It is a habit of humanity to presume that what is currently being experienced has never been experienced. As a result of this myopia, some people have given up hope (here, here, and here). I’m here to inform you that life as you knew it – if you survive the pandemic – will return to forms changed but still recognizable to you.
New York is not dead, nor cities in general for that matter. If the city were revealed as a faulty construct due to the coronavirus, New York never would have existed. The city would have devolved after plagues that devasted urban centers centuries ago. For millions of Americans, the large cities are the only home they’ve known – and they are not leaving. And for millions of young people and generations not yet born, the city as a construct and reality remains a dream, the place to which they can emigrate and prove that they can make it .
The office is not dead. People – extroverts and introverts, the social and the antisocial – need the presence of other people in order to function at peak capacity. Adjusting to the pandemic has forced institutions, organizations, and companies to expand and embrace already-existing technologies, strategies, and workflows (here). However, we miss our cubicle hell. We miss the meetings that have gone off agenda. We miss going to the restroom. Just as much as we miss sharing the “aha!” moment with coworkers, group lunches, HR-approved flirtations, and the person who brings doughnuts once a week. Once this pandemic has passed, the institutions, organizations, and companies that have survived will continue to use these technologies, strategies, and workflows to enhance capacity in their offices. And we will rejoice in the dread of going back to the office restroom.
Bars and restaurants are not dead. Bars and restaurants exist for a purpose. Those of us who now exist exclusively on home cooking, takeout, and Zoom cocktail parties – or who invite small numbers of family and friends to eat in our backyards in prescribed seating arrangements – feel the pangs of withdrawal from bumping and touching and laughing with people in close, random proximity. We miss a well-made cocktail. We miss restaurant cuisine served properly, whether on exquisite place settings or in hangers with loud music and louder people. When this is over, and if I survive, I am going to brunch so hard that people will feel it in the next state.
Sex is not dead. Actually, sex never died (here). Sex takes place in many forms, between all kinds of people. The need to bump up against someone, to experience friction, to communicate deep emotions to another’s body. These things don’t go away. The Victorian era didn’t kill off sex in this country, so do you really expect a virus to do it?
The dead are dead. As of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed about 180,000 Americans. Because we do not have anything resembling a national strategy to combat the spread of this virus, many more people will be killed. They will not be living in New York. They will not be going to the office. They will not be going to bars and restaurants. They will not be having sex. Those people are dead.