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Anonymous Mailbag

It’s Tuesday, time for the anonymous mailbag to help ease your quarantine lives.

As always send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

Okay, here we go:

“Happy Stimulus Day! I texted all of my buddies that this morning in our group chat. Some people hadn’t gotten their check yet, so we were all talking about that.

One of my buddies texted that he got two checks. We all laughed and wrote him off, but he was like, “No, seriously, I did.”

Then I realize, this is my friend who was supposed to get married in September 2019, but called off the wedding because he found out his fiancee was cheating on him. We all realize that they had already done their taxes together. We all die laughing because she cheated on him, but now he got her money. I don’t know the legal issues of this, but she didn’t change her tax filing status so I would think that would be on her. Then, morally, I would think he should give her her half of the money, but he said she never gave him the ring back. We all think he’s in the clear. Plus, he said “she’s too stupid to even realize she didn’t get the money. I doubt she even comes looking for it lol.” 

What do you think on the legal issues?”

Legally the answer here is pretty clear — she’s entitled to her stimulus check based on her tax filing status. The money is intended for her, not for him.

Morally and ethically I think most people would probably side with your buddy here. She cheated on him, blowing up their wedding. Then she also got to keep the engagement ring, which was likely worth thousands of dollars, much more than the stimulus check here.

I’m not sure which state you’re in, but there are tons of legal cases about whether an engagement ring is a gift — in which case the bride keeps it — or a conditional gift predicated on the upcoming wedding — in which case the groom gets to keep it. Some states also consider fault as a part of their decision, which would clearly work in your buddy’s favor here since her cheating led to the wedding being called off. States ultimately differ on the rule, which is why where you’re located matters, but the majority of the states hold that the ring should be returned in the event a wedding doesn’t happen.

So your buddy is probably getting a worse outcome here by keeping the check and letting her keep the engagement ring. Her stimulus check is probably worth way less than the engagement ring. If he has to choose between the two, I’d advise him to seek the return of the ring in exchange for the return of the stimulus check.

If he’d just rather not have any contact with her at all, I’d suggest he put that knowledge about the engagement ring in his back pocket and if she does ever reach out requesting her money, I’d have him say, “Sure. Great to hear from you. I’ve been meaning to text you too. You can swing by and drop off the engagement ring and I’ll give you your check at the same time.”

I’m betting that ends the discussion pretty quickly because even if she’s not very smart she’s probably smart enough to know the ring is worth more than the coronavirus cash stimulus.

“So I’m an associate attorney at a small defense firm. We’re still open, operating at a reduced capacity in the physical office. My office is in close proximity to the men’s bathroom and it’s an old building. Because of this, I can hear urinals flush, the sink turn on, and when someone is using the towel dispenser.

Every time a certain other associate uses the bathroom, I hear the urinal flush and then the door immediately opens. No use of sink or hand towel dispenser. So, he’s obviously not washing his hands when he pees. I noticed this along time ago. But I thought, eh, probably not sanitary, but no big deal. I’ve done it before myself.

Well now with the corona stuff going on, I’ve thought for sure he would start washing his hands more often, as we’ve all been instructed to do, especially when using the bathroom, but he still doesn’t. The firm has sent stuff around regarding the coronavirus reminding everyone to wash their hands as often as possible. Obviously, before this coronavirus stuff, I would have never even thought twice about it, but I feel like now people should be washing their hands more often, at least when they use the bathroom.

Do I keep my mouth shut, say something to him, say something to a partner, or to HR? My gut is to not do anything but I feel this moral bird in my ear telling me to do something. Am I okay to ignore this behavior?”

The next time you hear him go into the bathroom, follow him in like a minute later and pretend to pee yourself.

If he doesn’t wash his hands after he pees — and you see him not doing so — you can easily say something like, “Dude, wash your hands, you savage. I don’t want to get the ‘rona from your ass.”

That way you aren’t being a tattle tale, but you are directly challenging him to change his behavior.

Hopefully your public shaming will challenge his behavior. But if it doesn’t, you’ll still know.

As for whether you should tell on him, I wouldn’t. I have no idea what your law firm culture is like, but as much as I’d want everyone to be washing their hands if I was the managing partner I’d be more likely to judge the lawyer telling on the other lawyer for not washing his hands than I would the lawyer who isn’t washing his hands.

Others may differ on how they’d respond to this if they were the managing partner, but the last thing I’d want to do is get involved in a hand washing battle between associates. It would reflect poorly on both parties, but I think it would reflect the most poorly on the tattle tale.

“Ye old wise one, I need your advice on what to do in my current situation.   I’m in my mid-forties and while getting older isn’t fun, one of the benefits is not having to attend weddings as most of my friends and family are already married.  I’ve also been fortunate to have avoided weddings for the wave of second marriages.   All was good until a few months ago when one of my wife’s friends got engaged.  

At first, the engagement wasn’t really even on my radar as these aren’t super close friends of ours.  That was until my wife informed me that we were going to have to attend their wedding.  As you could imagine, I wasn’t thrilled by this premise, but my wife promised the wedding would be low key and more of a party. Plus, it wasn’t a fall wedding so it wouldn’t interfere with watching my favorite SEC team’s football games. Reluctantly, I agreed to attend (not that I had much choice to be honest).   Then, boom, COVID 19 hit and the late April wedding could not possibly go on (silver linings of a pandemic).  

I put the wedding out of my mind and completely forgot about it until last week when my wife says to me “we have to find nice clothes for next week.”  I had no clue what she was talking about so I asked her what would we possibly need these nice clothes for as we are all quarantined.  That’s when she broke the news, the couple is going to have a ZOOM wedding! I can’t even fathom why someone would think this would be even remotely (no pun intended) appealing for others to view.  Am I crazy to push back on my wife over this?  I really don’t want to sit in front of a computer and watch two older people get married.  If you think I should give in and log on for it, what would the proper dress attire be for such an occasion?  Any help would be appreciated.”  

I can’t believe you’re complaining about not having to go to a wedding.

Especially when all you have to do is sit in front of a computer screen and watch a wedding instead of actually going to one in person. This seems like a huge win for you.

I thought you were going to say what would have been a spring or summer wedding was now rescheduled for a fall Saturday, which is going to happen for a ton of us out there. Seriously, this is going to be a huge calamity come fall. All the dates are going to be booked for late summer and there are going to be way more fall weddings than usual, which is going to create huge issues in relationships.

I think dressing up for a zoom wedding is a little bit ridiculous, but if your wife wants you to dress up you can wear a nice jacket and shirt and sit there in your shorts. (No one will see your bottom half.) Go ahead and add in alcohol to the wedding and if your wife gets dressed up and happy about the romantic ceremony you can probably have wedding trip hotel room sex at your house.

This seems like a huge win for you on a quarantine weekend.

Plus, what else are you going to be doing on the weekend anyway? Sure, the NFL Draft is going on, but do you really need to watch rounds 4-7 on Saturday?

I’d stop complaining and show up for the zoom wedding.

There are way bigger battles to fight in the future.

Like all the fall weddings all of us are going to have on our schedules.

“King Solomon of the Interwebs,

I’m 29 and stuck between a rock and hard place with choosing between two awesome events taking place during November. 

Event A:  (Nov. 6-14th) 7 day Caribbean cruise/ destination wedding with all the boys from college on the same boat for one last hoorah. Miscellaneous details: My 30th birthday is during the cruise, and I’d likely be forcing others to pay more for their part of the cabin. 

Event B:  The Masters (in the fall for the first time).  Misc details: I won the 4 Tuesday practice round tickets in the masters lottery and likely wouldn’t have an affordable way in without them, I’ve never been to a PGA event, and lastly, I have a small, custom golf gear business and the networking opportunity at the masters would incredible. 

It’s a win/lose either way and my process right now is to literally flip a coin in the next few days.  What say you, oh Wise One?” 

First, we don’t know for sure that either event will happen. You think you have two options right now, but it’s possible your cruise will be cancelled and the Masters won’t allow fans to be present for the November Masters.

So let’s begin there, you may not be able to do either.

And if you can’t do either then which one you picked won’t matter at all.

It’s also possible that only one event will end up happening. That is, it’s possible your cruise could still happen, but the Masters doesn’t allow fans and it’s possible that the Masters allows fans, but the cruise doesn’t happen. If you picked the wrong option here, you could end up missing out on both even though you had an option to attend one, which is the worst possible outcome here.

Finally, it’s possible that both events go on as scheduled.

That means you really have four options here: both are cancelled, Masters happens, cruise doesn’t, Masters doesn’t happen, cruise does, both cruise and Masters happen.

So what should you do here?

Keep both options available as long as possible.

I’d book the cruise and plan on going to the Masters. That way you don’t end up in a scenario where you miss out on both options. If both events end up happening and you can’t cancel the cruise and get your money back then I’d sell the Masters tickets and pocket all that money.

You say you’d never be able to afford to go to the Masters again, but if you sell the Masters tickets, why couldn’t you use that money to buy Masters tickets for another year? The great thing about today’s ticket market is there’s basically never a sell out for any public sporting event — if you have enough money you can go to anything.

Finally, if you’re dead set on making a pick between the two — which I wouldn’t do for the reasons I laid out above — a fall Masters may never happen again in our lives. A cruise with your buddies is, comparatively, much easier to schedule and might well happen again.

So I’d pick the fall Masters.

(You could also pick a double and do both — go to the fall Masters on Tuesday and then fly to the island for the wedding, stay a couple of days there, and actually attend the wedding instead of getting to the island via the cruise. I’m assuming the wedding is on the weekend, which means it’s possible to do both.)

Good luck.

“I am a low-level executive at a Fortune 500 company and have been working from home since mid-March. I had long thought that most people only work 3-4 hours a day, and the rest of their time is spent doing non-value add work (like going to unproductive meetings, emails, shooting the shit with coworkers, reading the anonymous mailbag, etc.). Being isolated at home with my wife (who also works full time) and our 2 and 5 year old boys has been stressful, but I’ve been more than able to get all of my work done, spend time with the kids, all while sticking to fairly regular “working hours.”

I’m certain there are many others (especially people working at large companies) experiencing something similar. How many “full time employees” do you think actually work 40+ hours a week, versus those who work 3-4 hours a day and run the clock out with the rest of their days?”

I think the vast majority of people who work in offices could easily get all their work done in four days instead of five if you told them if they got everything done early they could have Friday off. Most people wouldn’t do this, however, because they’d be afraid this would make them look expendable.

That’s why so many people feel compelled to put face time in the office. Get there early, stay late, companies often rely on perception over reality. The clear perception is the more hours you spend in the office the more work you are doing, even if that’s often not the case.

Think about it this way, how often did you get your homework done at school so you didn’t have to do homework at home? Generally speaking the kids who didn’t finish their homework at school were goofing off. I think the same thing is true of work in office settings.

Now this is only for certain office jobs. There are many jobs, and I’ve had some of them, where you are working the entire time and there’s no time for slacking. For instance, if you work at a fast food restaurant, you’re pretty busy all day. If you’re a preschool teacher, the amount of free time you have is limited. There are lots of jobs like these, where you can’t slack off.

But I think many people working remotely from home from the first time are realizing what you are, that much of their office day is filled with unproductive busy work that isn’t actually that useful. You feel busy, but you aren’t actually that productive.

I’ve worked from home for over a decade now and while I work a ton it’s pretty awesome to be able to take a half hour break and go see my kids for lunch. Or decide to go into the backyard and play sports with my kids before going back to work.

That’s the very definition of work-life balance.

Think about how much more time you free up in your day simply by not having to drive to and from the office. For most of us that’s over an hour by itself.

One reason I didn’t like practicing law was this lack of efficiency. I felt like the billable hour totally disincentivized me from doing my job efficiently. I work fast, but I didn’t feel like I was rewarded for working fast, I thought it was the exact opposite. I suspect many lawyers feel the same way.

As a general rule you could eliminate half of all legal work in this country and the overall quality of legal work wouldn’t decline. I think this is likely true in many fields. For instance, if we had half the surgeries, I think the average life span in this country wouldn’t really change very much because health outcomes wouldn’t be changed very much. Hell, it might not change at all. That’s because all businesses bake in a ton of inefficiencies.

One thing I think may come from the coronavirus is a ton of companies are probably going to look at their employee work product during this time frame and wonder whether these employees are just as efficient working from home. Think about it, offices are a massive fixed cost for most companies. What if it’s now the case that you only need, say, one quarter of the office space you thought you needed? In theory that lack of office expense would lead to a massive rise in profitability. (Unless, that is, you’re in the commercial real estate business.)

So I think business will see major changes from this enforced work from home period, it’s a fascinating business experiment.

“I’m an airline pilot counting the days to October. Airline employees are currently protected under the CARES Act until September 30th, however I’m concerned that if business hasn’t picked up by the end of the summer I will be staring unemployment in the face in an industry that won’t be hiring anytime soon. The saving grace for the airline that I fly for is business travelers in first class. We can usually get a decent amount of revenue on the first class rows alone. Do you foresee business travelers coming back in droves by the summer or do you foresee too many businesses sticking to zoom? The states starting to open up gives me hope, but I’ve started updating my resume as fortune favors the prepared.

Blue skies.”

Man, this is tough to forecast, but my bet is that many businesses are going to realize they are just as efficient without the massive travel bills. Plus, since many businesses are also going to be looking to cut costs in a big way, I’d bet that nonessential travel will be one of the first ways companies cut costs.

I do think, however, that many people, myself included, are going to be eager to travel this summer. Think about all the canceled vacations over the past several months. I know vacation travelers aren’t as lucrative as business travelers, but assuming this virus declines precipitously in the summer, which the forecasts show will happen, I’d expect for many people to hit the roads — and skies — in large numbers.

Hopefully that helps our travel and leisure industry to get back on its feet.

“Thanks for sharing the data and your analysis on the coronavirus.  Given that I live in a liberal, northeastern state, it feels like I am going to be stuck at home for at least the next 4-6 weeks despite falling numbers of deaths and cases in my region.  I am graduating from undergrad in a few weeks, and accepted a job offer in March only to have it recently rescinded as a result of the virus.

Given that this amount of continuous free time is so rare, what do you think would be the best use of my time during quarantine, either personally or professionally?  In other words, what do you see as an attractive skill that employers will want their employees to have in a post-coronavirus world that I could develop?”

First, congrats on graduating. Second, condolences on losing the job you already had lined up. That sucks, but you should know that happened after 9/11 to many recent graduates and after the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008 as well and eventually the economy straightened itself out.

The same thing will happen again eventually here.

The sooner we get back to work, the sooner it will happen, of course.

In terms of new skills you can learn, I’d encourage you to immerse yourself in a subject you’re interested in and just read about it. The single best skill, regardless of profession, that I believe any young college graduate can have, is the ability to distill large amounts of information in a cogent and intelligent manner.

The best way I know how to do that is by reading all the time.

I read for multiple hours every day — both daily news and books — and I believe my ability to consume and use vast amounts of information is the single most valuable asset I have. The only way to maximize this asset is by doing it every day. The brain, like anything else, is a muscle.

You have to make sure to use it regularly to get the best value from it.

Thanks for reading the anonymous mailbag.

As always send your mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.

The Daily Outkick: Tuesday, April 21, 2020

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