The new normal; are you ready?

It’s been almost twelve weeks since we have been anywhere other than inside our Windsor home. Naturally enough, when we have left our home we have found barely-used backroads that extend our journey each time we visit the post office. Each drive has proved to be the highlight of the day. But not to push our luck too far, we kept those trips to a minimum even as we continued to shop nearby for basics. Meat, potatoes and vodka: The essentials, of course. But at least the weather has changed and we can enjoy dining alfresco. The occasion being celebrated above just happened to be the first time we took to the outdoors having seen off the last of springtime snowfalls.

We did have our lawn sprinklers turned on and we have witnessed our yard’s annual spring cleanup and the lawns have even been mowed. A sense of normalcy for this time of year, regardless! And yet, with so much being written about the “new normal” Margo and I cannot be the only ones wondering what this new normal might look like. What new experiences will we face and what new regulations will we encounter. Will we ever be able to just jump in the car and head out onto American’s highways? Or taking to the air for that matter, although as good friend Brian discovered during his regular commute to Long Beach that doesn’t look all that promising. Yes, that’s LAX with no activity to be seen.

The price of gas has dropped to unheard of levels and looking at the gas pump roll around, today I could barely tip the $20 mark to fill up the Jaguar. In previous times, we would have anticipated spending $50 each time we filled the tank, but then again, that was back when we could go somewhere. It’s still hard to fathom that gas is cheap, skies are clear of vapor trails and nights have become eerily quiet. No parties, no pub life and no boisterous get-together at our local restaurant. The new normal is looking rather dull.

The markets are telling us that they haven’t seen anything like this for many years. Forget the global financial crisis, SARS, 9-11 and more. Forget about oil crisis of the ‘70s and forget, too, the riots and protests that took place over these past couple of decades. Think instead of the great depression; a time we thought we would never see happen again. And yet, looking around our small city and at driveway gatherings of neighbors (all practicing distancing even as their deck chairs bookend eskies full of beverages) with cars whizzing by and couples out walking, it’s difficult to think in terms of normalcy.

It’s as if every time we go to the post office, there is a nice new Corvette C7 Z06 parked outside. This is the previous generation of Corvette where the engine is still firmly bolted into the front of the car. When I looked up the prices being paid for these cars with barely a few miles on the odometer (think US$65,000 for 650 hp / 650 lb ft of torque) it’s hard not to think long and hard about the variety of choice that still exists in these times. The only issue is that there isn’t anywhere you can drive these cars – all the track-focused clubs are in hiatus. 

     "Every Saturday night
    I felt the fever grow
    Do ya know what it's like
    All revved up with no place to go ..."

Thanks a lot, Meatloaf! However, looking at this shiny new toy sitting idle by the side of the road only helped fuel wild thoughts of what the new normal will look like. Will our garages just be used as longer term pantries and will our living rooms be turned into showcases for our cars, as things of beauty? I have often thought that garages should all lead to lower floor display areas complete with pub settings, big screen television sets and a myriad of ceiling lights to ensure no shadows fall on any of the cars on display.

Oh, what a lovely Nissan Sentra – when did you get that? And as for that Ford Transit, well beautiful! Your Honda scooter looks right at home next to the coffee table. As for color I see that they are all blue – is that to better coordinate with the backsplash you chose for your wet bar? On the other hand, a couple of outdoor deck chairs and a cooler and we should be right to go, don’t you think?

The new normal: Houses inside garages and garages inside houses! You can’t drive them anywhere so perhaps they do become works of art to be admired and talked about over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Then again, surely not! For a minority of the population this has already taken place but for the rest of us, will our new normal return to anything like we were used to? What’s more, will the primary purpose of our vehicles be to complete our daily commute to the office? Will we return to that competitive pursuit of an unrestricted parking space? As we begin to adjust to the new normal, perhaps none of this will be the subject of conversations at all.

What the new normal may look like is the prospect of bringing everything to us – our work, our education, our essential supplies. Why would we even need a car? What could possibly entice us to leave “fortress home?” Will we even need streets and roads or will these simply deteriorate further with potholes capable of consuming anything that comes across them. I recently posted a cartoon that depicted society transitioning from a predominantly cube environment to where, equipped with mobile devices, we transitioned to a working life that could best be described as free range.

If you are a regular reader of Margo and my digital magazine, NonStop Insider, you will have seen reference to this cartoon in our regular column, Social Media Round-Up. But given the topic of this post it kind of fits in well with the subject matter and as such, worth re-posting. What the new normal will not look like is anything related to how we went about our lives in the past. In the proverbial blink of an eye, governments have proved once and for all that society can be cajoled into change that otherwise would have been inconceivable just a month or two ago. It’s all for the betterment of society. Well, perhaps it is and perhaps it isn’t; only time will tell and by that, the passing of a lot of time.

For twelve weeks Margo and I have adjusted to working from home with few breaks. Ever since we created our company, Pyalla Technologies, LLC, we have been able to enjoy frequent road trips. Looking back through our calendars from late-February to mid-November we attended regional and international conferences, symposiums, events and yes, boot camps. Almost one a month for nine plus months! To say we enjoyed the escapes that these road trips provided us would be an understatement. These became the focal points around which we built all other planned activities.

Note to readers - we purchase in bulk and did so 

before news broke of a scarcity of meat due to COVID-19
Free range possibilities? To be honest Margo and I have been practicing a free range lifestyle for more than a decade. Camped in our former RV or residing in a five star hotel, it didn’t matter; WiFi meant we continued working. While out on America’s highways we familiarized ourselves with the restaurants we liked, and subsequently frequented, be they a quick bite at a truck stop or fine dining at Mastros. These days, it’s all Zoom even as we wait for news to break as to where we can find the best cuts of meat. The most recent trip took us to the big store, Costco, where we snagged (forgive the pun) prime beef, good Aussie lamb and a bunch of brats. The Holen-Buckle family will be dining well over the course of the next couple of weeks. 

Throw into this mix a couple of bottles of wine and a selection of Vodkas and yes, it’s fine to fine dine at home. We used to eat at home on a regular basis but it was equally as true that we dined out a lot. When it comes to new experiences, if we are to be completely honest, we can certainly make any necessary adjustments to be able to dine at home more often than we have done in the past. No worries on that score. Just as we can adjust to finding the longest route possible between our home and the local post office. However, what this boils down to is that life has changed and whether it is to be viewed as being a lessening of life style or simply a diversion remains to be seen. For now, Margo is only too happy to give the time we have spent together a big thumbs up!

Perhaps the biggest difference we have experienced of late is the difficulty in maintaining contact with family. April is always a big occasion for Margo as it is the month her daughter Anna celebrates her birthday even as it is in April that all of Margo’s grandkids celebrate their birthdays as well. We had always planned for multiple trips to the home of Anna and Erich but this year, there was a big delay. Only this past weekend were we able to drop of the gifts even as we had to sit at a separate table, the better to practice self-distancing. And this is where the new normal really hit home for Margo and me.

If we are now looking long and hard at what commentators are calling the new normal then we aren’t truly ready. Then again, can we call anything we are witnessing as being normal? Are we doing normal a disservice to all that normal implies? Truth is, we are forever changed and anything resembling normal will take eons to define itself. And when normality returns, it will do so at different time for each of us. 

Margo and I liked the past and even as we are doing our very best to make adjustments we keep asking ourselves, what new experiences will we face and what new regulations will we encounter? Even closer to home we continue to ask ourselves, will we ever be able to just jump in the car and head out onto American’s highways without a worry in the world? Given the look Margo gave me as I took one last photo of grandchild, daughter and mom, this new normal has a ways to go before we are fully at ease with the changes we have had to endure. I guess it’s a thunderous big no to the new normal and a silent plea that all we took for granted for so long isn’t lost to future generations.  


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