Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Casualties

‘It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.’  Quote by Charles Dickens.

The summer of 2020 was tough on a lot of people. At least on the surface, most folks seemed to have adjusted to the myriad of changes this country has gone through since the pandemic began its relentless march across the globe.


For me, it began in Palm Springs in early March of last year and took almost a year until the spring of 2021 before commerce began to awaken again. This continued a trend already begun in Minnesota in early April when Sharon and I had to self-quarantine and live in semi-isolation here last summer. This summer opened up for us and was much better.

But since early 2020 there have been major and subtle changes that are probably going to be permanent now. There have also been casualties along the way, both personal and in general.

Last fall, one acquaintance of ours, faced with a cancer diagnosis and isolation, choose to end it all. Several others have embraced the comfort of clustered-living and a few drifted back to the  cloistered comfort of their religion. Whatever it took to cope with the many changes brought on by COVID.  Unfortunately, good old American Capitalism also reared its ugly head.

If he were alive today, P.T. Barnum would be having a field day. It’s not that there’s been an influx of na├»ve, gullible pigeons out there. No more than at any other time in history. The pandemic has just brewed up a cauldron of opportunities for some retailers and pitfalls for many buyers.


Organizations that were shut down during the pandemic are slowly starting to reawaken now. Some have embraced a newfound enthusiasm for social justice and economic change. Others have fallen back to their old ways, assuming what worked in the past will work again in the near-future.


For some employers and businesses alike, the pandemic proved the perfect catalyst for change. Past business habits, patterns of employee relations and finances all went into ‘play.’ The pandemic provided the perfect excuse to cut back on services, eliminate assumed extras and just focus on the bottom line. Reduced competition opened the playing field for the larger players to cobbled up market share and eliminate their competitors. Customer seemed to always be on the losing end of the deal.

It was (and still is) the perfect storm for good old American greed. There was a pent-up demand for goods, services and experiences. After a year of COVID-19 induced self-isolation, many folks feel they have plenty of ‘money’ in the bank, checking account or purse. Where there was demand, there were opportunities…unfortunately for us, consumers paid the price.

The pandemic exasperated an already long and exhausting cycle of ‘old world’ business and industry giants that have fallen by the wayside. These include but are not limited to:


Ad agencies and PR Firms

The travel industry

Commercial and Public television stations

Home building

Automotive manufacturing

Colleges and Universities

Retirement

 

I’ve become increasingly frustrated by the attitude among many retailers and the trades that they’ve all lost a lot of money during the pandemic (which is certainly true) and now they want to make it all back ‘in one summer.’ Prices for goods and services have risen exponentially and it isn’t all just because of limited availability or gaps in the supply chain.

It’s a temporary situation; I get it.  Farmers plant when the sun is shining. Retailers plow the fields of opportunity when customers are loaded with cash and eager to spend. Right now, ‘feasting time is upon us.’ Once more products get into the supply chain and folks have had their taste of normal life again, most retailers and service folks will be forced to go back to their regular fair prices, available supplies and a need to please the customer. But that isn’t now.

During the pandemic my wife and I have noticed or experienced other, sometimes subtle, changes. Sharon noticed (not me) that a lot of women her age have gone natural gray in lieu of going back to their hairdresser. Actually I think they still look very attractive ‘au natural.’


My ‘Coffee and Chat’  group which numbered almost a dozen folks last year shrunk to only a third of that number this spring.


My 60th Cretin High School Class Reunion was held in August at an old world classic restaurant in Saint Paul. I personally felt it wasn’t well organized or conducive to general reflective comments of small group conversations. But that’s just me.

I was tempted to criticize the affair for its lack of coordination. But as my wife likes to say: “If you weren’t involved in the planning, then swallow your negative comments.” So I swallowed hard and said it was great seeing some of my old classmates. I was glad I was able to make it because a lot of our fellow graduates are in another heavenly place now.

Looking over that room of retired doctors, lawyers, business executives and other successful individuals, I thought to myself (of course, very modestly) ‘Guess, I did OK after graduating at the bottom third of my class.’ Best of luck to everyone.


I started out this summer with a list of writing projects put on hold and others I wanted to tweak. By mid-summer that old list had been thrown out in lieu of several exciting new projects crowding my creative brain. (More on that in a future blog.)

One result of the pandemic and ensuing change of lifestyle is that I have fluctuated on whether to continue writing my blogs. I can’t decide if my blogs are a pain in the rear to write or are a part of my writing discipline.  For now, I’ll opt for the latter and continue pounding out thoughts and ideas and reflections. Some people seem to enjoy them. I’m always surprised by folks who read my blogs and either ‘like’ them or make a comment. There are more secret readers out there than I realized.

I guess COVID and its myriad of craziness had a few benefits after all.

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