Death to the New Normal

For Americans who have watched “emergency” field hospitals being taken down and mercy ships leaving port without having treated any Commie Flu patients — for people capable of balancing health risks against quality of life — the “new normal” is looking something like a slow, ultra-hygienic and managed death — the end of weddings, worship, dining, sports and celebration as we have known them for, well, the entire history of mankind.

Pundits have been careful to note that the CDC’s recommendations for re-opening schools and restaurants are only “guidelines,” but the collective risks posed by a virus turns the most neurotic consumer into a barking compliance officer.  We either beat these nuts back, folks, or we are going to live in Plexiglas bubbles with a doctor’s permission to step out for a time, share dessert, hold hands, dance, and leap over the guy in the next row to catch the foul ball.  (Scratch that last one; these folks want a world utterly protected from random human touch.)

As a small businessman myself, I suppose I thought it self-evident: if my customers insisted on people standing six feet away, isn’t it possible to expect they would make that request themselves?  Evidently not.   For a very shrill minority of our own customers (we have reason to believe it’s about 3-5 percent), the absence of signs, floor markers and staff dedicated to pushing people apart is nothing short of asking people to sweep up Bubonic rat dung or gurney Ebola victims to the triage tent.  One of these freaks actually impersonated a law enforcement officer over the phone a few days ago and threatened to arrest me.  (It’s now a pending investigation at our local sheriff’s substation.)

I’m not playing.  The world that the CDC is recommending may be many things, but it is NOT living. It’s a bureaucratic surrender to death long before the Grim reaper is even a thousand miles a way.  Consider, for a moment, every single television show you’ve ever watched featuring a bar or a restaurant. Norm is sitting too close to Cliff in the “Cheers” Bar–and Carla isn’t wearing a mask.  Frasier and Niles are sitting WAY too close to other patrons at Café Nervosa and if Niles isn’t living over at Frasier’s place, can two adult brothers even meet over coffee at all?

And consider the sort of customer who could actually afford a meal out in this new normal.   The CDC tells restaurants to “limit seating capacity to allow for social distancing.”  This is the kind of recommendation only a public official with a guaranteed salary can make without blinking.  The restaurant owner, I can tell you, spent a great deal of time and money making sure he could safely seat as many customers as possible.  When every aisle in the restaurant goes from 36″ to 72″, when every other booth must be emptied, what does that do to the price of a meal?  Bill Gates and friends may not feel the pinch, but most people would start to see a sit down restaurant as the kind of treat you save for your granddaughter’s wedding — if that.  There’s a reason that, given these realities, passionate restaurant owners — independents, mom & pop operations — are just closing up for good.  As Portland restaurateur David Machado put it..

It has the potential to wipe out the owner-operator class: the mom and pop, independent places owned by one or two people… All the businesses grown from passion and creativity. It leaves the corporations, the highly capitalized with more space. Portland is built on the entrepreneurial spirit, it’s what’s made this city great.  This attacks the very notion of who are.

A businessman usually only gets to speak his mind, like this, tell the world what he really thinks about regulation, when he finally closes up shop.  Before that final moment, very few are as candid, (or dumb) as I am, but you have to ask yourself the question: do we really want to live in a world run by public health officials who are idiotic enough to remind you there is no need to put a mask on the unconscious?   I screen-capped it here..

The School Scene

Having dealt with both reasonable and distinctly unreasonable civil servants, I know there’s an old story about inspections: they must find something wrong with your operation or they aren’t doing their job.  Well, if public schools implement CDC guidelines, this is going to be regulatory heaven because absolutely no one will ever be in compliance.

  • School buses half full?
  • Classrooms half empty?
  • Regular school broadcasts on Covid procedures BUT “..encourage employees and students to take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories about COVID-1..”
  • Newly dedicated disinfection staff BUT “cleaning products should not be used near children.”
  • Masked children must not share anything with each other.  (No valentines, no gifts, no potato chips or chocolate chip cookies..)
  • Ventilation system review to increase outdoor air (this from the same folks who couldn’t make up their minds about opening parks and trails.)
  • Desks six feet apart
  • Physical barriers and sneeze guards
  • No dining halls, no shared playground equipment
  • Static groups (“Miss Jordan’s students CANNOT get together with Miss Smith’s students!”)
  • No field trips
  • Transmission reduced sporting events (in light of the other guidelines, what would that even mean but NO sporting events?)
  • Have a separate isolation room for anyone with the least appearance of being sick
  • Abandon, at least temporarily, any room used by someone with perceived Covid

The guidelines go on and on.  They contradict each other.  They assume resources even public institutions don’t have and they describe a world normal people should utterly reject, because — think about this — this world is one that sees every human being around you as the bearer of death.  How festive would a restaurant be if it were populated by people this frightened of life itself?  How nurturing will a classroom be if the teacher is walled off behind bullet-proof Plexiglas?

It simply can’t stand.  We need to call the nightmare off, wake up, and invite all of our friends over for a mimosa breakfast.

Americans are more than willing to sacrifice for the greater good.  We will put up with inconvenience.  We can moderately adjust our routines, but this isn’t a World War II air raid with a war powers request to turn out the lights and ration consumption.  This is a hypochondriac fever dream, a collective demand, in the fact of a disease with a 99.7% survival rate, to embrace the cowardice of the neurotic mob.

The best revenge, always, is living well.   Be about it.