December 21, 2020
Publisher’s Note: Our December magazine published this weekend… Have you read it yet? It’s one of our best issues yet, packed with politics, finance, and of course some holiday humor, too. Today, we’re sharing P.J.’s Letter From the Editor. So grab some eggnog and start reading…
Life After COVID
Returning to a world where a global plague isn’t killing people by the million, sickening millions more, and endangering practically everyone will be a great improvement on dying or having a ventilator thrust down one’s throat.
But what will this post-COVID world be like?
Some of the most common predictions are that work-from-home setups will replace the Scranton, Pennsylvania, branch of Dunder Mifflin in the reboot of The Office… in-person retail shopping is dead as disco… cities will de-gentrify because millennials are fleeing from their confinement in yoga-mat-sized apartments stinking of kombacha to the spacious fresh air of suburbia… and the size and scope of government will grow faster than you can say “$900 billion coronavirus stimulus plan.”
The last prediction will certainly come true. Government loves an emergency. And in this current emergency, government discovered that it has all sorts of emergency powers that no one had ever thought of before.
Government will be itching to exercise those powers again. Expect bars and restaurants to be closed and lockdowns to be ordered next time there’s an outbreak of toenail fungus. (Also, gatherings of more than 10 barefoot people will be banned.)
About the other predictions, I’m not so sure.
Working from home turns out to be… work. A question that could have been shouted over the top of a cubicle divider and answered in 10 seconds turns into an e-mail thread as long as the works of Proust. Reply All. There’s no going “out” for lunch – which should be good for our waistline if we weren’t “in” all day raiding the refrigerator.
The whole household is underfoot. The kitchen sink is the water cooler, but the kids don’t have any good gossip and flirting with the dog is pathetic. Furthermore, there’s no 9 to 5… Coworkers are scattered around time zones and across the International Date Line. When it’s time for an after-work drink in New York, it’s already tomorrow morning in Singapore.
Plus, drinking alone is also pathetic. Which brings me to the one upside of working remotely – no one can smell your breath in a Zoom meeting, so I fill my entire coffee mug with scotch.
As for the future of retail… One of these days, consumers are going to realize that Amazon is just a Sears and Roebuck catalogue that can’t be repurposed in the outhouse. Then, somebody’s going to get a bright idea… “What about a place where you can buy things?” A place where the things you want to buy are there already. A place where you can look things over, try them out, and get information about what’s for sale from helpful “salespersons” – real people who are actually, physically present. You can try on clothes, see if they fit, and find out how you look in them (even from the back due to these places having special three-way mirrors).
No more UPS trucks running over your dog. No more using the nail file to try to open boxes sealed with miles of shipping tape, which then spill Styrofoam peanuts all over the house. No more disappointed exclamations of, “What the hell is this? It’s six sizes too small and the color of baby puke.” No more packing it back up and waiting for the UPS truck to run over your dog again.
If you don’t like an item at the place where you can buy things, you can just leave that item there and pick out something else because this place has lots of other items in storage. Let’s call the place… Oh, I don’t know, a “store.”
And city dwellers buying a house may find that they’re getting more than they bargained for. Many years ago, I had a first wife. She was a confirmed urbanite whose idea of the outdoors was the corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. In the 1980s, she and I moved to my house in rural New England. The furnace went out. My first wife took a big metal soup ladle from the kitchen and began banging it on a radiator. “What are you doing?” I said. She said, “I’m calling the man.” I said, “What man?” She said, “The man who comes and fixes things.” I said, “The who?” She said, “You know, the building supervisor man who lives in the basement.” (My first wife has returned to living in the city.)
Some COVID-19 customs will persist, of course. I hope one of them is electing a president because he never left his home. More politicians should never leave home. In fact, come to think of it, all of them should stay there.
Quarantining when we’re sick is here to stay. I’ve awakened on many a Monday morning feeling like I should spend the next 14 days in bed. This past year has produced a lot of scientific research about illness. And somewhere in all that research, I’m sure I can find science that proves that hangovers are catching.
Neckties are gone forever. What were neckties for anyway? Other than something to wipe your nose with when you thought your laptop’s camera wasn’t on during Zoom meetings.
And, sorry Generation X, but it’s going to be impossible to get your Baby Boomer parents into nursing homes. Those places are death traps. You’ll be stuck with us drooling in front of the TV at your house. (And – case in point – the White House.)
But things will mostly return to normal… Americans will not start routinely wearing masks every time they’ve got the sniffles the way Asian people do. There’s far too much crime in America for that. As a friend of mine put it, “What is it about going into a bank wearing a mask and asking for money that makes me slightly nervous?”
Business travel will resume its dreary course, probably with rectal thermometers added to the panoply of TSA screening.
Once more, we’ll be conned into conferences with pointy-headed PowerPoints presented by colleagues whom we wish were leagues away. And our hotel room will be – as always – located between the elevator and the ice machine.
The trend for trendy restaurants will return, serving us foods we’ve never heard of at unheard-of prices.
We’ll have to drag our tail to cocktails with no way to object to objectionable parties or decline invitations no matter how invidious.
And we’ll have to hand out invitations of our own again, singing in lament…
Drunk Uncle Louie and crazy cousin Sue
Will be back at Thanksgiving and at Christmas dinner, too.
When Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna announced the success of their coronavirus vaccine trials, my friend, the esteemed British journalist Ivo Dawnay – in the happy seclusion of his isolated home in the wilds of Exmoor – phoned me – in the happy seclusion of my isolated home in the wilds of New Hampshire. Ivo said, “Oh dear. We have just lost our excuse for everything.”
Recommended Reading: A Massive Wave of Bankruptcies is Coming
A major shock is coming to the U.S. financial system. The election results won’t matter (but a long court battle or a wave of riots could make things MUCH worse). Months of stock gains could go up in smoke. But there’s an easy way to make sure your money and prospective gains are LEGALLY-PROTECTED. The last time something similar happened you could have seen 772% gains. A real reader explains how he does it, in plain English, right here.
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Editor in Chief, American Consequences
With Editorial Staff
December 21, 2020