This has been traumatizing. We as a nation are undergoing trauma we aren’t even aware of yet, because right now, we can’t afford to admit it. If we face it, we will crumble. It’s as if we are in a war. We are seeing terrible things. We are witnesses to unspeakable tragedy. But we know there is so much more to come and so much more that we have to get through so we actually cannot afford to face our emotions. Doing so would prevent us from getting up in the morning and doing the things we must do to get through this thing. So, we’ve gone numb.
For those of you who are fans of “The Walking Dead” or even those who know of the show may appreciate the moment the meaning behind name of the show gets revealed. Many assume the name pertains to the corpses that have risen as zombies, but that’s not so. One of the characters talks of being a veteran—of being in war and watching people he loved die around him and having to shut off his feelings so he could continue to function on a basic, robotic level and survive. He went dead inside to survive. He was the walking dead.
We might feel like the walking dead ourselves right now. And when we come out of this, and face how our emotions have been impacted, we may realize there are some things we’ll never fully feel safe doing again—industries we may fear to support and engage in, out of fear for our lives. We’ve already seen these industries get hit hard during the pandemic, and it’s possible they’ll be impacted for a long time after. Experts say our economy may be hit worse than it was during the Great Depression.
Think of the nature of a casino. Thousands of people shoulder to shoulder at tables. The air is recycled. Your complementary cocktail glass clinking with that of strangers over a win. And the things we touch that so many others do—slot machines and dice and cards. Even diehard gamblers may move their activity online.
I have always loved hotels. To me, a nice hotel has always been the pinnacle of cleanliness. The clean sheets and the fluffy towels. The very thing that once felt like a luxury to me about hotels now feels like a threat: a stranger touching the intimate parts of where I sleep and bathe, who also touches the same in hundreds of other rooms. Yes. The cleaning staff. I know many hotels take extreme cautions to be clean, but guests may struggle to recover from this fear of having any outsider in the space where they sleep and eat and brush their teeth.
There’s nothing like live comedy. Even the best specials on Netflix or HBO don’t come close to the experience of being there. But it’s a unique group who patronize the live shows, with so many already preferring to watch comedy from their couches. Now the things I loved about the live show—being tightly packed next to other customers’ who’s laughter I could almost feel in my body , being so close to the comedian he could spit on me—are the very things that make me nervous.
While restaurants were already held to a high standard for cleanliness, this may have made things even tougher for them. They may face more frequent and more rigid random health inspections. Getting that A could become increasingly harder. And what of those places with a B rating you used to patronize—will you continue to be as adventurous?
Considering that most of what you do at a theme park is stand in tightly-packed lines—you stand in line to get in, and then to get on a ride, and then to get food, and then to use the bathroom—keeping one’s distance from others there is nearly impossible. But keeping our distance might be what humans want to do for a long time now.
Sports, like comedy shows, are so much better live. The energy in the space is so thick you could touch it. Even I, who don’t follow sports, will go to a live game because I just love being around all the excitement. But I see it differently now. Packed in like sardines. The bathrooms that get so much action the cleaning staff can hardly keep up. All the handrails you touch to safely get to your seat. There may be a lot of TV sports package sales in the future on outlets like DirectTV and a lot fewer live stadium seat sales.
Music venues and performance venues of any kind can present a health risk for both the performers and the audience. The performers share the same handful of microphones, putting their mouths right up to them. And the audience is seated so closely together—the place gets packed out. People crowd the stage to get near the artist. There is no social distancing to be had there.
South By Southwest also known as SXSW was one of the first big ones to acknowledge the severity of the virus, and cancel all if it’s events. Electric Daisy Carnival just got postponed. Coachella just got pushed back. Think of the nature of these festivals: hundreds of thousands of people come from around the world, cram into tight spaces, dance together, sleep together (you know it’s true) and then fly back to their corners of the world, bringing with them souvenirs and possibly viruses.
Conventions are the grownup’s Coachella. Let’s be real. There’s some networking going on but there’s also a lot of bed hopping and partying. Conventions, like music festivals, may bring hundreds of thousands of individuals to one place, to stay in close quarters, and then return home. If a virus is at large, a convention is the perfect breeding ground and delivery system.
Will they start taking everyone’s temperature at airports forever? Or requiring a recent doctor’s note confirming an up-to-date and healthy physical examination? Will everyone in airports or at least airplanes be required to wear masks from now on? If you think that sounds crazy, remember how we all thought the idea of the whole country shutting down sounded crazy. And here we are. Airline passengers are no longer just ticket-buyers: they’re also potential carriers of deadly viruses.
Grocery store workers might and should get so much more pay and respect. They should have the best benefits. Maybe they’ll demand these. Maybe they’ll just be given to them. Either way, I think we’ll see companies rallying more around their employees—or at least we better. They’ve kept us alive right now. Lit-er-a-lly.
We always knew that when one person got sick on a cruise ship, others may follow suit quickly. But it wasn’t due to a person-to-person-spread contagion before. It may have been food poisoning or a bad water supply. In which case, the ship docked and people went home. But now, with a virus that can be passed from human to human, when we get word of someone on a ship being sick, we leave the ship at sea. We tell them “Don’t dock. Don’t bring that contagion on land.” It’s been happening. What if it were you on that ship?
Malls were already hanging on by a thread before this pandemic, with online mega realtors like Amazon and Wayfair putting huge chains like Macy’s and Sears our of business. Only those who genuinely enjoy the sport of shopping and lean into retail therapy culture were keeping the malls alive. Now they’re not even allowed to go. But will mall-dwellers also now turn to more online spending? For fear of touching the escalators and drinking fountains and changing room doors at malls?
The way things were before this all began, my partner and I would already have to talk ourselves into going to the movies. The tickets were so damn expensive ($13.75 at our local big name theater, for one ticket). We’d only go if we had a gift card. It was a special occasion. But we were full of excuses not to, with Netflix right in our home. And already paid for. Will more theater-lovers favor their home theaters from now on, too? Over sitting next to strangers in seats barely wiped down?
Don’t forget that education is an industry. All of those private schools are industries. But even the public schools are, they just get their money from other sources. A lot of people rely on the brick-and-mortar campus for their work. The janitors. The cafeteria workers. The vendors who supply the chairs and the gym equipment and every item on a campus. I wonder if parents of graduating high school seniors may, however, prefer their kids go to online college, due to the virus-spreading nature of dorms and classrooms.