day 11

'Social distancing' hits classic album covers
‘Social distancing’ hits classic album covers

Already — 11 days into this — my mother predicts that people worldwide are going to change how we interact with one another. This is a terrifying idea to me.

I spent my childhood in English-speaking Canada in an Anglo-Caribbean family. While friendly (the Canadians) and expressive (the Caribbeans), we maintain our space. We’re ace talkers and most of us like to socialize, but we don’t typically hug; we’re pat on the shoulder people with our closest friends.

Americans are VERY different. When I moved here, holy, you guys! Americans are huggy and pokey and bumpy!!! Back when we were in college, my best friend said she wished my family gave me more hugs, and I was perplexed. I felt fine. It’s only now, after 15 years of teaching in an American high school filled with students who have grown up in physically demonstrative families and communities that I understand that my friend associated belonging and care and support and love not just with enduring presence but with touch. It’s another way of being, and, if my mother is right, its alteration will be a huge loss for human culture.

I have a few prognostications of my own:

  • The office park is dead. I can’t see any business that’s trying to save money keeping cubicle farms as overhead if they’re able to operate with cubicle farmers farming from home. They’ll eventually streamline and maintain space for actual working meetings;
  • The mall is deader;
  • Long live the actual grocery store! My neighborhood Publix is KICKING the local Whole Foods’ ASS in terms of stock because it is in ONE LINE OF BUSINESS;
  • Amazon, on the other hand, has human resources and logistics problems…;
  • White, and now, middle-class Other flight. Should mismanaged pandemics become the norm, and there’s little indication that that’s not the case, who wants to be cooped up in an overpriced two-by-two alone or with others for days, weeks, months on end? This will be especially true for those who work from home. People are going to move from cities to suburbs in droves;
  • People will feather the fuck out of their nests;
  • To the detriment of older teachers, adjunct professors of all ages, and students’ mental health and learning, high schools and colleges will offer more courses online.

These things are obvious, but, as in the past, I don’t see we Americans on a whole making adjustments to account for what the above eventualities will mean beyond immediate, individual impulses that lead in those directions. We may be, at the moment, warm and fuzzy, but deep reflection isn’t an American cultural norm.