We Won’t Return to Normal

Amateurish Thoughts About the Future of the Human Race
by Steve Weiner, 29 March 2020

I live in Turkey now.

Technically, I still pay rent for an apartment in San Francisco where our friend is isolating and taking care of our cat. But that’s in Old Life. 

New Life is in Turkey.

We left Old Life on 01 March 2020. There was nothing special about that day except that was the day we bought plane tickets for. I’d never been to Turkey, but had heard wonderful things —  about the food, the weather, the sea. You’ll love it. You won’t want to come back.

We had minor trepidations about traveling, because people were getting sick. I was reading about it in the news. Masks were sold out on Amazon and there were memes on social media. The masks don’t do anything anyway, they’re not even the right ones. Some people far away were dying. Then a few people in California had it. You’re not actually concerned are you?

Two days before our flight I rushed to the animal hospital with our cat to try to get him the shots and papers he needed to fly with us. We aren’t certified for that. You have to go somewhere else and you don’t have enough time. Our cat wouldn’t come with us to Turkey. I thought it was a sign that we overreacted and we’d be back soon. Our cat stayed in Old Life.

I packed the day of the flight. That’s how I always do it. I forgot my belt, but we’d only be gone for two weeks. They have belts in Turkey

By the time we landed, the border with Iran, which was experiencing one of the earliest outbreaks, was closed. Italy’s conditions were worsening quickly, but the denial in America continued. I’m seriously mind-blown over the reaction to it. Do you think I should cancel my vacation? 

Italy’s locked down. The NBA postponed its season. Huh? It’s spreading in Spain and France and Germany. College Basketball is canceled. Whoa. Then the US announced it would suspend flights from Europe and friends vacationing in Paris had to rush home and self-quarantine. Is Turkey impacted? Are you coming back home? Do you think you’ll get stuck there?

I started tracking the chart below when I left the US. I’ve been staring at it almost every day for the past month. It reminds me how Old Life ended: gradually, then suddenly (see full list of suggested links at the end of this text). I’ve texted the chart to family and friends as if to convey some sort of prescience about the public health disaster looming on the horizon. (It’s a coincidence and I don’t feel good about it.)

Source: CDC via NBC News

I’ve only ever seen a chart like this in startup pitch decks that try to convince investors of breathtaking growth. Our team is at an inflection point. 

However, the chart is not a startup’s financial fantasy. It’s real, but due to inadequate testing and latent results, it’s underestimating what’s actually happening. Our world is at an inflection point.

Rumors about locking down San Francisco began swirling. What does that even mean? We will keep our doors open until the city orders us to close them. Iran released 70,000 prisoners because of the outbreak. The World Health Organization declared it a pandemic. Just try not to get sick, right? New York City’s bars were shut down and Broadway closed its doors. Life will go back to normal in a few weeks. California ordered 40 million people to take shelter in their homes. We overreacted. Slow is too late.

Social distancing. Home schooling. Remote work. Virtual workouts. Wanna video chat this weekend? Don’t shake hands. Why do we shake hands anyway? 

Humans are undergoing the fastest and most dramatic behavioral changes ever experienced by our species. There is no control group for this experiment. 

Source: BLS via Bloomberg

For many in the US, this chart marked the beginning of New Life. It’s not possible to re-start the economy and re-employ people as fast as they filed an unemployment claim. Well actually, 10x more people were unemployed during the Great Recession. Yeah but that was over the course of several years, not one week. 

Schools across the world have moved classes online and many jobs can still function safely from the comfort of one’s living room. We need life to go back to normal. If universities still issue diplomas and (unnecessary) meetings can continue on video conference, then why assume that we will rush back to classrooms or offices? Just gotta lay low until this blows over. I’m hosting a happy hour with my coworkers on Zoom. 

Will we eat at buffets again? Why were we eating at buffets anyway? I want to start growing vegetables in the garden. 

Will we pack into crowded arenas to watch sports or listen to music if we have to be tested to enter? The vibe in New York City is like it was after 9/11. It’s bigger and worse than 9/11 and that changed air travel and personal freedoms forever. 

We’re in this for the long haul.

I trust life and will go with the flow.

Normal is Old Life, and it isn’t waiting on the other side of lockdowns. This is just the beginning of New Life: 

My New Life is in Turkey. For now. It’s gonna be a story to tell.

Welcome to The Reset. More to follow…

Suggested Links:

To contact the writer, send an email to [s] at [veryscarce.com]