.

And boy, did we find some treasures.

First, I found a couple of grimy old construction masks hiding under the rubble. I'm going to clean them up and maybe they will come in handy if we ever leave the house and need to protect our precious mucus membranes.

Best of all, I found a pair of "Corona Extra" house slippers that have become my new work shoes. My older son bought them weeks ago at a thrift store and dared one of his friends to wear them in public.

The friend wouldn't take the dare, but I will.


The joys of double-tipping

A funny story.

One day last week I decided to order lunch from a local pizza restaurant that's offering curb service.

After I placed my phone order for two large pepperoni pizzas, the restaurant employee asked what kind of car I would be driving through the pick-up line.

"Just a minute, I'll go look," I said. (I do car reviews for the newspaper and sometimes I forget what I'm driving.)

"It's a Jaguar," I said, upon my return to the house.

"What color?" the worker asked.

"Just a minute, I forgot to notice," I said.

I could imagine the worker thinking, "What kind of idiot drives a Jaguar and doesn't know what kind of car it is or what color it is?"

"Silver," I reported a moment later. "Be there in 30 minutes. I promise it's not a stolen car."

"Ok, sir, I trust you," the worker said.

This story reminds me: You've heard of double-dipping? Well, if you are one of the lucky Americans who are still employed, why not practice double-tipping. Servers need our help. Please be generous.



Working from home is forcing some of us (read, baby boomers) to upgrade our personal technology skills.

For example, our newsroom is using a networking app called Slack to communicate. It's where we post our reporting plans, exchange information and generally touch base on a variety of topics. It's actually pretty cool, and keeps us from duplicating efforts. Normally, in the newsroom if we need to talk we just twist and shout.

Also, almost everyone in my family has learned to use the video-conferencing tool Zoom. My son used it for a virtual meeting with his sidelined lacrosse team, my wife uses it to communicate with her 5th grade students, and I (after some fits and starts) was able to connect with a magazine planning meeting at work.

Sometimes it's hard to keep up with who's Zooming who.


Remodeling the bathroom

Uncommon times call for uncommon parenting.

When our 13-year-old asked his mother and me if he could "remodel" his bathroom I think he was shocked when we said "yes."

He informed us that he wanted to shave off the popcorn ceiling, repaint the whole space and install and accent wall with wood paneling made from recycled shipping pallets.

"Sure, go for it," I said.

He couldn't have looked more surprised if I'd given him permission to go over Niagara Falls with a pool noodle.

Contact Mark Kennedy at