Ok, things are escalating pretty quick. There is definitely a different vibe around now. Society is running a bit of a fire drill and the results are pretty interesting. First of all let’s pick the low hanging fruit. The president bungled the first steps, shoved hit foot in his mouth countless times. Absolutely nothing new to report here.
“Be careful” quickly became “social distancing” which appears to be approaching full scale quarantine. Toilet paper was the fist grand scale casualty. Hand sanitizer as well. Empty grocery stores and cancelled schools. Sports seasons cancelled! TOM HANKS HAS IT!!! NOOOOOOOO!!!! WTF is going on?
Nothing like this has ever happened in my lifetime. No real historical models to look back to for wisdom wither. So far I’m not too rattled. Some people are panicking and there has been a few incidents over scarce supplies. Nothing we don’t gobble up as society. Reminds me of Black Friday.
I was born in 1978. I remember staring in wonder at a TV at Memorial Parkway Elementary School. Watching a rocket launch into space and then trying to process what was happening when we all saw it explode. I remember the first time I heard about a crazy man shooting up a Luby’s restaurant trying to separate fact from fiction. Columbine shattering the image of the american high school. The market crashing the year I graduated from college. The year before I graduated companies were bribing business majors to leave college early. “Screw the degree, you just need your Series 7 and your have the dream job!” Many took the risk and went to work at giant financial firms. The next year all of those who jumped at the offer lost their jobs along with a lot of other people. Stepping out into a world that no longer needs someone with your skill set doesn’t compare to the aforementioned tragedies but it is just the context of my experience with the world and it was a tough lesson.
Then 9/11 happened and things were crazy again. The people I imagine hording toilet paper today were the ones demanding we call french fries Freedom Fries back then. 2008 was the next big disruption and saw a lot of desperation. It was a major setback for a lot of people. Many never recovered.
People panic, but by and large we pull our shit together pretty quick. And of course people panic! The noise is louder than it has ever been. I was listening to the Howard Stern show the morning of 9/11 and thought it was just another awful joke. The I turned the TV on at the gym and made my first panicked phone calls from a landline. It was a different world and it moved much slower.
Today our pockets buzz anytime we get a notification for something we have decided to give our attention to. Technology is making the world a much better place incredibly fast, but there is a lot to miss about the old days. A morning newspaper and an evening news show was about it. Then people just got to wait till the next morning for any updates. Now it is a never ending stream and a lot of it is intentionally sensationalized for a variety of reasons but I do not see anything happening disproportionate to the noise.
The market is frightening a lot of people nearing or in retirement and rightfully so. We have shit systems in place to help retirees. People are basically bribed with some tax breaks to gamble their retirement savings in the market. It has never been that great of a strategy and it is time for a massive rethink. A sparring match between the brilliant and the greedy will eventually produce a new, and hopefully better, strategy. That is little comfort for those with their feet to the fire now. This may be the most critical area for people not to panic. This market will be a priority before the pandemic concludes. We live in a hyper connected world and we have never been better equipped to stay productive. 10 years ago the world would have ground to a halt.
The power is still on, internet is still humming, and the water is still running. Honestly I am pretty impressed with how well everyone is taking it. Kids are getting a little break from school and a lot of businesses are sharpening up their “work from home” offers. By and large the panic is being met with cooler heads. There are a few things to be afraid of for sure, the least of which is how unfamiliar all this is. Of course people are going to panic. There is no single voice of reason to listen to. The truly scientifically literate among us are few and far between. It is difficult for a lot of people to parse out who the experts are and why they are not all agreeing.
We are very early on in this thing and it seems like it might get a lot weirder before it gets better. Hopefully we learn from the glaring signs of our inadequate preparedness. Hopefully some brilliant innovation comes from all of this. Mr. Rogers has a fantastic quote about his mother telling him to always “look for the helpers”. Every panic and tragedy I have been close to has always had some amazing stories. Helpers coming together and saving the day. Anyone struggling with panic and looking to take action I hope you seek out ways to be a helper. At the time of this writing there are over 7,000 grieving families in the world and there will be more before this is through. Being a hero to those in harms way has never been easier. Park it!!!
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”