THE YEAR 2021 – Looking back to last summer we can see a lot of changes wrought by the Big Pandemic of 2020 although at the time no one could agree on a name: coronavirus, CORVIT-19, corvit-19 or the Chinese flu. Anyway, we are not the same nation or society as we were then. For example, no one wears masks anymore. Actually, quite a few people never wore them while hanging out at house parties, political rallies and while demonstrating against Christopher Columbus, and they’re all dead. But until then we could tell just by looking at someone on the street. If they wore a mask, they were liberals who wanted open borders, drove a Tesla and only ate kale. If they were mask-less, they were conservatives who carried an AK-47, volunteered to build that wall and drank Clorox.
Our sports are forever changed. High schools found they didn’t really need football and turned to education. This angered a lot of parents in Texas who felt the schools’ priorities were backwards. As Houston sports columnist Mickey Herskowitz once wrote: “There must really be something to religion. People keep comparing it to Texas high school football.” College football held a shortened season but had to lay off professors. The Big VII finally called off their games (UT beat Baylor VII to III) after Texas A&M refused to rejoin them. The NFL played before empty stands, to which former Houston Oilers said, “So?” Major League Baseball had a shortened season, although the Miami Marlins were so decimated by the virus that one game ended Marlins 1, Corona 19. The NBA played their games in a sealed bubble. Against the Dallas Mavericks, James Harden scored 130 points, then the coach benched him after the first quarter. Pro soccer called off the season, and no one who spoke English noticed.
The public schools in Texas kept changing their starting dates according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s hourly rulings. The State Board of Education issued a proclamation: “You can begen classes anitime so long as you don’t teech global hotting, race relashuns or eviloushun.” Some parents refused to send their children to school and kept them at home. Other parents sent their children to those homes. Teachers went to work only after receiving proper protective equipment – spacesuits they received from NASA. A few districts began the school year with online classes, but several sixth-graders could participate only after building their own computers.
Ah, yes, 2020, the year beauty parlors had to close and Houston ran out of blondes. Barber shops also closed and many men had their wives give haircuts. After four months of staying at home together, husbands were afraid to let their spouses stand behind them with sharpened scissors. Gov. Abbott ordered that they stay 6 feet apart. It could have been a circumstance or bad timing, but the Big Pandemic of 2020 came at the same time as a movement swept the nation over the killing of George Floyd. We saw Black Lives Matter and demands for racial equality. Texas was making changes, too. The statue of a Texas Ranger was removed from the lobby of Dallas’ Love Field because of the Rangers’ mistreatment of Mexicans in the Rio Grande Valley 100 years ago. Confederate statues, markers and names were either changed or removed. In Houston several statues were put out of sight. Robert E. Road became Unison Road. Confederate Road, Dixie Drive and South Blvd. will probably follow.
Our vocabulary has new words or new meanings. “The new normal,” “plateau,” “Dr. Fauci,” “protocol” (revived from the Ebola days), “cancel culture,” “social distance” and, of course, “pandemic.” One of the greatest changes due to the (whatever you want to call it) was working from home. This had all sorts of offshoots. Mom and pop lunch shops dried up since there were no workers dropping by. With air travel collapsing, a small company that sold nuts to American Airlines for their first-class passengers lost most of their business. No commuters meant less gas sold by the already struggling awl bidness, as we wildcatters in the Permian Basin say. With less commuting we also saw fewer car wrecks, and the insurance companies benefited. When Neiman’s filed for bankruptcy, we knew times were tough. Hospitals lost a lot of revenue because the virus took up all the beds and minor ailments such as lost legs, heart attacks and shark bites were deemed “non-essential,” so those cash cows had to wait. We must suppose serious virus patients don’t pay.
Then there was the upheaval on the home front as millions of Americans worked from home rather than be exposed to their diseased co-workers. This change in workplaces showed that a lot of us didn’t need to leave home to go to work. Companies discovered that they didn’t need all that office space and cancelled leases. The landlords, like the sandwich shops, were dying. We have already seen social scientists and learned professors taking surveys as to the effects of working at home. Now, a year later, many employees don’t want to go back to the office. Although some bosses want their employees at their desks, this change may be permanent. An interesting side issue: Almost half of home shoppers nationwide say they want a space in their house for an office. And more than 60 percent of potential home buyers say working at home influenced their choice of what house to buy. That also sounds permanent. A solution may be to convert your office at the sheep-shearing shed to a home. Stock your cubicle with a fridge, sofa, TV and a hook to hang your bathrobe.
Finally, this pandemic influenced the 2020 presidential race. Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump exploited the virus to their advantage: Mail-in ballots, long lines of voters, rigged counting. Democrats thought Trump’s efforts were so bad, after the election, they held another impeachment. We know how that came out. Just ask President Pence.
Ashby is coughing at email@example.com