I like getting my underwear delivered in a cardboard box. I like leaving the car in the garage when I’m “attending” a meeting. I like getting my own seat on the bus. While everyone I know is positively giddy about a “return to normal,” I’m not so sure I want to join the party.
Fortunately, I won’t face that challenge because we aren’t returning to normal at all. Yes, we’ll probably get to a point this summer when a combination of vaccinations and herd immunity bring us back to almost all of our old pastimes, but it’s not going to be the same as the time before.
How could anything really be the same? We’re emerging from our reset with a different view of politics, of medicine, of our mortality. We come out of the pandemic with a different relationship with friends and family, tempered by political differences or Covid damage or a year of separation.
The high-schoolers and the college kids have a different worldview than before, and the newbies in the job market have a different basis for understanding their roles than the cohort that preceded them. The grandkids are a year older now, whether we had a chance to visit or not, and we cannot go back to recapture whatever we lost in our relationships with them.
We’ve changed our buying habits, businesses have reassessed their need for office space, the appeal of crowded bars and restaurants is not quite as energizing as it once was, and millions of people will never return to a buffet, or a casino, or a casino buffet. Not everyone will feel the same way about all of this, but all of us emerge as different people than we were a year ago.
A minor example: Fully vaccinated and about as safe as I’m going to get, I headed out to one of my favorite restaurants the other day. The building was the same, but all the servers were new, so it was just another place where nobody knows your name. I felt like a stranger in a spot that once felt like home. I’m sure it’s not the last time I’ll experience that sense of deja new.
Many of us will be surprised by what we encounter this spring and summer, but all of this is to be expected because “normal” has a shelf life of zero. Every day’s normal replaces the normal of yesterday and today’s normal will be gone by tomorrow morning. “New normal” is redundant, since every normal is new, and “back to normal” is a destination like Brigadoon. Maybe you’ll see it again a hundred years from now, but don’t count on it.
We think it’s normal to go through scanners at the airport. We think it’s normal to send text messages from phones that we carry in our pockets. We think it’s normal to vilify strangers on social media. And we’re right that all of these things are normal, now, but none of them even existed just a few years ago.
In the end, normal is just another impossible standard we set for ourselves and the world, an unreachable summit and a source of unwarranted disappointment. You can’t step into the same river twice and you cannot go back to the way things were.
The moving finger writes…
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After a full year of this CV Diary, it’s time to take a look at what I’ve learned and the times I slept through the lectures, including…
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In the Hunger Games of American medicine, I’ve made it into Zone Two. My group of feeble oldsters won eligibility for The Reaping and I snagged a first dose. I’m halfway home, but I have some very mixed emotions about the whole thing.
I’m a believer in vaccinations, even if they get rushed through the approval process, because I have great faith in the lawyers at Big Pharma to keep their companies from doing anything so incredibly stupid and venal that they end up in bankruptcy court. Yes, I trust the researchers to some extent, but it’s the lawyers who will keep the whole thing within the guard rails. It’s not because they are altruistic, I know, but you take your protection where you can.
I’m also a believer because I’ve taken dozens of vaccines over the years without incident and I haven’t caught the diseases I was trying to prevent. Yes, it’s the same belief system I apply when I untie my left shoe so the plane doesn’t crash, but so far, so good.
I had to think about it much more carefully this time, though, especially after I learned that the new vaccines include nano-devices to make me a worker drone for Bill Gates, or maybe George Soros. Or Chairman Mao. I forget which. On the other hand, that’s the only way a guy with my skill set is going to find a job anyway, so it might be a win in disguise. At least that was less risky, and gross, than the cow urine cure they’ve been raving about in India.
As my dad used to say, I’m playing the percentages. There’s more likelihood that the vaccines will help, or do nothing, than that they will do damage. Compared to the suffering of Covid long-haulers and, of course, the people who died, a vaccine is NBD.
Still, I felt conflicted about signing up when so many more deserving people hadn’t gotten the jab yet. I had figured front-line workers and people in elder care facilities would be fully dosed by the time my turn came around, but the roll-out has been so much spottier than even I would have imagined. My mom, who is 92 and lives in a group facility, is much more frail than I am and she hasn’t gotten the shot yet, along with tens of thousands of her peers and thousands of front-line workers, while I was able to sign up and get pricked at my local drug store within days of my group being activated.
It’s crazy, really, because we have a ton of companies that could be doing a better job than we’re seeing now from the retailers and hospitals. Ticketmaster could distribute all the vaccine in minutes, although we’d be paying huge “convenience fees,” while Amazon, Fedex and UPS could be delivering the shots to your door with a tech to inject them. It should be easy to add a side of vaccine with your Happy Meal at the drive-thru, and for the homebound, Jehovah’s Witnesses would be delighted to bring your immunity door to door. That hasn’t happened, though, because Yankee ingenuity ain’t what it used to be.
Instead, most providers have put together clunky scheduling systems that make us click through one store at a time, one time slot at a time, one day at a time. By the time I got to my first appointment, I had clicked more than 2,000 times through the Walgreens stores in my area, cycling through twice on the way to a single open slot. After the first shot, it took more than a week to get the second one on the schedule, with all kinds of computer glitches and contacts with customer service. I tried to schedule with other providers in the meantime, but I had even worse results on those sites, so Walgreens might just be the thinnest kid at fat camp.
Overall, I’m encouraged that we're on the way back from this mess. Our response to this virus and our treatment of each other has exposed every failing in our government, our businesses, our society and ourselves. It hasn’t been pretty. Maybe we can reconsider our perspectives while we’re waiting for immunity and maybe, just maybe, we can emerge from this just a bit more decent.
While we’re all waiting for our second dose, or our first, let’s all take a moment to subscribe to Dad Writes and journey forward together. Or something like that. Just click here.
Omigod!! Wake Up, MEN!!!! It’s Valentine’s Day and you didn’t get anything!!! What are you going to do to survive this disaster?????????
JK, guys. VD is next week, so you can hit the snooze alarm. Still, we could be posting this alert two months from now and it wouldn’t matter. For most guys, Valentine’s Day is a lose-lose proposition that adds anxiety and risk, but doesn’t exactly spur a ton of strategic thinking.
Yeah, there are a few traitors to the YChrom Movement who book spa days and hire private chefs and learn how to, um, scintillate via foot massage, but most men are going to claim they “think best under pressure” and grab whatever they can get delivered in an hour or less next Sunday morning.
Yours truly will probably get up around 7 a.m. on the 14th, steal the neighbor’s Sunday papers, and cut out letters for a VD card that just might be incredibly endearing—if I was six years old. Since I’m several times that tenure, it will look more like a ransom note and it will be received almost as warmly.
Let’s face facts here. For most men, Valentine’s Day is not the most alluring of holidays. Thanksgiving has food and football. New Year’s has food and football. Super-you-know-what Sunday (today!!) has food and football. Valentine’s Day? Well, there’s food, usually, but not the incredible array of nachos/pizza/wings we get when there’s football.
More than the food/football gap, Valentine’s Day is designed for failure. Seriously, there is no way to buy the exact right thing, say the exact right thing, and massage all those toes the exact right way. The only thing that comes in the right size is a Roomba and, trust me, guys, this gift is not as romantic as those Home Depot ads would suggest.
Never fear, though, for the passionate devils at Dad Writes have devised the perfect manly measures for VD excellence. No matter what your situation, here are the perfect gifts for that special other humanoid in your life:
If you have children, buy them a pizza and eat it in the car, leaving your significant other alone at home with no interruptions. They get a bit of me-time and you get a pizza. Win and win.
If you’re quarantined together, buy a Peloton. There’s no better way to say, “I think you’re hip and hot and fit,” than a $3,000 hamster-wheel/TV combo. And, yes, we’d still think it’s the perfect gift even if we hadn’t bought options on 30,000 shares of Peloton stock.
If you’re both working from home, nothing says “You’re a star,” like a bath towel they can use as a Zoom background. Pro tip: Buy a gray towel so the lint and soap suds are less obvious.
If you won’t be in the same place, order a romantic dinner to be delivered to each of your locations and enjoy it together on a video call. We suggest a heart-shaped pizza as the main course, although we forget what wine goes with anchovies.
If your relationship is brand new, send flowers. It’s the most polite way to say, “I’m excited now, but I know this might fizzle in a week or two.” Plants and candy might still be hanging around as painful reminders after the passion fades, but flowers know how to leave before it all goes south.
If your relationship is decades old, buy a bottle of cheap champagne. It’s not very creative, or romantic, but both of you will be too tired to argue about it once the bottle is empty.
Best of all, every one of these special, meaningful, truly romantic gifts can be arranged today, while we’re all watching the matchup of, um, you know, uh, those teams from those cities that we don’t live in or near or come from. And enjoy your nachos. After all your Valentine’s planning, you’ve earned a break.
Dad Writes subscribers are prepared for all the holidays, from Valentine’s Day to Alban Arthan, and you can be an expert, too, if you just click here.
Am I the only one who’s surprised at the quiet distribution of inoculations so far? People get trampled to death when the shopping mall opens on Black Friday, but everyone’s waiting their turn calmly at the vaccination centers. Yes, most of the eligible civilians are 65 or older, so they're really tired, but the quiet is still a bit eerie. Of course, it would be much more hectic if they gave away a Tickle Me Elmo with each shot…
The longest leg of any trip is the ride home from the airport. That’s especially true for vacations, when you’ve had your fun and spent your money and your flight was delayed and you waited too long for your luggage and you have to get to work tomorrow, but first you’ll be staying up until midnight doing the laundry... I’m beginning to feel the same way about the path out of the pandemic. The federal government has arranged only a fraction of the distribution they promised by year end 2020, logistics at the local level are rockier than needed, and winter is in full force. After nearly a year of this, the last mile is looking longer and longer.
When you get away from politics and social media, the country looks much more resilient, much more sensible and not nearly as angry. I spent a couple of days on the phone in December, checking in on people I hadn’t spoken to in a while. We commiserated about life in the age of Covid, of course, but nobody whined about their place in the world. Some of my friends are doing well, others are struggling, but every one of them expressed gratitude for their situation and concern for others who are suffering more. People don’t post much on social media about their sympathy for others or their sense of appreciation for whatever they have. Maybe we should do more of that.
The biggest orphans in the pandemic are restaurants and bars, which are getting hit the hardest by limits and closures. Yes, infection risks are increased by the fact that people need to take off their masks to eat, but there are workarounds that could and should be in place by now. One year into this thing, local officials could have developed performance standards for ventilation or filtration and let restaurants stay open if they meet those standards. Instead, there’s a hodgepodge of rules about indoor/outdoor dining, capacity percentages, and full closures that are killing too many American dreams. In turn, some restaurant owners are complying and some are ignoring the rules, also without any link to measurable safety standards. By the summer, we’ll be dining outdoors across the entire country and, by fall, we could be approaching a real recovery. We’ll want to celebrate, but where will we go?
Meanwhile, count me among the people who are grateful for the anti-vaxx movement, because they’re reducing our wait time for the vaccine. If everyone was signing up, we’d all be waiting six months for the jab, but it’s looking closer to three months at this point. Hmmmm…if I spread some rumors about those microchips from Bill Gates, maybe I can cut our wait time even further.
No matter how you plan to obtain your immunity to this pandemic that might or might not be a hoax—have we covered all the bases here?—there’s no better way to spend the time than by clicking here to subscribe to Dad Writes.
I am seriously intimidated by my light switch.
Technically, I know, it’s not just a light switch. It’s a programmable light timer with an LCD display, three-way switch compatibility and synchronization to either the time of day or sunrise and sunset, depending on my whim.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, I can program up to 50 different on/off cycles during the week.
That’s seven per day, plus a bonus on/off to surprise the cat, if we ever get a cat, which we won’t.
In normal times, I’d see that the switch can handle 50 programs and I’d just think it was a really stupid idea. Nobody within a light year of sanity is going to need 50 different on/off cycles for a light. No matter, though. Some engineer decided this was a great array and the product manager signed off on it and now I’m staring at the blinking LCDs and wondering whether I shouldn’t be much more creative about this.
In the time before, I would have sneered at the idiocy of adding an impossible number of features to a light switch and I’d go about the rest of my day. Now, though, I don’t have anything to do for the rest of the day, so I keep staring at the light switch and wondering what I am missing.
I’ve been through this before; we all have. When we opened up our word processing software for the first time and discovered that it included 3,427 fonts, we were very impressed. But we had other things to do, so we’ve been using Times New Roman 100% of the time since then and we never thought twice about it.
That’s because we had lives to live in the time before. We had places to go and people to see and commuting to commute and an actual 3D world to explore. Now, though, even the most adventurous among us is living in a smaller world, more circumscribed, more limited.
Even the people who think this is a hoax, who demand their right to go anywhere and do anything with zero restrictions, are living in a smaller world. Wherever they go, the crowds are smaller, the celebration is more muted, and at least a few absent friends will never pull up a chair again.
Along the way, we’ve all gotten smaller as well. It’s an insidious process, unnoticeable day by day, but it’s immensely powerful. As we become more isolated, as we engage less with others, our thoughts increasingly turn inward. We become more self-focused, less self-aware, more sensitive to our own fears and less sensitive to others.
As our worlds shrink, we shrink as well. Like Plato’s man in the cave, we begin to believe the shadows are reality. We see the world in two dimensions, on a screen, and we are more easily manipulated than we were when our worlds, and we, were bigger.
We like to think we’re above it, that we’re smarter, harder to fool, but we’re still human. We see what we see, and when we see less, we become less.
Smaller can be cured, but it takes some effort to reverse the trend. We can check in on an old friend, find a local business to save, provide encouragement to front-line workers, fight to stay engaged in the real world of God’s children…pretty much anything to prevent ourselves from fixating on a light timer, or fonts, or some meme that cannot possibly be true.
Today is a good day to start out on the road back to full size. What’s the first step for you?
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.