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Socially Distanced in DC: Gábor’s Story

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The Magic Table

It’s 9am in Washington DC. Our first zoom meeting of the day is about to start. We’re catching up and making plans with fellow tour operators from Portugal, Spain, and Slovenia. I’m ready with coffee in my cup, sitting at the family dinner table. Our three kids are still upstairs. The girls (who are in middle school) are laying in bed with their pajamas on, working on their school computers, dialing into several zoom calls a day. They are happy not to get out of bed until they get hungry around noon. This is the dream of any school kid after all, not to have to get out of bed, get on the metro, and go to school. 

Our son, Lévi, is also still in bed. He doesn’t have to start early in the morning as he’s only in second grade, so he’s happy to just take it easy for a while. This new way of life started around the first week of March when hundreds of tour and wine tasting cancellations suddenly started to come in. Bookings, reservations, and plans that had been in the works, all got smashed within the next couple of days. By then our reservation calendar was bare—for the rest of the year. After the crash, we lost half of our team. We had been set up to handling close to 1,000 travelers a month. We’ve had zero in the past month and a half.

Now it’s almost the end of April, and the morning zoom call is over. We eat breakfast, and soon Lévi and I are preparing his school work for his afternoon zoom meetings with his teacher. Part of the family dinner table now turns into a second grade elementary school work station. Numbers, cards, a ruler, notebooks, and Lévi’s OWN computer that he just got especially for the home-schooling are now on the table. He’s proudly sitting next to me starting his school work. I also have my computer and notebook open, naively sitting in front of me hoping that I’ll be able to get some work done while he does his assignment. 

After the shock of cancelations in March, we realized that the only way we’re going to have any income is selling wine through our channels in Europe and our online wine shop in the US. We put a lot of work into this and our amazing audience seemed to be happy to purchase wines from us. It’s amazing that now our American side business of online wine sales (we looked at this as more of a marketing tool rather than a money maker) is our main source of income. Our online wine sales have been really great, and I split my time between packing boxes, doing local deliveries, replying to emails … and trying to carve out a small portion for working on future plans. 

This morning I’m hoping to squeeze in a few emails and maybe a bit of planning. By now it’s 11am and I’m doing three digit numbers and number lines with Lévi. When we take a break from math we move on to writing the daily reflections … “What are you most thankful for today,” is his daily prompt. Bottles of wines are spread out across the dining room table, which has been turned into my online tasting room every Saturday evening for the past month. We’ve been doing weekly facebook live Hungarian wine tastings—which have turned out to be an unexpectedly great new addition to Taste Hungary, something that we had not considered doing before the Coronaviris crisis. 

It’s lunch time now, so I’ll make sandwiches for all of us, for a well-deserved break. I always had this nightmare of having to repeat school and start over. Now, it feels like it’s happening. I’m starting to have a headache from not leaving the house (or even the room) all day (all month) and from explaining second grade math. After lunch it’s time to turn in some video assignments. It should be easy. Oops. What? It says your software has to be updated? Let’s try again. Nope, not working. Ok, let’s download the latest version and restart so we can finish before the zoom call with his teacher—who miraculously manages to keep smiling after rounds of daily zoom calls with 20 or so second graders. Carolyn updates and restarts the computer. Videos are flying out from our dining room table. After the school zoom call, Carolyn takes over and English homework starts. I’m free. I can do anything now. It’s 5pm and I need some fresh air. 

A bunch of emails came in about our new private online tasting initiative! I’m so happy about that! It looks like we’re going to have a few private zoom tastings in Hungary, across Europe, a couple in the US and we’ll even have a bi-continental tasting scattered around the US and Europe. This is exciting, and is a calming thought that people are reaching out to us about this. I reply to everyone quickly. At least this stay-at-home period was good for this. It has forced us to get out online in a bigger way than before. We do live tastings, and have a few more online educational products in mind that we could introduce.

Because of the rain I can’t go for my run—one thing that has been keeping me grounded over the past few weeks. It will be time for dinner soon, and then a family movie or a board game. Lately the dining room table has been converted into nightly Catan battles. In the morning the cycle on the dining room table will begin again—Zoom calls, office and second grade math lab, games, wine box packing. But tomorrow it will be Carolyn’s turn. I’ll be delivering wine in my fancy new grape patterned silk mask that a friend sent me. It will be a moment of peace, coasting past the empty monuments (usually packed with tourists), along the dead streets of DC. 

Thanks to those who still keep us busy by ordering wine and participating in our online events! If it wasn’t for you, I’d really have to go back to second grade.