Retorts: The post-coronavirus world

WHAT WILL the future look like after the coronavirus crisis is over? (Pexels/Ali Pazani).

The news is usually about things that have already happened, which means by the time you read about it, it’s either in the past or the situation has changed.

There’s nothing wrong with that … we are already waist-deep in the Big Muddy of too-much-information and too-much opinion passing for news.

Wouldn’t it be nice in this tense era of coronavirus coverage to know what life will be like in the future, once the crisis has passed?

Here at The Tribune we always like to think we are ahead of the curve, so here’s what the landscape will look like in, say, another year or two.

  • Many retail chains and stores will be out of business. Millions of people will turn to online shopping for their daily needs and deliveries will be within an hour or two. Megamarkets like Target and Walmart will prosper as they have a greater assortment of goods and more buying power from wholesalers. Small businesses may survive by renting space within a megamarket, but it won’t be cheap and the landlord will curate who gets in and who doesn’t.
  • The next big expansion of government won’t be in the Space Force. It will be the creation of national and state relief and rescue agencies that will be ready to go on Day One of the next outbreak of a virus, which is certain to happen. Medical supplies, food, fuel, water, etc. will be stockpiled and refreshed. A lot will be wasted but it will still be much cheaper than the jury-rigged system we have now.
  • “Distance learning,” with all its flaws and impersonality, will become the new normal at many colleges and schools. Access to the internet will become as common as telephones and running water. Educational institutions will be ready to turn on a dime from lecture halls to your iPad.
  • Voting by mail will replace in-person voting for most of the country.
  • Those of us who have relied on gardeners and housekeepers will go out and buy a lawnmower and a vacuum cleaner. Those of us who rely on a barber or a hairdresser will go out and buy some electric clippers and one of those mirrors that allow you to see the back of your head. Better to be safe than shaggy.
  • Hollywood will have finally given in to demand and will be making movies available by streaming video no more than a week after their release to cinemas. Many smaller movie theaters will close or have to otherwise adapt.
  • If you think that security at airports is already a pain in the fundament, get ready for Invasion of Privacy 2.0. Passengers on international flights will be especially invaded with temperature checks at the least. Technology to facilitate screening will emerge and the cost of it will be added to the price of your airline ticket.
  • Social distancing norms will slowly shrink, but will expand again at the first hint of a health concern. The practice now observed at some stores of an employee serving as a kind of traffic cop directing customers to open cashier stands one at a time and not allowing crowds to bunch up there will continue at some operations.
  • A few sports operations will experiment with broadcast-only contests. Most of the money in pro sports is from television revenue anyway, but much of the atmosphere and excitement of a packed stadium or arena will be missing, and the experiments will likely fail.
  • A surprising number of people will conclude that the slower pace of our present “New Normal” isn’t so bad. The declines in traffic, crime and pollution will have us wondering if there’s some way to keep that other than throwing half the population out of work (or school) and scaring the water out of other half.

And, of course, there’s another way of looking at things. After the “all clear” is sounded, we all go back to our old way of doing things. Until the next catastrophe, that is. What’s your bet?

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears weekly, usually on Wednesdays. He is considering cutting his own hair, which is bound to be good for a laugh.

2 replies »

  1. Unfortunately (sic) this marks 52 years I have been reading the Re-Torts column. This week is spot on of course making us all feel a little better with just a little perspective. Although I myself prefer a more Marxist dialectic.

  2. Good article Jim. It will be fun to see how your predictions turn out in 10 years. I think your first one is the most likely, which will be sad. Government is always expanding but I hope it doesn’t go overboard. As for Hollywood and professional sports they could go the way of the dinosaurs as far as I’m concerned (I still like live theater and local baseball/softball though).

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