A DIFFERENT WORLD

UPDATE: This article originally ran a year ago on SERENDIPITY.  Since then the airline I work for has reached about 30 percent passenger capacity. That is well short of last year’s projection. The effects of the pandemic linger on.  Some 767s were sold to a company that will convert them to cargo freighters. The airline will lease some back as another step in reinventing its business model.

Reinventing Ourselves, by Rich Paschall

When I was much younger, perhaps late teens, and throughout my twenties, I used to like to go down to State Street, “That Great Street,” in Chicago. It was alive in much the same way as Time Square and Broadway in New York were. And yes, just like NYC, our downtown had a somewhat seedy period, but that came later.

“On State Street, that great street
I just want to say
They do things that they don’t do on Broadway, say…”

I particularly liked to go downtown in December to see all the Christmas decorations. Marshall Field’s, the giant department store, had Christmas windows filled with mechanical people, trains, cars, and all sorts of moving parts to marvel at. I was just like the children gathered around the windows to get a good look at the displays. Our fantasy world was mechanical back then. Today it is video, but I digress.

Marshall Field’s at Christmas.  Photo credit: Richie Diesterheft

There was a time when I would plan to do my Christmas shopping, sometimes all of it, on Christmas Eve. I could arrive at the Red Line subway stop right in front of the historic Chicago Theater and go first to Field’s. I might not buy anything there because it was the most expensive stop, but if you went downtown, you had to go there.

After the visit to Field’s and perhaps a purchase of Frango Mints, off I would go to Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, Goldblatt’s, JC Penny. By the time I got to the last of the giant department stores, I would buy everything else I may have needed. Then I could go right out to a subway stop at the other end of State Street and head home. It was a marvelous adventure and has always brought happy memories of downtown at Christmas.

The stores are gone now. Every single one of them is gone. Marshall Field’s is now Macy’s. They have kept the Marshall Field’s plaque outside the building below the famous clock, so as not to upset the locals. They also have Frango Mints. These are the only throwbacks to those days. Except for that one grand store, the department stores of State Street have all been replaced by other businesses or torn down.

Times changed. They did not. Instead of transforming themselves for the future, they waited for the past to come back. It didn’t. I saw these great stores disappear one by one. Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, and Goldblatt’s all had large stores in our neighborhood. When Sears had the motto “Sears Has Everything,” they really did. From washing machines to stoves to clothes, that was our favorite store. Gone.

It is the same with many businesses. As motivational speaker Simon Sinek likes to point out, these are not unprecedented times. Major shifts in business have come before. This one is just “more sudden, absolutely. More shocking, absolutely.”

He gives several good examples we all know are true. The internet changed business. Some companies are surviving now because they have changed the way they work. In Chicago during a period of lockdown, one small clothing shop gave virtual tours of the store and video displays of the clothes. When delivery and pickup were available, people could tour the store online, pick out and pay for what they wanted, and drive to the business, where an employee would come to the curb to hand them their purchases.

Restaurants are gone for good after being out of business for months. Others survived by reinventing themselves as online products. They found their way to Yelp and partnered with Grubhub, Door Dash, Uber Eats.  Reinvention saved them.

Sinek likes to note that Starbucks did not put the local coffee shops out of business. They offered a newer version, and the old-time shops refused to change. Why would I go to a shop with an old worn-out sofa and year-old magazines, when I could go to one with the latest newspapers, a variety of beverages, pastries, and sandwiches, and importantly for millennials, wifi?

I work for a major airline that is operating at 5 to 10 percent capacity on any given day. Most of its fleet is grounded. It has lost 20,000 people from its workforce. Facilities around the globe go unused. Business disruptions and government regulations eliminated many flight destinations.

The airline industry believed back in March that they could regain 90 percent of their pre-COVID business by December. Now the hope is 50 percent. As the novel coronavirus continues to surge in certain countries, the USA for example, so the hope to recover your business any time soon is fading.

In 2012 Air Canada had launched Rouge, a subsidiary to more effectively compete in the low-cost tourist/vacation travel industry. It was looking at other growth opportunities to serve the ever-growing luxury tourist trade. Their business model was built around these expanding travel markets. That dream has taken off as the last flight from the battleground.

So what is a passenger airline with no passengers to do? The Canadian government is not going to hand the airline billions of Canadian dollars to help it through to the time when business returns to “normal.” The new normal is right around the corner and it does not look like it did in January.

They have to reinvent themselves of course. The 767 Boeing aircraft are being retired early. Accelerating this process for an older part of the fleet only makes sense. They were not being used anyway. Some of the planes had the seats removed to put freight on top, but this is a stop-gap measure. The main deck has no cargo door so this is labor-intensive. Other planes fill the belly entirely for cargo runs, but the seats are not removed. Mail, e-commerce partnership, and cargo and business charter runs are added to the new business model.

What about underserved areas of Canada? The airline has entered into a drone partnership. The initial run was to indigenous people who live on an island. There are many far-flung communities that can be served through a combination airline, drone service.

Without adapting and changing, airlines will die. Some already have gone under while others stay afloat through government bailouts. There are those, including a prominent orange so-called politician, waiting for things to go back to the way they were. We have news for them. It is not going to happen.

ABSOLUTELY NO ABSOLUTE RIGHTS

What is right for all? Is it absolute freedom? As we hope to be finally seeing light at the end of the long Pandemic tunnel, we must still be reminded of the truth we started with. This commentary appeared last year on SERENDIPITY (teepee12.com).

Stay at Home, Save Lives, by Rich Paschall

While we accept the precept of “freedom of speech,” we also understand that it does not apply to everything in all situations. As you probably have heard often, we are not allowed to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is none. This could cause a stampede for the exits and put some people at risk of being hurt or killed in the panic.

Similarly, you can not shout out in a crowd that you see a gun when there is none. Due to the types of mass shootings, we have seen in recent years, we know that there could be a panic that could cause harm.

You are also forbidden to engage in the type of speech that would incite a riot. Hate speech in gatherings could, in turn, result in attacks either at a rally, let say, or following in the days to come. There may be a politician or two who have gotten away with this, but that’s another matter.

There are laws against slander and libel as the defamation they bring may cause harm to groups or individuals. While we see misinformation spread often on social media, doing so as a respected news source could bring danger to others. A well-known News network is being sued by a Washington State group for issuing false news in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Yes, the Constitution promised you freedom of speech, but that does not mean you can say whatever you like. Where there are dangerous consequences to what you say, you can be held liable for your remarks. Don’t you wish that also applied to Orange politicians, but I digress?

There is also “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” but it doesn’t mean you can gather a large group wherever you want. Try to form a parade down State Street (that great street) without a permit and see how far you get.  You can not take over a baseball diamond in a public park if another group holds a permit. You can not have the pavilion at the local forest preserve if another group holds a permit. In fact, we have many regulations regarding the assembly of large crowds. It is not uncommon to post limits of assembly, many by fire codes that are enforced by the local government.

It’s a free country, or is it?

You have probably heard of people who do not want to shelter at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. They insist it is a free country and they can do what they like. The government is not going to tell them what to do. They have their constitutional rights. But do they have such rights?

The Constitutionality of the restrictions we have described above has been tested in courts and upheld. Local and national governments not only have the right to impose such restrictions on the public, but they also have a duty to do so.

Scientific evidence has told us that the only way to “flatten the curve,” in other words lessen the spread of the virus, is to keep a “social distance.” This has caused many at the state and local levels to impose restrictions. Some do not want to abide.

You can find plenty of examples of people who did not want to social distance and observe the restrictions, who have died of the virus. They not only put themselves at risk, but they also put others at risk as well.  They do not have that right.

Social Contract

Many of the authors of The Constitution were certainly well aware of the philosophical writings of John Locke (The Second Treatise of Government), Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Du Contrat social). These works would have greatly influenced their thinking about forming a new national government. They knew that members of society must agree to give up certain rights for the good of society as a whole. It is a “contract” we have as a member of society, to act in a way that benefits all. It is the greatest good for the greatest number.

“That a man be willing, when others are so too (as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.” – Thomas Hobbes

In other words, we must do what is right for all. Those who think they can assemble as they please, including at religious services, are misinformed and violating the laws of nature, science, and the social contract. No one has the right to go out and spread the virus. They are not immune. They are not free to do as they like. Governors (Republicans all) who refuse to issue stay-at-home orders, or allow large exemptions (think Easter services), are not acting in the interest of the greatest good for the greatest number.

Let’s put it in a way that may drive the point home. There is a post going around social media that may illustrate the problem of some states practicing social distancing, and others ignoring the advice.  We must “ lay down this right to all things; and be contented” because it is the only reasonable course of action.

Sources: “Leviathan,” Thomas Hobbes, sparknotes.com
Washington State Group Is 1st to Sue Fox News for Calling Coronavirus a ‘Hoax’,” by ken Stone, timesofsandiego.com April 2, 2020.
The Social Contract,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, coursehero.com
Social Contract,” en.wikipedia.org

SENDING A LETTER HOME

This week on SERENDIPITY we talk about taking a look backward at your younger self. What advice would you give? Here is my look backward as crazy and uncomfortable as it may be. 

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

At 14

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends, and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt-ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girlfriends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  Well, I guess I am not certain about that, however.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest time in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photoshopping now but you will know that they did a great job of airbrushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the downtimes that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

See Also: “A Glance Backward,” Serendipity, teepee12.com Sunday, February 21, 2021.

BACKFIRE: THE BIG MISCALCULATION

We have now reached 4 and a half million known infections and over 155,000 dead from COVID-19 in the United States. In case you missed it last week on SERENDIPITY, here are the beginnings of the epic failure in leadership. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to teepee12.com for the rest of this article.

WHERE’S MY STUFF? – Marilyn Armstrong and Rich Paschall

In case you missed this one earlier in the week on SERENDIPITY, here is the link back to it. The supply chain has been disrupted in ways we could not imagine at the beginning of the year. Here are some thoughts and links to other articles. Be sure to click “view original post” at the bottom to head over to teepee12.com for the rest of the article.

STONEWALL UPRISING – Rich Paschall

There will be no Pride Parades this year, but for 50 years gays had taken to the streets, first in rebellion, then in celebration. Last year on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall we looked at the story of the Uprising. Be sure to click “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY for the rest of the story.