Pandemic Month by Month (A good place to start)
I thought it to be a good place to kick off what I hope will be a fairly regular blog with a recap of what happened to Table Top Cafe over the past year. There was a lot. I had to dig through old emails to remember what actually happened and when but it still feels like this all took place over a much longer time span than just one year. If the saying time flies when you are having fun is accurate, the opposite appears to be true as well.
There have been ups and downs over the seven plus years Table Top Cafe has existed and in March 2020 it felt like we were coming out of a bit of a slump. The downtown store has always needed more attention and just business in general to function and through 2019 it was getting to be a lot. Surviving yet another holiday shopping season is always great but I was starting to feel a bit more in control than usual. There were tons of D&D groups, puzzle battles, paint nights, music events, Magic was starting to grow in the cafe and convention season was just around the corner.
I was slated to attend an industry convention in Reno and I remember starting to hear of various Canadian companies pulling out of the event completely. Reps I was supposed to meet with cancelled and it looked like the trip was not going to be as useful as I had hoped. I had put off attending GAMA for years and felt a bit committed so in the end, despite slightly growing warnings, I went.
Arriving March 8 there seemed to be very little indication of life as we know it now. The first pandemic related thing I do remember was hand sanitizer bottles everywhere and stickers on the hotel walkways encouraging everyone to wash their hands. Social distancing was not yet a thing and the various lectures and sessions were crammed with people on March 9 and 10.
This being Reno the hotel was also a casino and me being me I just had to play some poker! Sitting at the poker table I watched a news story about a basketball player who had been openly mocking the virus and some of the restrictions by licking ( I think?) a microphone. The basketball player ended up catching COVID and was forced to quarantine. This story kept playing over and over on with each new player at the table having a good laugh about it.
The first time I saw someone wearing a medical mask was at the poker table. It really started to kick in for me how big of a deal the virus was. Poker players are a dirty bunch (don’t get me started on those chips). It really stood out for someone to be playing wearing gloves and a medical mask. Most of the other players would poke fun at them but, in over 13 years playing/dealing poker I had never seen someone playing it that safe.
By March 11/12 Americans generally seemed unconcerned and any media I saw about COVID-19 was generally downplaying the threat. It was very interesting to see my Facebook feed from people back in Canada compared to what I was hearing from people at the convention. I was starting to worry about actually getting back across the border but in my mind the cafe was going to be running business as usual over the weekend. We had a sale planned selling Corona beer complete with a silly graphic to have the bottles all done up virus-y. The sale turned out pretty well. Little did we know it was the last couple days we would be able to sell anything so easily for quite a while.
Monday, March 16, I made the decision to go into lockdown a couple days before the presumed Canada wide version. This was done partially so employees could file for EI as fast as possible in the hopes they beat the rush. This was also done because at the time, it really did seem like this was only going to be a temporary thing, measured in weeks. It let us load up the freezers with whatever food we could save as we got ready to hunker down to wait it out.
Not too much really happened for the rest of the month. Several people were supporting the store by participating in the beer delivery offer the last week of March. It was nice being able to see customers still, even if it was only to deliver games and beer. Everyone seemed to be embracing the ‘temporary’ lockdown life. Aside from deliveries, I sat at home paying way too much attention to the news with a growing sense of impending doom.
Towards the end of the month I had a spot on CTV to talk about escape room games.Several orders starting coming in online and as the store was also selling off the alcohol, this kept me occupied until April came along and ruined things….