business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, in my Monday Eye Opener, I took note of a Fox News report on the case of a Cape Cod ice cream parlor where, after the owner reopened it following a pandemic-oriented shutdown mandated by local regulations, he closed it down after one day.

The reason:  customers who "grew frustrated with having to wait longer for their ice cream" because of lines "took their anger out on his staff," including a 17-year-old girl.

I commented:

I'm not surprised by this, sad to say.  People can be idiots.  People can be so obsessed with what they want and what makes them look and feel good that they forget about other people's feelings.  Sometimes this manifests itself with ignoring sensible regulations designed to protect the public health, sometimes it looks like people saying that public health officials are fascists when they try to do their jobs, and sometimes it sounds like people who should know better foisting verbal abuse on a teenager who is a grocery checkout person or a clerk in an ice cream parlor.

Stupidity reigns.  Narcissism persists.  And the fabric of what is supposed to make us an advanced, sophisticated and compassionate society continues to unravel, little by little.  At what point will there be no fabric left?

I find myself wondering if the real virus that infects us is not the coronavirus, but rather incivility, intemperance and self-absorption that has been revealed by current circumstances.

I find myself thinking of the words of Thomas Wolfe, in "You Can't Go Home Again"…

"I think the enemy is here before us with a thousand faces, but I think we know that all his faces wear one mask. I think the enemy is single selfishness and compulsive greed. I think the enemy is blind, but has the brutal power of his blind grab. I do not think the enemy was born yesterday, or that he grew to manhood forty years ago, or that he suffered sickness and collapse in 1929, or that we began without the enemy, and that our vision faltered, that we lost the way, and suddenly were in his camp. I think the enemy is old as Time, and evil as Hell, and that he has been here with us from the beginning."

The enemy is within … our own worst instincts and compulsions, in which we put ourselves first, and think our right to have an ice cream cone right now, no matter what, is somehow the most important thing and a test of what we think of as being our freedom.

What an Eye-Opener this virus turns out to be.

One MNB reader responded:

Would love to see  commentary be more centered  instead of always very left leaning - example of your ice cream story - where is your question on the additional stupidity of some of the lock down orders and their inconsistency and hypocrisy - it was all questions slanted the other way.

I didn't think that this was a left-leaning commentary.  I thought I was coming down on stupidity and defending civility.

You are welcome to disagree with me.  In fact, I encourage it.  (To be honest, Mrs. Content Guy read that commentary and, I think it is fair to say, believed that sometimes I get way too comfortable on my high horse.  And told me so.)

I'm sure that when the history of the pandemic is written, we will find that health officials made lots of mistakes.  We'll find out that they did things they didn't need to do, and didn't do things they should've done.  But I believe with all my heart that all these doctors and nurses and health professionals and scientists are simply doing everything they can to protect people from getting sick and dying - that this is their primary agenda.  Have state governments, therefore, made some mistakes in how they've approached the pandemic?  Sure … but I don't believe maliciously.

And I'll repeat something that I said back at the beginning of this pandemic - that if things go better than expected, it will be because public officials went too far rather than did too little, and because  the media largely has focused on it relentlessly.

The good news is not everyone agreed with this fellow (and my wife):

You nailed it with your comments about civility. And, to top it off, a quote from “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

From another reader:

This is sad and unfortunately reminds me of my days as a cashier in a mid-size grocery chain.  I had a lady become upset with me when I gently explained that the cereal that she selected was not approved for her WIC voucher.  I handed her a pamphlet that listed the authorized cereals but she started throwing canned goods at me.  I had to duck and hide behind the register as she threw canned vegetables as hard as she could at me.  She finally stormed out of the store.  I broke out in hives from the stress.  I was 18 years old.  Later that evening, this same woman called the store asking to speak to a manager.  She told him that I threw canned goods at her!  All the other cashiers on duty that day (and the security cameras) confirmed that was not true.  I remember that was the day that I realized that there are some not-so-nice people in this world.  This was one of many incidents that helped me grow a thicker skin and develop advanced customer service skills.  I’m happy to hear that the ice cream shop owner stands behind his employees and won’t tolerate the abuse.  It reinforces that those not-so-nice people are the exceptions, not the rule.

On a related subject from another MNB reader:

The pandemic has not persuaded everyone to eat comfort food………

Both my wife and I are considered to be “essential personnel” in our respective jobs in Iowa, so we have been continuing to go to work each day and return directly home each evening.   Because I am married to a health professional, we aren’t even comfortable going to a drive-up window for food yet.   As a result, we have attempted to improve our eating habits now that both of us have given up eating fast food or at restaurants for lunch or dinner (and we carry our lunches to work) along with one of us cooking dinner each night.  In addition, we now grocery shop together once every couple of weeks (I did all the shopping previously) and I now find fewer examples of junk food in our refrigerator or pantry.  I’m hoping that our shopping changes along with our added walking at night might actually help us get into better shape, not worse.   We are exceptionally fortunate that both of us can cook and enjoy doing so.      

As a way for us to expand our culinary horizons (and stay out of grocery stores), we have subscribed to two different “food box” programs.   One program is run by a family with a large produce farming operation near the Mississippi River and the products they put into their boxes are only things that they grow themselves.  It reduces their distribution schedule down to an eight to ten week period from late summer to early fall, but the quality of the produce was excellent.   It caused us to be a little more adventurous as we would often find things in our weekly baskets we hadn’t eaten or prepared previously (we found out that we like kohlrabi!) and it gave us more sweet corn and seedless watermelon than we could eat, but we just gave the excess away to others.   We paid for the program in advance of the growing season and we will pick up our numbered bag during a four-hour window each week at a pop-up roadside stand set up in our community.  

The second program is based in a different nearby county with a higher percentage of free and reduced school lunches and has more food instability.   The program is run by a family who has opened a farm-to-table convenience store and cafe where they only sell products that are manufactured by other farm-to-table operations in Eastern Iowa.   The store has fresh and prepared meats, milk, cheese, eggs, and other seasonal products.   We got our first produce bag from them last week and for $20 we received bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, baking potatoes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and yellow onions.   They appear to be working with a local produce wholesaler to get most of their product, but the quality and quantities provided were outstanding.   We’ve been recommending their service to anyone who will listen to us, knowing that it you’re willing to be flexible in your eating and cooking practices, you can eat very well!

As we start thinking about new ways to adapt our lives to a post-pandemic world, it would not be a bad thing for programs such as these to capture more of a share of America’s stomachs. 

And, from MNB reader Janis Raye:

Adding a plug for the CSA! I usually subscribe to a CSA during the late winter, when our local farmer’s market isn’t operating and I’m desperate for some good local produce (greenhouse-grown as it may be here in Vermont at that time). So starting in March, I added to my weekly veggie share to get milk and some pantry items like bread and cheese. It’s been a great way to lessen my visits to the supermarket — now I only go to the supermarket when the fresh fruit in the house is getting low (can’t get that this time of year from the CSA). I could also get meat and chicken this way, but I prefer going direct to another farm for that, where there is a self-service “store” right next to the barn— about 10 freezers full of different cuts and varieties of meat and chicken — you pick out what you want and leave the money in a box. No human contact at all! One of the many things I love about Vermont!