The Trouble With Normal (Is It Always Gets Worse), Part 3

What will the new normal be when things finally revert back? Perhaps that’s the biggest question of all these days, even more than “when”.

I’m far from unique in pointing out that when things went back to “normal” eventually after the 9/11 attacks, we found that “normal” was different than had been on Sep. 10, 2001. It doesn’t take much imagination to suggest that Corona virus will be similar in that eventually, when it fades into the background or even disappears, things will be different. What does take imagination though is to figure out just how they’ll be different.

There will be some negatives for years to come, of that we can be sure. The economy’s already taken a major hit worldwide and we’re not even close to wrestling this illness to the ground. The “stimulus” package just passed in the U.S. is said to cost some two trillion dollars, and guess what – that’s got to come from somewhere. Yes, that’s probably very necessary to help out people losing their jobs through no fault of their own, temporarily at least, and having to pay unexpected out of pocket expenses but is also about $8000 per taxpayer country-wide. Expect either tax increases or cuts to other government services for years to come. Likely both.

Obviously, some businesses that are closed now may not come back. Many non-essential retailers are shut down for the time being in the name of public safety, and for some that are already teetering on the edge of oblivion, it may be too much to ever come back from. I’d be surprised to see an open Sears or JC Penney store in the future, personally. Same goes for Pier 1 as well. That company just closed about half of their whole chain just before this occurred, and I wouldn’t bet on the remaining 450 stores or so in the future. After all, the chain was already nearly completely bankrupt in good economic times; nice but expensive imported pillows, wall hangings and tableware may find an even smaller market in tough times that will follow. And yes, tougher times will follow.

People are going to lose their jobs, not only in companies like theirs which will probably go under. Right now the tourist trade is taking a beating, understandably, and while the beaches of Florida, the Eiffel Tower, Disney World, the pyramids of Egypt and so on will always be draws, if the economy shrinks, they may not draw as many people. It’s unlikely the government’s going to let major airlines or hotel chains fold entirely, but not unlikely they’ll shrink. Fewer tourists means fewer jets in the air, fewer pilots and flight attendants, fewer hotels needed. Not to mention fewer restaurants and bars near those attractions, fewer gas stations along the way.Hence fewer jobs.

I wonder too, if many businesses still operating but operating differently won’t choose to opt for the new ways. For instance, many stores have cut their hours (that made no sense to me in the case of supermarkets, which were already busy and seeing a jump in sales) … neighborhood “24 hour” Walgreens now close at 9 PM in many cities and it’s rare to find a supermarket or Walmart open before sunrise now. If they find people still find ways to shop during the reduced hours, will they revert to the old, longer hours that require more manpower and electricity down the road? Less all-night shopping, and thus fewer retail jobs may emerge from Corona. On the other hand, shopping online may become even more dominant than it has been up to now.

With many offices doing all they can now to get the majority of their staff working from home to prevent the spread of the illness, it’s not hard to imagine that if that goes without too many snags, they may not be anxious to bring their whole roster back to the home office five days a week. A lot more people may be telecommuting in the future, good for the bottom line of the corporations (less office space means less rent, electricity etc.), good perhaps for our environment (imagine the savings in gas for just an ordinary worker not driving perhaps ten miles a day to work… now multiply that by millions) but perhaps not good for socialization or for the real estate market.

Speaking of real estate, if the economy flounders for some time as a result of this virus, tough times may befall real estate agents. But it could be a bull market for Lowes and Home Depot, as well as books by those “Property Brothers” or Gainses of Fixer Upper fame as people decide to just “spruce up” the existing home instead of looking for a bigger and better one to move into.

Let’s hope though that some good things will arise from this mess. For instance, people are now hyper-vigilant about washing their hands and not standing near people coughing or sneezing. Perhaps that will become more of a habit down the road, and we’ll all be a little bit healthier in years to come. Same goes for staying home when you’re sick, which might become even more ingrained into our consciousness if more employers offer sick days as a result.On a bigger scale, perhaps governments, American especially (but others as well)  will see a positive aspect to perhaps spending more on defending their population’s health, even if it means spending just a little less on defending borders with space-age jets and missiles.

People are getting by without going out to the malls for recreation right now; while we don’t want to see large chains go out of business and people losing thousands of jobs, our society might do well by having some people realize that shopping is more a necessity from time to time than a daily recreational activity. If our society becomes even a little less consumeristic and more people-oriented as a result of Corona Covid 19, it could be a bit nicer, and less wasteful world to inhabit.

The U.S. has a way of looking rather narrowly at the world and seeing itself not only as the Center of Everything, but as a bit of an island. (An example which comes to mind to me, as a Canadian, is how most American publications will refer to American records as the only ones… when they speak of “best-selling albums of all-time” for instance, they almost invariably are referring only to U.S. figures, ignoring the ones sold to the other 6.7 billion people elsewhere) If people come to look outwards a bit more, and see themselves as part of a global community besides just being a part of their own country, we might benefit. That of course is true of other countries as well, although I think that mentality is most applicable to the United States.

But the U.S. isn’t the only country which will hopefully go about things a bit differently in the future. It might be politically incorrect so say, but it’s true nonetheless that China needs to change the way of some of its people. I know, many think it hypocritical to say we can eat cows or pigs but others shouldn’t eat other mammals, but there’s a reason people don’t normally eat bats, cats or rats. Corona virus came out of a “wet market” in Wuhan, somehow making the jump from infected bats there to local people to wardrobe consultants for Law & Order SVU across the Pacific in a matter of about three months. These markets not only treat animals inhumanely, they crowd together any number of exotic species in close, and unsanitary conditions, proving a nice little petri dish for viral experiments. Corona came from there; SARS and the Swine Flu from similar situations in China earlier this century. Time for bats and wildcats to be left to the wilderness and the animals we choose to consume to come from farms which meet certain health standards, in Wuhan just as much as Wisconsin.

Last but not least, let’s hope we can all gain even a wee bit of a new set of priorities and appreciation for things we can take for granted. In the city I’m in, the large public park near me is closed down – presumably because the virus could infect kids playground equipment or a drinking fountain. It’s rather a drag. Maybe when things go back to “normal” , people will appreciate that park and walking through it a little more. And maybe we’ll rediscover the simple joys of things like walking around the parks enjoying the singing birds and blooming flowers; like doing arts and crafts or playing Clue with the family. Getting to appreciate what we have now, and those we have in our lives, a bit more. That wouldn’t make the current pandemic a good thing, but it sure could mean some good might eventually come from it.

4 Replies to “The Trouble With Normal (Is It Always Gets Worse), Part 3”

  1. Great post Dave.
    I keep hoping Americans will see the other part of the earth that they share but don’t own. I hate to tell you but most of the Americans I know count Canada as us also. Why? Because you don’t look different or most don’t talk differently than they do…that is how many of them judge…I’m just the messenger here.

    They say young people don’t learn easily…but something tells me they will learn from this. They will be asked about this time in history for the rest of their lives. It will be their 9/11, Kennedy Assassination, Cold War until God forbid…something else happens to takes its ugly place.

    I do hope something good can come from it. 9/11 did wise people up to their surroundings but really how long did it last? This is different though. 9/11 didn’t personally affect people’s lives outside of New York, Washington and a few other places.

    To me…you may disagree but I compare this to the cold war. Where we had to constantly worry when the bombs could drop on us…and it would affect us… duck, cover, and run.
    Now its wash your hands, don’t touch and stay indoors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      Canadians have a weird relationship with US, generally most of us feel like the two are family and for the most part, love the States though once in awhile they get on our nerves. I’ve heard down here a few times “people don’t seem to like Mexicans but they don’t seem to hate Canadians, what’s the diff?” and I think to myself that while no one should be hating Mexicans, or anyone really, the big diff is that Canucks like me speak English, mostly are relatively low-key and eat the same foods, act more or less the same (maybe a bit quieter but about the same) and blend in. I think prejudiced people dislike anything different, so different culture not different birthplaces.
      I sort of get your Cold War reference but the difference there, that I can see, is that the Cold war was a worry but one that you didn’t think about constantly…you just went about daily business. With this though, it’s front and center all the time and affecting one’s daily routine in a big way. But neither is/was good for mental health!
      Stay well and try to have a good weekend

      Liked by 1 person

      1. One of my ex-girlfriends is married to a Canadian. She told me…Max they have a lot in common with southern people. What she meant was polite to a fault and yes much more quiet.
        Yea there is no getting to business with this thing. I just went to the grocery store…they had everything but half the people were taking it serious…the other half not.

        I got my stuff out of there like a bat out of hell.

        You do the same Dave.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, the supermarkets here about the same… the local chain has put plexiglass plates in front of cashiers to help keep them safer from germs and have put down stickers with feet imprints saying something like “Social distancing- please stand here” 6′ apart, on the ground leading to checkouts. The one I went into this morn had the big boss from the place going around telling people to step back if they weren’t good on complying, but same as you said… about 10% are all but in a hazmat suit there, maybe half of us are doing what we’re told, standing far enough apart , maybe wearing latex or plastic gloves like I have been lately, then maybe 1/3 or more just acting like business as usual, crowding others, blocking aisles in little groups of 4 or 5 talking face to face as usual. Day by day, shelves are starting to stay more stocked later in to day though, which is good. Toilet paper still a rarity though and things like Lysol wipes non-existant.
        What stories we’ll have to tell in 2030.


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