What happens when we get out of isolation?
As we begin to see a glimmer of light at the end of the dark tunnel of this pandemic, I’m beginning to wonder what life will be like once the Stay-at-Home Order is lifted and we are able to get food from Bojangles without considering if we are willing to risk our lives for an order of Cajun Supremes.
For a society that was already becoming disjointed and disengaged before the pandemic, these 12 weeks or more of social distancing are turning into one of the greatest sociology experiments of all time.
Will we burst forth after the orders are lifted and seek to rejoin the community, find new friends and party like it is 1999, or will we continue to stay to ourselves, hiding behind our closed doors, connecting to the world via Facebook posts and text messaging?
Many people believe we will go right back to where we were before. We will pack movie theaters, restaurants and churches. We will be so tired of staying inside with our families that we will run to the stores to buy anything we can find. We will attend sporting events, plays and work hard to make up for everything we missed during this time of isolation.
I hope it will be that way, but I’m not so sure.
The fact is, it takes 21 days to form new habits. By the end of isolation, we will have all formed new habits.
My new habits, so far in this season of quarantine, are home improvement projects, cooking dinner every night and working from home.
I wonder if we will go back to church. Sure, some of us will, but I know the church leader in my household is a little concerned that plopping down on the couch in pajamas to watch the livestream of the local church service is so convenient for some, they may actually prefer that method over getting dressed and driving to church Sunday mornings.
Will we care as much about sports? Surprisingly, I don’t think I will. Sports went away at a horrible time — with the college basketball season days away from the NCAA Tournament and baseball season getting ready to wrap up spring training. I miss baseball, but not as much as I thought I would. That is a habit that has been broken for me. Will I pick it back up? Probably, but the idea that baseball comes with spring-like flowers and rain showers has been forever broken.
Car sales will also be different. A USA TODAY article says 80-90% of new car dealerships will have the capability of handling new car purchases completely online by the end of the year. Cars to test drive are delivered to the buyer’s home. Physical signatures are required due to state laws, but look for that to change soon.
Will we go back to the theaters? I’m not sure. I really think you will see Netflix, Hulu and Amazon continuing to move into production of feature films to boost their subscribers. That was beginning to happen even before the pandemic. The closing of movie theaters for three months means many will likely never open again. AMC Theatres, the largest movie theater chain in the world, recently had its poor credit rating downgraded again with the words, “Default imminent with little prospect for recovery.”
Anyone who thinks society will just pick up where we left off when Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued his Stay-at-Home Order March 30 is fooling themselves. We are entering a new reality with new challenges and opportunities.
It’s a once-in-a-century reset of the world’s habits. Those who are best able to capture the emerging markets and navigate the changes will rule the 21st century.
Roger Watson is editor of The Charlotte Gazette. His email address is Roger.Watson@TheCharlotteGazette.com.