For the first time in my life, I’m feeling sorry for the people in the human resources department. I’m not talking about the challenges of finding workers in a rebounding economy, though. Really, I’m feeling their pain as they plan to bring workers back from their couches to their cubicles.
Companies large and small are demanding that employees return to the Mother Ship, possibly now and definitely by September, and you can measure the grumbling on the Richter Scale. People will be showing up angry and resentful, and it’s going to be the HR department’s job to rebuild cohesive teams.
Good luck on that one.
After 18 months of remote control, America’s workforce is about to be reintroduced to traffic jams, parking fees and doing laundry more than once a month. They’ll suddenly remember why they hated Eleanor from accounting and why everyone was in a big hurry to use the restroom before Fred arrived at the office. It won’t be pretty.
At the very least, HR departments can alleviate the pain by installing Keurig machines at every desk and keeping the lights as dim as possible. Beyond that minimum, it would be an excellent idea to avoid “team building exercises” and “social interactions” for at least a couple of months.
Meanwhile, returning workers should do their best to adjust their own expectations and behaviors in this brave old world. For example:
Welcome back to the office, everyone. What could possibly go wrong?
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Ignoring the rest of the world, a break for working stiffs, and our surprise when normal things happen…
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.
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.