Kirk Profit lives on the west side of Ann Arbor. He is a consultant who works in Lansing to represent the interests of his clients. I first met Kirk through my work with the city – his firm is employed by the city of Ann Arbor to promote our local government interests in Lansing. In our conversation, Kirk had a lot to share about his approach to current challenges, concerns about current events happening at the capital, and general advice about finding (and appreciating) the value in each moment.
This is part of a series of interviews with Ann Arbor residents, talking about personal experiences adjusting to (and adapting during) the COVID-19 crisis. This interview was conducted remotely via the ZOOM application. I appear in this video as “Mrs. Nelson” – we talked over the ZOOM account that I use primarily with my preschool class. Interviewed May 15, 2020
I’m talking to Kirk Profit, who represents the interests of the city of Ann Arbor in Lansing. Thank you for talking to me, Kirk!
Thank you for doing this! It’s really exciting that you’re doing this. You would hope, at some point, it’s in the area or the regional museum – not for me, but for what you’re doing to record the experience people are having with this once-in-a-century experience.
Thank you, Kirk, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me! I’m going to ask you the same questions that I ask everybody.
Real big questions that you can answer however you like. What kind of adjustments have you had to make – personally or in your work – during this pandemic?
Maybe a couple things… at work, of course, our building is closed and our work is a relationship-based business, so it’s dramatically changed because most of our activity is person-to-person, direct. Now it’s all electronic, it’s virtual. There’s a little bit of direct but that’s dropped from being 95% of our activity to maybe 5% of our activity because of the stay-at-home stay safe requirements. So that has changed dramatically.
It’s actually become busier because it’s a little less efficient. Because I’m working from home most of the time, I don’t have the support structure that I do in the office. So it’s a lot busier and it’s different but I tend to be of a mind: you need to embrace what life brings you and really search and seek the value in each of those moments. It’s been a lot of change, but we’ve been able to engage and remain active for the clients we represent.
What precautions are you specifically taking in the day-to-day activities that we are all needing to participate in (to just go about our lives), like getting groceries, any reason you have to go in public (because we are told to avoid public places). What kind of strategies do you have in your household?
Well, I really don’t want to get this and I would feel even worse if I gave COVID to somebody else. We are (as a family, personally, professionally) very very protective of and responsive to those public duties and personal duties. For me, I live in Ann Arbor so this morning I was actually in Krogers. I have a mask and gloves and keep distant and that sort of thing out of a personal interest in not getting COVID and out of respect for others who don’t want to get it from me in case I’m carrying it.
I follow every guideline that you read and hear. I feel like if I’m responsible in that context, I don’t have to walk around in fear. Again: kind of get into the moment and see what places you can be and can go and how you can live a real meaningful life even while in this strange circumstance. I don’t really want to run from it but I do want to protect myself and protect others from it.
Some people I’ve talked to have described feeling very cooped up and the frustrating feelings of looking at the same four walls all the time. Do you have any strategies for overcoming those feelings, having lost so many of the outlets that we used to have: work place, social situations, public places. How are you overcoming these feelings, that you’re looking at the same space and looking at the same people all the time?
I, again, refuse to do that. I remain COVID responsible and COVID respectful, but I get out (not necessarily with people). For example, like I said, we live in Ann Arbor, we live on the west side and we have four acres so I get out around our property and probably notice and hear and appreciate certain things that I might not have before: the frogs at night, woodpeckers in the morning, the different sounds that maybe you just don’t even pay as much attention to normally.
All of our family lives here in Ann Arbor, so we’re real fortunate – in COVID responsible ways – to see family still. There’s a lot of places I don’t go, but there’s a lot of places that I am probably more intensely aware of. Like I said, I think I really do (in most things that I approach in life) try to find the value in each moment and embrace it and see what it has to offer. I think we’ve had pretty good success in doing that.
Do you take any special precautions when you go outdoors?
When I’m outdoors by myself, no. Again, when I’m in a public place, I’m very cautious because I want to make sure that whatever the COVID responsible practices are, I exercise [them], for those around me and for myself. I’ve known some people that have passed away from this, I’ve known several who have had it. I don’t want to get it and I don’t want anyone I now to ever get it. Obviously some do [get it], but I don’t want to be responsible for it. I felt it really strongly, personally.
I make sure that I do whatever I can do to prevent me being a carrier to somebody else and prevent me from getting it myself. It is an ugly situation, really unfair for people not to respect those COVID best practices that have been shared by so many medical professionals.
We have seen in recent weeks a reaction to how long the quarantine has dragged on, how long the stay-at-home order has been in effect. I’ve asked everyone what kind of thoughts they have about this, what kind of remarks they might have, what would you say to people who are really feeling overly-restricted and are ready to return to normal and are saying “enough is enough, this needs to stop, we need to go back to normal”?
You know, I’ve been to Lansing a couple times. We own the lobby business, so I’ve had to go to our office on a couple of occasions to write checks or sign documents, do different things. So I’ve had to do some of that and it’s interesting, the times that I’ve gone have been the times of the protests on the state Capital
For me, it’s distasteful, it’s selfish, obviously extremely politically motivated, and very disgusting. Some of the things you see… a Barbie doll yesterday on the end of a fishing pole with a noose around its neck, Confederate flags, all kinds of disgusting stuff. People walk in the capital with long guns, assault weapons, because – at least under the current rules of the capital – they can.
We’re in a pandemic here! We’ve got people protesting, armed to the hilt on the capital lawn. I think it’s really a strange circumstance. So for that slice of our culture, I don’t really have any respect for – and I think they’re really being selfish and unfair to the rest of us. I think it presents an image to the rest of the world of something that really Michigan is not, although we certainly have a slice of that because we see it on the Capital lawn, too frequently.
For people who do feel cooped up: I say, look around. It still is a big beautiful world and you’ve got to seek the beauty in it. I think it’s really narrow, to get stuck… we probably all watch CNN too much, we watch all that stuff too much, I think you’ve got to get out of it. You get the information and the understanding and knowledge you need but then get out into the world, the world that you can get out into. Even if you’re not that mobile (you don’t have that much access to the outdoors), there’s things to read and things to explore even internally.
That’s where I’m at with it. I refuse to get sucked into just wallowing in the COVID piece. We have to be respectful and we have to be responsible in that context, but I don’t think it’s a time to ignore the rest of the world.
That is the end of my questions, so I can ask you: is there anything that I didn’t ask you about that you think is worth talking about?
Probably after we get off the ZOOM, I’ll think “Wow, I wish I would have said this”!
I want to underscore how much I appreciate what you’re doing. These are really difficult times for public officials, so many challenges and so many inputs coming at you with so many different interests. You’ve got to do your best to be COVID responsible in a public way, with the public interest in mind to make sure that we have a way forward. In Ann Arbor, it’s really difficult with all the public kind of activities that we all enjoy. I love being downtown, I love the Huron River and the parks and all the different things that we have to offer here. You guys have to balance all that in COVID responsible ways. I appreciate the challenge that you have and the leadership that you’re showing.
I thank you for talking to me today!
Thank you! Enjoy the rest of your day!