The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tragedy, there’s no doubt about it. Whether you believe what’s going on, what has happened, etc., you can’t ignore the devastation it’s wreaked on the world. That being said, there’s always a silver lining. My intention is to explain what I’ve learned over the last several months. But first, a little background.
I’ve traveled for a living for 20 years. I’m basically a traveling salesman, pushed into sales management. I sell software. As of September 2020, I have stayed 1369 nights with Marriott properties alone in the last 20 years. That’s just the Marriott hotels. I can’t really account for the non-Marriotts. I’m not sure I want to know. My point is, I’ve traveled as long as I can remember. Now, I’ve only traveled three times since the middle of March. That’s a record for me.
All this time at home has given me some insight, both into my own behaviors and to my fellow man’s. With that light, I want to look at the things I’ve learned thus far.
I like being alone
Let me define alone. I like being with my family. In this case, that’s my wife and the youngest boy-child. He’s 26 and has his own burgeoning life. I haven’t seen as much of him as I’d like, even though he’s right across the driveway. But I actually enjoy spending time with my wife. We’ve been together 22 years now, married for 14, and she’s my rock and my audience. I moved to the country 20 years ago, so this isn’t anything new, it’s just highlighted how great a decision that was 20 years ago.
I don’t need to travel to do my job
I’ve always known this, but there’s been that little last piece of evidence that always said, it’s better to meet people in person – and I still believe that. But I don’t need to do it now. I might not have to spend 1300 more nights on the road over the next 20 years. That would be super.
People are stupid
I know, I know, big revelation, Iain. I’ve known this. I recently saw a bit from George Carlin where he was saying, “Think of how stupid the average person is… and remember that half the people are stupider than that.” He was a prophet, I’m convinced of it. I’ve seen some of the dumbest things ever with this pandemic. From people telling me, “I’ve never washed my hands so much in my life,” to people riding around in their own cars, alone, with a face mask on. Yet still, divided we fall.
I need some fun in my life
I’ve been pushing myself hard to learn for the last several years. I do some language work each morning, and I read between 1 and 2 hours each night. I try to read literature – great books, etc. At the end of April, I realized I needed to back off the serious stuff for a while and read something fun. It’s been good. Really good. Going forward, I will always have one light-hearted book going, and I’ll read that last before going to bed to clear my mind of the icky stuff.
This thing is an introvert’s dream
I don’t have to talk to people. I don’t have to make small talk. I don’t have to smile at anyone. The people that are making extra effort stand out, even with the masks – and most of them work at my local Starbucks or grocery store.
Curbside pickup is one of the best inventions ever
I’ve long been a fan of restaurants that allowed me to order via an app or online and just pick it up (see item #5) but as the pandemic first geared up, my wife and I started using curbside pickup at our grocery store because I wasn’t about to stand in line to go to the store (see item #3). My wife is also an introvert (I know, it’s a miracle we ever met) and she’s mastered the iPhone app for HEB (monster grocery store chain in Texas) so now our shopping consists of driving in and having someone put all the stuff we bought in our car – and I’m not “allowed” to help. Wonderful. No impulse buying. No distractions. To the store and back in under 30 minutes. We used to go to the store at 6 AM on Sunday mornings to stay away from crowds. We don’t have to do that anymore. So. Happy.
Routines and habits calm the soul
I’ve never been a fan of routines. For more than a decade, my only real routine was where I parked at the airport, and that was just so I could find my car when I was exhausted. But for the last two and a half years, I’ve started to build routines and habits to help me get things accomplished. Learning, writing, reading, etc. I found the comfort of habits and routines helped when the world seemed to be crashing around me. There is solace in the familiar. That isn’t to say it’s the best way to be, but when things are going badly for you, retreat to your routines until your soul calms a bit.
I don’t trust or believe anything I read or hear about anything anymore
The last seven months have been an exercise in awareness about the media. I’ve long cut them out of my life, finding their agenda popping up in my writing. Huh. But with the pursuit of wanting to “break the story” or point out the latest horrible thing that this or that person has done, we’ve created an information superhighway of bullshit and mistruths. Never before have we had a faster route for biased BS to be pumped out to us. I trust very few people. My doctor is one of them because he and I have had honest talks about what’s good and bad – for real. I went to see him last month for one of my regular checkups, and he didn’t give me anything more than what the common knowledge is out there. That is, “Wash your hands and stay away from people.” We are easily manipulated. Look at our religions. We believe in something we can’t validate. The pump is primed for us to believe stupid shit.
We are incredibly resilient in how we adjust to change
My wife and I went to Bierfest at SeaWorld in San Antonio earlier this month. It’s the most I’ve done since this thing started. But… Bierfest. It was so great last year, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for them to announce it this year, so when it was announced, with new an improved safety precautions, I was ready to go. What I saw when we got to SeaWorld was actually pretty normal. People acting the way they normally do, but with face masks on, and generally, for the most part, staying a safe distance away. I say mostly because, as we all know, there’s always one or two who seem to not understand “six feet”. Again, this is something I could get used to. The face masks outdoors in Texas in September are horrific. But not bad enough to keep me away from a bunch of local microbrew Octoberfest editions. By and large, we’re going to survive this thing. Most of us.
I’m sure there’s more – but I have to pull the plug at some point. Like I said in the beginning, there’s always a silver lining. I’m fortunate enough to be an introvert (mostly – my personality is actually an extroverted introvert – go figure) so I welcome being required to stay home for long periods, as long as I can still work, that is. Losing the ability to make a living would devastate me. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost their job due to this bullshit. The worst part about this is, it’s going to be the small places that get hit the worst. The small Italian place down the street that mom and pop run. So one thing I have done is try to support my favorite local places – by ordering pickup from them. I’ve tipped lavishly each time. But I’m only one person, I can’t keep a business going. Now’s the time to support your favorite local establishments, if they haven’t already closed up for good.
As we head into fall/winter and cooler weather, we’ll have to continue to be safe and diligent, but I feel comfortable that when all is said and done, this will be another flu, with some big asterisks after it. There’s no doubt that some people really get hit hard by this thing. But a lot of people die from the flu each year, too. We’ve only really focused on this one way that people are dying. I would love to see a full chart of how every death happened. Only then will we have something to compare this all against. Do you have any idea how many people die in the US on an average day? 2.8 million deaths in 2017 per the CDC. I’m not trying to downplay anything, I’m just saying let’s give some attention to the top killers as well. Heart disease and cancer killed 1.2 million people that year.
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