We won’t go back to the ‘normal’ that we left
One day last week I sat in our car in the dentist’s parking lot for a little over an hour while my wife Michelle had her teeth checked and cleaned. I was waiting for a phone call from the dentist receptionist, telling me Michelle’s exam was over and they were ready for me. It was the second time that we were in this situation this week.
Earlier in the week, Michelle sat in the parking lot of an ophthalmology clinic for three hours while I underwent an eye exam. The dentist’s office has a small waiting room that was, of course, empty, but the eye clinic, which was in Indianapolis, had a cavernous waiting room that held about 25 chairs, all empty. At the registration desk, we spoke quietly to avoid an echo. Regardless, the receptionist told Michelle, who had accompanied me to check-in, that she should leave; only patients were admitted to the building. On the way back we stopped at a fast food restaurant for a sandwich which, of course, we had to eat in the parking lot.
This is a comment, not a complaint. I realize that the pandemic has demanded rigid rules and regulations regarding the mixing of humans with others of the same species. But I couldn’t help but wonder if these conditions imposed by necessity could become permanent. I don’t think the medical profession lost business because patients weren’t allowed into the waiting room. And anyone who has waited in line at McDonalds or Wendy’s will testify that patience is not just a virtue; it’s a must if you want a cheeseburger with fries. Business is booming inside these places. All that’s missing is the customers.
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The waiting rooms not only of doctors and dentists, but also of almost all businesses that serve the public, are strangely deserted. Receptionists and secretaries can work on their computers without being disturbed by anxious agents, customers, patients or, in the latter case, parents. Even phones are relatively quiet since all calls are sent to an answering service that will say the call is very important to them, followed by a warning that the caller should listen carefully to options that have recently changed.
While the tables, chairs, and booths in fast food dining rooms seem ready for business, the only activity is in the kitchen area, where a small team of laborers fry, amend, and wrap the sandwiches, then eat them. goes through the window to customers. . No wiping of tables, no sweeping of floors and, since customers take their garbage with them, no emptying of overflowing bins. Better yet, no dirty toilet cleaning. Who could blame them if they never reopen the dining rooms?
We do not yet know what lasting effects the pandemic has had. It seems that allowing people to work from home has little effect on their productivity. Working “9 to 5” at a desk in an office building can become overwhelming. Doctors are discovering the value of video calls (eg Zoom) for appointments with certain patients. We have learned that trying to educate on the internet is not as effective as traditional face-to-face learning. Research has shown that most students not only do not show progress with what is called online learning, but many regress.
There will be other unexpected changes. The only thing we can be sure of is that when we get back to “normal” it will no longer be the “normal” that we left. As Thomas Wolfe told us, “You can’t go home anymore”. This house has disappeared.
Email Chuck Avery at [email protected]