Will We Ever Return to Normal?

While it feels good to tell ourselves, “yes,” the answer is an emphatic “NO!”

This is going to be a very short story.

Everybody is asking:

“When will we return to work?”

“When will things go back to the way they were?”

“When will we return to normal?”

I have to be blunt because there is no other way: We will never return to normal.

Put another way: THIS is our new normal.

Get used to it.

Some of us won’t ever return to our old jobs. The businesses died. There are no jobs to return to.

Some of us will continue to work from home.

Some of us will return to work, but it won’t be like it was before COVID-19. We may wear masks, practice social distancing, and not gather around the water cooler or eat together in the lunchroom.

When shopping, we may decide to not go out as often as we used to. We may stay home and order online.

Buy Amazon stock.

Eating out? Fat chance I’m exposing myself or my family to this virus at a restaurant. I doubt I’m the only one.

What will the Christmas shopping season look like? Retail sales will be way down. Online sales may be down, too, but they’ll take market share from brick-and-mortar shops (as they have for the past 20 years).

With 20 percent unemployment and a federal government who can’t keep from stepping on their dicks with every stumble (and they stumble a lot), there really isn’t much hope that the economy will come roaring back soon.

I believe it will come back, but it could take some time. It may take a worse calamity to bring us out of it. Remember the Great Depression and World War II…

Nope, we aren’t returning to the way things once were. We will continue to wipe down our delivered groceries with short-supply sanitary wipes, drenched in 70 percent alcohol.

We will continue to throw away our plastic bags instead of re-using them for cat litter collection and disposal.

Masks may become a mainstay. Over time, I think people will relax, but keeping clean and reducing exposure will always be in the back of my mind.

Self-service will take on new meaning. Maybe retail stores won’t even have employees. Just a check out scan through their terminal, posted to your chipped credit card or your smart phone.

That was, after all, the logical conclusion to Sam Walton’s vision a half-century ago. He saw “help” as waste when the customer could do all the work herself. So he built an empire based on very little human capital, lots of systems and logistical work, and partnering with China (ahem — food for another story about not putting all your damned eggs in one basket) to lower prices on everything they sold.

We aren’t returning to normal. This is our normal. Get used to it.

Sure, some people will return to their old ways. However, I think many will not. Time will tell.

But my “normal” is now. The past is gone. It isn’t coming back.

Thoughts? Leave a comment.

  • From the story, I get the feeling you are expecting pretty much a cashless society, as you talk about stores having no employees.

    But, my thoughts on the Cashless society is, it can never happen.

    I know many Governments have spent years working to that end.

    They miss the key factor that keeps a cashless society from ever happening. Machines break, and electricity is rare during storms. Severe storms can take electric out for weeks.

    Cash becomes king once again.

    It happened in my area recently where internet suddenly went down for nearky 24 Hours, abd everyone was forced to use cash.

    As far as the New Normal, I think you’re pretty Spot On.
    Most will never return to their old ways. Some will, its already happening, but until this virus is taken care of, the Economy cannot fully recover.

    • *mostly cashless 🙂 The trend has been up for cashless for decades. And don’t forget, tech has a way of making the obstacles you offer vanish. Think – satellite phone, for example. Costly now but in 20 years? Zuck and Musk are putting sats in space now. Once that happens, electricity won’t matter. Oh, yeah, Musk is turning battery tech on its ear, too.

  • I agree with you 100%. I’m in healthcare and it sure as hell isn’t going away for us. Long after everything reopens at capacity, including schools and universities, we’ll be feeling the effects in nursing homes and other congregate living homes while everyone else in our communities are out living their best (and usually mask-less) lives.

    While I believe businesses as we know it and the way we go about ours, are gone, I also believe we either adapt or die. By that, more restaurants offering outdoor, curbside & delivery services have a much greater chance of making it than those that are still holding out for the good old days. Door Dash and the likes are expensive – offer your own and build it in the pricing!
    Instacart is a good idea in theory, but around here the shoppers are lazy and replace over half my order – every time. I finally just started shopping again out of desperation and find everything on my usual list. Go figure

    I believe we must adapt at our “jobs” and find secondary and tertiary sources of incomes – the gig economy is ripe right now – so many opportunities to create new things or re purpose old ones.
    Did you ever think board games and puzzles would be a hot ticket item again? Unreal. Gameshows on TV a thing? And the “hip, younger” crowd love them. I digress… we’ve gotten complacent. We need to be desperate and motivated enough to seek out what others want or need.