Normal will return

Luke Miller, CEO/CCO – Moment Creative

For the last 6 months, my head space, my psyche has been all over the map. With an ongoing and never-ending pandemic, I think that’s to be expected. I run a live engagement agency called Moment Creative. We create and produce live experiences that engage with people directly, in-person. Our industry has been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When one thinks about all the could have been pandemics of the past like SARS, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, MERS, etc., it’s easy to say this will all blow over quickly. As an average, everyday citizen that’s an ok thought to have. A thought that isn’t really guided by any real science, but rather a couple recent examples that likely mask a greater scientific truth. An instinctual, assumptive thought like “this too shall pass” is not one leaders of any country should have. The thoughts of our leaders must be guided by science and reason. Had this country responded to this pandemic properly – I think you can add COVID-19 to that same list above. Had the current administration not disassembled our pandemic response team – 6+ million US citizens wouldn’t have contracted this terrible virus and nearly 200,000 senseless Americans deaths wouldn’t have occurred. Had this country treated COVID-19 with the respect it deserved – my industry wouldn’t be gasping for air. Had we rallied with our fellow world citizens instead of seeking blame – I wouldn’t be writing this article. Had we lead with science instead of assumption – normal would still be here.

Every morning I follow the same normal routine. I wake up, kiss my wife, read the news from multiple sources, and slowly make my way out of bed. I say good morning to my daughter, get her ready for school, eat breakfast, and finally sit down to my desk. I check my email and run through a list of marketing/advertising industry websites and blogs before I am off to the races with work. The theme with those industry websites and blogs of late: how to pivot. I see vendors trying to sell me plexiglass dividers, I see articles about events in states that don’t believe COVID-19 is real, I see VR/digital agencies try to tell me that virtual is the future, I see posts about how to have socially distant parties, drive-ins, drive-ups, and more, but I ultimately see people grasping at straws.

I can’t help but think to myself how different things could be if we had competent leadership in this country – a pandemic response led by science. And while airlines are being handed billions of dollars to keep empty planes in the sky, the live engagement industry is dying on the vine. A legal anathema foreboding us from doing what we do and not a nickel of assistance to be found. So we “pivot,” or that’s what I hear. Some of us, but not all of us. Pivot is the word of the year. Pivot is a word I abhor. I don’t want to pivot, because I shouldn’t need to pivot. Pivoting is what Blockbuster needed to do in the face of Netflix. Pivoting should be something companies are forced into due to the innovation of others, not the incompetence of others. I don’t want to pivot because I love what we do: bring people together to celebrate great moments of our shared humanity.

And so here we are at the end of what should have been our busy season: summer. Some restaurants have “pivoted” with outdoor seating, some events have “pivoted” into empty stadium parking lots (oh the irony), the world has “pivoted” to generating more waste than ever because of all the single use PPE, serviceware, and other superfluous crap. People are “pivoting” to get their Starbucks delivered instead of walking down the street. Public transit is empty, because “pivoting” to your own gas guzzling SUV is safer. This is the “new normal.”

Fuck that.

Chalk “new normal” up as another 2020 buzzword I can’t stand to hear. It sits just below pivot on my list.

No, normal needs to just be normal again. Now, that’s not to say there isn’t a silver lining in some of this. I think people will be more cognizant of other’s space moving forward. I think the hygiene in this country, which was abysmal before, will be dramatically improved. US employers, who have historically exploited their workers, are finally respecting personal time, working from home is an acceptable concept, and the unsustainable US work ethic (80+ hours/week) is finally settling down. But while there is some silver, there is no gold. We have largely taken a massive step backwards as a country.

Tell me you enjoy sitting in a restaurant with 50% of the tables covered in signs that say “Closed for Social Distancing.” Tell me you like saying “wallet, keys, phone, mask” when you leave the house now. Tell me you love the fact that you haven’t been to a movie theatre since March. Tell me you love being hesitant to talk to a new neighbor because…who knows where they’ve been. Tell me you love walking into your eerily quiet, creepy, empty office. Tell me you love eating on the street surrounded by temporary orange barricades and ropes. Tell me you love watching baseball with no one in the stands – furthermore tell me you love that you couldn’t be in those stands if you wanted to. Tell me you love that you can’t swim at your local pool without a reservation. Tell me you love trying to get your kid through their 7-hour day of virtual Zoom school. Tell me you love the “new normal.”

Well, I certainly do not and I can confidently tell you I never will.

We are fortunate that a lot of this pandemic has occurred during the warm weather seasons. Do you think we’re all going to be eating on these makeshift street patios when it’s 30 degrees? What happens when the snow starts falling and the only place to be is inside?

Stop telling people to pivot. Stop telling people to adapt to the new normal. If we had a competent response back in February, if we all just did our part, if we listened to science…maybe the normal just is.

Cities will thrive, retail stores will buzz, and restaurants will fill again. People will gather, because people must gather. We are human: innately socially close, not socially distant. The new normal is not something I accept, endorse, or embody. I’d rather wait for the way it was than pivot to the new normal, because the way it was is normal.

Normal will return and I’ll be waiting to give it a big ol’ fashion, mask-free, socially as close as possible, hug and kiss when it walks through the front door.

**Please note that I am a mask wearing, science believing member of society. While I don’t love masks and social distancing, I do believe they work and I do not believe they impinge on our civil liberties. I will do what’s necessary to help bring this tragic pandemic to an end and being normal back to our lives. RIP to all those who have perished due to COVID-19.

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