Those voices are discussing the concept of “going back to normal,” the post-pandemic period in which citizens can resume going to events they’d rather skip to shake hands they haven’t washed with people they’d prefer to continue ignoring.
As the USA enters its second month of a locked-down reality, Americans are eager to return to a normal public life, in which they can stop worrying about being killed by a pandemic and return to being worried about killed in a mass shooting.
Businesses are beginning to consider options that would return employees to the office, allowing them to resume wasting 90% of their day browsing the internet and watching YouTube videos from a desk instead of a couch.
Offices are experimenting with new workplace layouts that, as a precaution, erect barriers between desk spaces for health and privacy. It’s an innovation that I think they’re calling a cubicle.
Other changes will be implemented to ensure social distancing, such as requiring workers to eat their lunch in their cars. Now, don’t worry, you’ll still be able to smell your coworker‘s microwaved tortilla crusted fish Lean Cuisine; you just won’t have the pleasure of watching the wolf it down over their keyboard.
And companies like Toyota want to begin conducting on-site health screenings, which would include comprehensive antibody testing, rustproofing, and an adaptive suspension system for those equipped with the convenience package.
Businesses are also preparing to adjust the way in which their businesses run, replacing the traditional maxim of “the customer is always right” with the far more appropriate “the customer is always disgusting, probably contagious, and certainly not worth interacting with,” a practice pioneered by Abercrombie and Fitch.
In China, for instance, 95% of its Starbucks stores have re-opened with limited hours, reduced seating, and fewer day-old pastries sourced by artisan wet markets.
Some airlines are considering having passengers take temperature checks before boarding, giving TSA agents a fun, new orifice to molest.
The Texas Roadhouse chain is preparing to install glass dividers between booths, offering diners the authentic last-meal charm of a prison phone call.
All of these changes sound appropriate and necessary, and I, for one, look forward to being able to return to riding the subway and being exposed to a whole range of infectious diseases — and not just whatever’s trending at the moment.
But we shouldn’t be clamoring for work to get “back to normal” until it’s safe to congregate again. Researchers say the pandemic is not going to come to an end until there’s a vaccine, which could take a year and a half. Eighteen months. That’s enough time to have two kids, named Corona and Virus.
It’s no longer a matter of “flattening the curve” — it’s ensuring new outbreaks don’t flare up all over the place, like that tinder date who forgot to take her herpes medication. (Or his!)
We’re not a country of patience — by the time we finished Tiger King, we demanded one last, of-course-this-would-never-life-up-to-the-hype episode. But we are a country of patients, with more coronavirus cases than anywhere else in the world.
And if business leaders and bored citizens decide we’re better off rolling the dice, heading out for some fresh air to line up for the new old iPhone, America’s going to be #1 for a long, long time.