I know a couple who finally put away enough money to retire, so they sold their business and invested their sweat equity in the stock market.
It was 2008, just before the crash.
I ran into the wife earlier this year, still working part-time at the store she used to own and making plans to retire, again. She’d had a dozen years to adapt to her “new normal,” knowing that her old normal, the one that seemed absolutely certain in 2008, isn’t coming back.
I think about her and her husband whenever people tell me about their hopes for returning to normal after this pandemic subsides. Normal, the one we were counting on in January of this year, isn’t coming back.
On one level, we should recognize this as a fundamental truth. We tend to think of the current situation as the norm, or think back to a specific point in time as the benchmark for normalcy, but the only real normal is change. We, the world, are eternally in flux.
I have some friends who believe the pandemic is a hoax that is being promoted to affect the presidential election, so they also believe it will fade into the background on November 4. I have other friends who think access to a vaccine will enable us to reboot the economy to our bookmark date of January 1, 2020. I know more than a few guys who seem to think we can return to normal by reopening everything and getting to herd immunity as quickly as possible, because it’s worth the trade-off in lives lost.
Me? I think they are kidding themselves. Too many people, and organizations, have been changed by this for us to bounce back to the days of yore.
When/if there’s a vaccine, for example, an above-average percentage of the population won’t take it at first. I am included in that group. I get my flu shot every year, but the race for a vaccine has become so politicized that I can’t find my way to trusting whatever gets approved first, or second, or maybe even third.
All the political wrangling has achieved its goal of causing distrust, but that distrust translates into an extended crisis. I probably will wait six or eight or twelve months before taking any vaccine and that means I will wait six or eight or twelve months before I dine indoors or go to a casino or fly on a plane.
How many people will skip the vaccine? Certainly, the people who refuse to take any vaccines already will sit this one out, but millions more will wait a long time before they accept that the vaccine is safe. Whether it’s 5% or 10% or 0.8% of the population, this caution will slow our economic recovery and delay our return to “normal.” Herd immunity, if it could be achieved for this particular virus, might remain out of reach as the vaccinated cohort makes up too low a percentage of the population.
Meanwhile, dozens of industries and about a million companies will need years or decades to recover, if they manage to survive at all, because their profit models are based on cramming a large number of people into a small space for an extended period. That includes restaurants, bars, mass transit, airlines, casinos, hotels, health clubs, sports arenas, convention centers, churches, schools, office buildings, theaters, and probably a few dozen I haven’t thought about.
Well-capitalized companies, which tend to be larger, will tend to be the survivors, while mom-and-pop stores fail, accelerating the concentration of wealth and commerce that has been underway for decades. As small businesses fail, their owners might simply decide to retire, increasing the impacts for the Social Security system.
On the other end of the working years, millions will discover that their career paths have been washed away by social distancing, online commerce and working from home. Whether it’s the people who cleaned the now-empty offices or the chefs who have no restaurants, the disruptions will be significant for enough people that their social and financial progress might be delayed for an extended period.
Changes that are already under way, such as the rise of online shopping and communication, will accelerate during this period of reduced personal contact. Changes that might have taken another 5-10 years might be compressed into one or two, making any disruptions more rapid and severe.
However the world changes, and changes us, the ripples will be sustained, like a thousand butterfly effects competing for influence. It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact impact of each shift, which is a truth that applies to every change we encounter, but we know enough from prior upheavals to recognize that shifts will occur.
Every day is a new normal, a new life, and the only thing we can know for sure is that we’re never getting back to the way things were in the time before.
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The first thing to understand is that nobody dies from CV-19. Nobody dies from cancer or diabetes or having a piano fall on our heads, either. We die from something putting such a substantial burden on our hearts that they stop beating, so essentially 100% of us die “from” cardiac arrest.
Still, there is always something that puts the strain on our hearts, whether it is cancer or diabetes or having CV-19 taking over our lungs. In many cases, CV-19 tips the scales fatally for someone who is already battling the effects of some other malady. And when that happens, people have a disturbing habit of blaming the victims for their own mortality.
“Well, she was only 37, but she had asthma, so that’s really what killed her.”
“After three years of dialysis, the virus was just the final nail. By that time, I suspect he really wanted to die.”
“If only he’d become a vegan, he never would have gotten cancer in the first place. If you think about it, he essentially committed suicide.”
“Remember how she kept saying it was all a hoax? Hah! Karma’s a bitch, baby.”
Yes, of course, it’s a TRUE FACT!!! All of these people were asking for it and they were ultimately happy to decrease the surplus population. Coronavirus is the real victim here, falsely blamed for killing nearly a million people who wanted/deserved to die. Kinda makes you want to take the virus into your home and give it a warm snuggle and…never mind.
It’s a deflection, of course. Whenever something goes wrong and we cannot control or prevent it, we try to find a reason that it only happens to other people. Even if we have some underlying condition—a status that applies to about 80% of people over the age of 55 and a disturbingly large percentage of people under that age—we try to convince ourselves that THEY were much more vulnerable than WE are.
That kind of deflection makes it very easy to be nonchalant about THEIR deaths, especially since most of us don’t know a person who has died from the disease. Yet. On average, if each of us was going to know one person who died of the virus at this point, we would need to have a social circle of about 2,000 people.
We’re more likely to know someone who contracted the disease and recovered, of course, but that reinforces our tendency to ascribe blame to the people who succumb. The people who survived were strong, maybe blessed, much as we are, while the people who died were weaker, less deserving, even a bit guilty.
Denial is a useful coping mechanism in times like these, but it does have its limits. When we start blaming the victims of a pandemic, we just might have gone over the line.
We never went to med school, so this review of medicine and psychology might sound just a bit too simple, but that's okay. We like to keep things as simple as possible, which is why it's so easy to subscribe by just clicking here.
After couple of months of tipping people 50% to deliver my pizza and toilet paper, I’m reconsidering the entire concept of tipping. Why am I tipping some service providers but not others, and when did a lagniappe become a requirement? For example:
Meanwhile, I’ve noticed that nobody in a position of authority chooses to work for tips. Maybe there’s a lesson here, if only I could figure out the hidden meaning.
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Looking back on it, all my time in isolation has had its upsides, including a bunch of life hacks and new games that can pay big dividends in any future pandemic, snowstorm or hangover. Just in case we end up with a second wave in the fall, or sooner, you’ll want to bookmark this list of new pastimes I discovered while in the hole…
Normally, we’d say, “don’t try these tricks at home,” but not this time. Of course, it’s a good idea to make sure your homeowner’s insurance is up to date, just to be safe.
Last year on Fathers Day, we chronicled the missed opportunities among unengaged dads. Next week, we look at a different kind of role model. What kind? Just click here to subscribe and you’ll be the first to know.
In the spring, an old man’s fancy turns to leaving the damned house and complaining about the heat and humidity. And bugs. Now that the nation is reopening, it’s time to review what’s out there and what’s ahead, from the only source you can trust 137% on 73% of the issues.
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So I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and I have decided, with only minor regret, that I will not be sacrificing myself in order to reopen the economy. It’s been a tough decision to make, especially when I consider the indisputable arguments in favor of my death from the virus.
My friends on the internet have explained it to me in detail, of course. I am old, past my prime, in that age group where I’m gonna die from something or other, and what do I have to live for anyway? It's my patriotic duty, they say, to dive into the mosh pit and let the chips fall, well, on me.
From an economic standpoint, they explain, I am absolutely “unproductive,” and therefore expendable. Yes, I worked diligently and produced income and jobs over 40 years, raising good kids, consuming goods, and hoisting Old Glory on every national holiday. But that was then and now is now and what the heck have I done for you lately, America?
Nothing, that’s what. Yeah, I mentor startups and give to charity and provide support to people who need it and, once in a while, I even remember to floss. Mostly, though, I’m a leech who sucks on the teat of retirement savings. Worse, I’m getting dangerously close to signing up for the welfare scam known as Social Security. Sure, the government forced me to pay into the system, but they never intended to actually pay the money back. The only way to keep Social Security solvent is for people like me to just croak a few decades early. Problem. Solved.
My internet friends challenge me daily. Don't I want my children and grandchildren to live in a nation with a thriving economy? Yes, yes I do. I want them to be able to go to fancy restaurants and movie theaters whenever they want. Of course, I know they won't want to do any of that, preferring to sit on the couch while they stream their movies enjoy pizza delivery. Still, I want them to have the choice to do or do not.
Still, from a completely selfish perspective, I should make the sacrifice in order to be a hero to all the people who are demanding that I shuffle off in order to create jobs. I know that these people, who are just too busy and productive to volunteer to sacrifice themselves, will thank me for my service and honor my memory in much the same way they have honored the other 100,000 people who preceded me. (Fun fact: When I started fiddling with this post, the number was 50,000. How time flies.)
So, as I said, I’ve given this whole thing a lot of thought, but then it occurred to me that this isn’t a zero-sum game. If I get infected and croak, that doesn’t magically prevent it from happening to someone else. In fact, I am likely to spread the virus to several someones on my way out. Even worse, I might take out one of those productive members of society that we need to protect.
Worst of all, though, I have it on good authority that this whole pandemic didn’t come from China at all. CV-19 was cooked up in a Denver warehouse where airlines once made food to serve on planes and now produce…nothing. Turns out the whole disease is a plot to keep us from using our frequent flier miles. (You can tell this is true because you just read it on the internet.)
Damn you, United, you almost had me. You can get my miles back when you pry them from my cold, dead account. And that, as I said, is going to be later than you hoped.
Meanwhile, there are a couple of slices of cold pizza calling to me from the refrigerator. Who says I have nothing to live for????
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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.