Editor’s note: I first posted this message publicly in the Procter & Gamble retiree Google group on March 8, 2020. At the time the United States had suffered 22 total deaths from the coronavirus. As this is posted on my website on May 11, 2020, more than 80,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19. Lest anyone is confused this message has NOTHING to do with Christmas. This is a message about people panicking and the effect that panic would have on the American economy.
We celebrate Christmas in our household. It’s always fun to see the youngsters, at the appointed time, run toward the Christmas tree and open their gifts. Just seeing the smiles on the faces of your loved ones of any age at Christmas makes it a great day. Yes, when your spouse, significant other, or your child opens that special gift that you bought for them the experience makes Christmas a special time.
However, at about noon on Christmas Day, I begin to hate Christmas. The living room is littered with gift wrapping. There are more toys scattered around than any child really needs. The adults have received duplicates of most of the things they already have.
At about this time of day on December 25, I want to do stuff. I want to go down to the gas station (well not so much now that I have an electric car!). I want to go to the store to get batteries for that gift that someone gave to me on Christmas day which didn’t include batteries. I want to grab a quick bite to eat. I just want to be able to do on Christmas Day what I do every day and that’s going someplace and doing something. However, most places are closed on Christmas Day. No, there’s nothing to do. That’s why I hate Christmas.
I fear that the coronavirus scare is going to make every day like Christmas. Not in a good way obviously but in a bad way.
I see the coronavirus as being a repeat in some ways of both 9/11 and the 1973 gas crisis. By the way, I am NOT equating these two events. Pretty much everyone reading this is old enough to remember the gas crisis. The gas crisis wasn’t so much a problem of not having enough gas because certain suppliers were curtailing what they were willing to produce.
It was more about people panicking. The average car on a normal day all across America had about a half a tank of gas in its gas tank. However, people thought if they could fill up their tank even though they weren’t going anywhere they would be better off than if their car sat in the garage with its normal half of tank of gas. When just a small number of people come up with a bright idea like, “Let’s go down and top off the tank” they created shortages, and long lines and more panic.
I’m been reading that major sporting events/leagues like the NBA, the NCAA basketball tournament and other sports either have canceled their events or are considering playing those games without spectators in attendance. The SXSW conference which includes all kinds of musical events in Austin, Texas has just canceled for the first time ever.
Political/medical leaders are charged with protecting the safety of the people. They might cancel events with the initial idea of protecting their constituents. They might cancel events fearing the litigation that could come if the events were allowed to continue and people got sick and died. The people themselves might cancel their attendance simply in the hopes of maintaining their own personal safety. By the way that is an outcome of panic!
Last weekend I was in Mexico for four days with my wife. I returned on a Tuesday and on Wednesday hopped on a plane to spend a week in Sweden just for the heck of it. The crowds in the airports were way down. I stopped and asked various employees at the airport if they felt the crowds were light as well. Everyone shook their head vigorously in the affirmative that people were traveling less.
How many of you have canceled your plans based upon the coronavirus? How many of you have breathed a collective sigh of relief and said silently to yourself, “Yes!“ when the cancellation policies for your future trips were relaxed or eliminated? You’ve always tried to make safe, thoughtful and appropriate decisions in your life right? Sometimes doing that is a form of panic.
Is the coronavirus really that serious? I’m not a doctor. I have no idea. I know at this point the number of deaths on a worldwide basis are much smaller than other maladies that we don’t give as much as a second thought in the course of our daily life.
That is not to say that if two people die today and four people die tomorrow and eight people the next day and sixteen people the next day that we wouldn’t have a catastrophic world problem on our hands. Who knows? It could end up that way I guess. I’m not a doctor.
Where do you get your information on the coronavirus? Are you creating your own medical studies? Are you working on your own vaccine for the coronavirus? Maybe you’re like me. You get 100% of your information about the coronavirus from TV, radio and print stories.
I know this from an economical point of you. Each time one person cancels their participation in an event those owners and promoters of the event lose the financial value of your participation. Then they are likely to lay off or reduce the hours of the cooks, flight attendants, airline pilots, gas station attendants and every other worker who supports in any way the airline business, the hotels, the restaurants, the gas stations and much, much more.
When the people in those industries lose their jobs they don’t have money to spend at the grocery store and the hardware store and Amazon and Walmart. And those people who work at the grocery store and the hardware store and Amazon and Walmart begin to lose their financial income and can’t spend money where they normally spend money.
I have often said this to my friends. I wondered why the bad actors who were responsible for 9/11 and other equally catastrophic ideas and wars didn’t simply do this. They could take ten of their guys and spread them out across the country. Then next Saturday those 10 people could all blow themselves up at a sporting event, a movie theater, an airline terminal, a grocery store, etc. at pretty much the same time. It wouldn’t take a lot of resources to recruit 10 people to do something like that.
If that happened on Saturday no one would be at a baseball game or a movie theater or be planning a cruise or be hanging out at an airport on Sunday. If all of that happened it wouldn’t take much for a complete financial collapse. Of course, we have security in place to try to prevent such an apocalyptic outcome.
Will the public panic over the coronavirus create a similar result? Will people do the equivalent of a 1973 gas crisis by trying to top off the tank when they are not planning to drive anywhere? Will people cancel their cruises and delay their vacations and avoid public places which means not spending money in public places simply to avoid a concern which may be overblown? I don’t know but I guess I could see that happening.
To me, all of this really seems to be in the realm of the unknown. I have learned it is impossible to predict the future. That doesn’t mean I don’t try at times.
Several months ago I spent $850 for two tickets to the World Formula 1 Vietnam Grand Prix to be held in Hanoi. The race is scheduled to take the green flag on April 5, 2020. That’s only a month from now.
I will tell you this. With the way things are going, I fully expect that race to be canceled. However, if they have that race and they don’t cancel any of the flights we already have booked and they don’t place any travel restrictions on our attendance we will be in the VIP front stretch grandstand in some great seats. I suspect the line at the concession stand will be pretty short. That could be a positive.
I’m definitely a glass-half-full guy. The coronavirus as it stands now isn’t going to stop me from making adventures just like the 1973 gas crisis didn’t stop me. At the time we lived in Cincinnati and our hometown was near Peoria, Illinois. We enjoyed going back “home” for the weekend. We couldn’t quite make that one-way driving distance on a tank of gas. On Sundays when we were returning to Cincinnati all of the gas stations were closed. What was our “solution”? We filled a five-gallon can of gas with fuel and put it in the trunk. Then when we were almost to Cincinnati we stopped at an interstate rest area and poured the contents of the gas can into the tank. I was 24 years old at the time. This behavior seemed perfectly normal to me given the circumstances. In hindsight driving around with a full five-gallon can of gasoline in the trunk might not have been the brightest idea. At the time doing that was probably more dangerous to us individually than the coronavirus is at this point.
Although I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1971 I did my best to avoid going to Vietnam. Now I want to go to Hanoi, Vietnam. Things change! I want to go there on April 5, 2020. I want to go there in the midst of what by that time could become a pandemic.
I fear April 5 might become just like Christmas day. I’ll wake up on April 5 and by about noon I’ll be looking for something to do. However, every place I want to go will be closed. I hope it doesn’t work out that way. I have always enjoyed April 5. I just hate Christmas.
Randy Lewis – San Clemente, California
When I reposted this message in my neighborhood “Next Door” social media group I got a wide variety of responses. A number of people enjoyed what I had to say. One woman did not. You can check out a sampling of those reactions.
The not so good reviews…..
I mean to tell ya, that was the longest bunch of Blah-Blah nothing I’ve ever read. I’m pretty sure the people that work 364 days a year appreciate having Christmas Day off to spend with family or friends…really not concerned about accommodating you because your board. 19 people in the US have died and over 2800 around the world. You can thank the FAKE NEWS for stirring up panic, but with that being said; a family friend succumbed to this illness and his wife said it was horrible to watch the panic on his face, drowning in his own fluids, nothing they could do for him. While you stated over and over again how inconvenient this illness is for you I think I can say just one family member who has lost someone to an illness that we have no control over at this moment, could care less if your feeling threatened because you might not be able to fly to Vietnam to watch a car race. You have every right to feel upset that your life has been so inconveniently interrupted, that there’s a real possibility on Christmas Day 2020 and every other Christmas Day to come that you will be board and mad because you can’t go get a slurpy at 7-11…but I’ll be smiling knowing your stewing and inconvenienced, and quietly thinking (even in brief) of the people that paid the ultimate price. I LOVE CHRISTMAS! PS…you might be a nice person (although shallow) one thing is for sure, your not a good communicator.
The better reviews…..
What a realistic, great read! I’m with you; the chicken little syndrome is alive and thriving. 80,000 flu deaths/ year is typical. Our most vulnerable population are those with compromised immune systems and mostly elderly. We booked flights today and we’re told we can cancel without penalty. Unless the airline cancels, we’re travelling! And great that a virus is making us all more aware of cleanliness. BTW, I read an interview today from a Princess cruise passenger in hospital isolation until his Covid 19 virus is gone. He said on a scale to 10, this flu, in his case, is a 2. SO, because I stock up on batteries, Costco sized, I love Christmas, and travel, and dining out. A paralyzed economy is more terrifying.
That was spectacular! Loved it!! You are so well written and the point was so clear! Thanks!!! :)
Totally agree…..great thoughts, great writing…by the way, i have been to hanoi. Loved it
I enjoyed the dark humor in this post. Kudos for equating Christmas with panic (Oh no! I didn’t buy the right gift.), hoarding (I need to buy this in every color for every room!), and irrational behavior (I don’t care if it’s Christmas Eve, we have to get to the store now and buy more food!).
Thoughtful and well written. Friends and I have been discussing how much easier it is to be immediately seated on Del Mar. And the impact this will have on the restaurant’s employees, as well as their ability to make a profit so they can keep the doors open. We have also discussed this interesting tipping point with our Universities. Once we spend a few months paying for our kids to stay home and take Online classes at great schools, how difficult will it become to justify $30-$70,000 a year to share a room with several people and attend on campus. Then how difficult will it become to find college graduates who have developed the social skills to thrive in a large organization.