- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 4/9/20
When we were walking together the other day, Andrea mused about the days “B.C.,” or Before Covid. We started to discuss what it will be like “A.C.” I thought about this construct—at one moment our perspective changes from “before” to “after.” We speak of buildings being “pre-war” and we think of air travel “before 9/11.” And of course there are the arbitrary divisions of decades and centuries. But this feels different. It feels like there will be a sharp dividing line between what was and what will be.
Certainly, most argue, that people will be anxious to return to normalcy as soon as they can. Yet it may only slowly return, as Asian countries that attempted to go back to normal early found that the virus returned quickly. Further, we know that viruses such as this will come back in waves and we are told that a vaccine won’t be available, even in the best of cases, until late-2021. Still, we’re all champing at the bit, waiting to return to some semblance of normalcy. While we wait for that happy day, we can contemplate what normal might look like.
Sheltering in place become “working in place.” We have conducted many meetings via Zoom and WebEx and they worked pretty well. The work is getting done and there have been relatively few issues with connections. As teleconferencing technologies continue to improve, will a home or part-home job be the norm? And how will this affect office rentals? Just think, perhaps no more commute on the 405!
PROBABLY NOT ATTENDING A LOT OF LARGE GATHERINGS
It is difficult to imagine that anyone past the age of 30 will be rushing to attend a rock concert or music festival any time soon. Long after the pandemic has gone its course, will we ever be relaxed in the “mosh pit,” or in an area with little crowd control? What about Disneyland or Universal Studios?
Then there’s the question of sports. Who will rush out to Dodger Stadium to sit with 45,000 of their closest friends? Or walk down those narrow tunnels to seats at the Coliseum? My guess is that there will not be many live sporting events before the end of this year, and those that are held will be played in front of a crowd seriously limited in size. Given the economics of professional sports teams (it’s more about TV revenue and endorsements than about ticket sales), I’m not sure the impact of a single season played under these conditions will be that great. It will affect college athletics much more.
SMALL VENUES AND RESTAURANTS
Andrea and I love live theatre. How will theatres cope with the not unreasonable concerns people will have, sitting in the dark next to people coughing? Will seats and rows be spaced out? What will that do to the economics of mounting a production? Will people again sit check-to-jowl with fellow diners at a packed restaurant? I’m guessing tables will have to be spread apart. And will the idea of a “serve yourself buffet” become the stuff of legend?
The above cartoon is a joke, but it also has a kernel of truth. How will physical distancing impact dating? Will this spell the end of “anonymous dating,” and will dating apps decline in use?
LOOK THEM IN THE EYE AND GIVE THEM A FIRM HANDSHAKE
Kids for generations have been instructed that their handshake says a lot about them. It seems unlikely that people will rush to clasp hands with total strangers when they first meet. And I come from a long line of huggers. What are the odds the affectionate hug of an old friend will remain commonplace?
SEE THE USA IN YOUR CHEVROLET
Perhaps the greatest change will be in the way we look at travel. It may be that we are willing to take the chance of sitting in a plane for a couple of hours, but will we be rushing to jet around the world cavalierly, sharing little space and circulating air with other travelers coughing and sneezing their way across the ocean? Will trips become fewer, with greater planning for potential risks? Can’t most business trips really just be video conferences?
A travel agent I know says that travelers accepted unreasonable practices as the norm—and these will change. Gone will be packing people into ever more crowded planes with 90%+ occupancy. And how did it ever seem a good idea to send 3500 passengers and 1500 staff on a floating chemistry experiment across the ocean? Things will have to change.
One positive result will be that there will be greater number of “driving trips” to national parks, trails, and seashores. The whining cries of kids from the backseat, “are we there yet?” will again become more commonplace.
But wherever we travel, I’m guessing we’ll all be carrying enough medications to last several weeks and enough hand wipes and sanitizer to disinfect an army.
What do you think will change in the “After COVID era”? Collecting these ideas for another Musings. Thanks Howard Sherwood for your ideas.
ADOPTING A NEW FAITH
I have often thought about the nature of faith and how it sustains people in the darkest times. Throughout history, faith has created community, provided values, imbued life with meaning, and inspired great art and architecture. Religion also has been an excuse for divisiveness, oppression, and war. While not universally true, many religions believe theirs to be the sole truth, to the exclusion of others.
Typically, we do not choose our faith—rather, we are born into it. Whatever our parents and grandparents practiced is what we practice. Sometimes, however, people make their own choices, often to the chagrin of their parents. Here are a few books that share that journey to find one’s one path:
Turbulent Souls, by journalist Stephen J. Dubner, one of the co-authors of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics. The subtitle of this book is “A Catholic Son’s Return to his Jewish Family.” But the story is so much more than that. This is a story of faith that spans generations, beginning with the author’s parents, who converted from Judaism to Catholicism—separately, before they met. The author finds out about his background and then finds his own road to faith. I couldn’t put it down.
The Convert, by Stefan Hertmans. This is the story of a Christian woman in 11th century France who falls for a rabbi’s son. They are forced on the run. This is historic fiction that the New York Times says is “full of darkness and light, lively characters, life-altering conflicts, violence and kindness, birth, death and, oddly, a lot of snakes.”
The Orientalist, by Tom Reiss. The subtitle of this book is “Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life.” Most of us are unfamiliar with the geography, culture, religion, and history of the Caucuses. All of that is here. This book follows a man, born a Jew in the melting pot of the oil-boom-town of Baku, and his adventures in Turkmenistan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan around the time of the Russian Revolution and the death throes of the Ottoman empire. He converts to Islam, becomes the noted author Essad Bey (and Kurban Said), and assumes multiple identities during his life, eventually ending up a Muslim prince in Nazi Germany and house arrest in Positano. The New York Times named it a Notable Book of the Year.
AND THE MUSICAL DOCTORS FROM THE MAYO CLINIC
Thanks, Wayne Ruden, for pointing us to this pair of doctors doing their version of Imagine:
There’s a lot of silly stuff floating around the internet. I liked this one…
I don’t usually play these games. But I’m bored so, just fill in the blanks.
Bank Account #:
Name on card:
CCV (3 Digit code):
And of course this one never gets old:
“I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.” March 6, 2020
Have a great day,