The coronavirus has become, in very short order, the compelling story of the year, a year in which the upcoming presidential election until recently threatened or promised to drown out every other story.
Simply put, America, and the rest of the world, doesn’t know how to respond, or indeed if any response is either adequate or necessary. What’s the worst that could happen? That’s the question many optimists are asking. Things couldn’t get much worse, is the prevalent answer.
Meanwhile, events big and small are getting canceled, postponed or delayed. Tennis tournaments, basketball contests, hula hoop competitions — all have been unceremoniously given the heave-ho. Indeed, contests and competitions we’d never before heard of have suddenly been thrust onto the front pages of daily newspapers and the leading items of highly TV newscasts. “I hadn’t intended to go to that event,” has become the all-too-typical reaction. “After all, I’d never gone before. But now I’m thinking that perhaps I should have gone.”
In the end, we are, as a country and a planet, lost. Do we breathe, or wash or wash down the bannister? Do we stay at home or go out and party? Do we shake hands and come out fighting? Or do we turn on the television and hope dumbly for the best?
None of this is meant to demean our indecisiveness or inaction. If our leaders don’t know, yet pretend to have the answers, what are we to say or do or think or hypothesize? Yet inaction only forestalls the inevitable. The peak industry meeting season is fast approaching. Many of us have even now blocked out our calendars, bought four airplane tickets, booked our hotels, even planned some post-event holiday time. Should we jump the all-but-inevitable gun and cancel, taking our losses even before official announcements have gone out? Or should we hope for the best, knowing that the best will ultimately be the worst?
The intent here is not to argue pro or con. The editors of the most pertinent retail business papers in America have no more of an idea of what the future may hold than the people who get handsomely paid to furnish such notions. And after all, what’s the worst that could happen? The retailing globe will continue to spin on its axis even if the convention season comes and goes without a convention. Would we be better off? Not at all. Conventions and similar gatherings are what keeps the retailing community on its axis. Would we be worse off? Of course. Industry meetings are where we meet people, where we become friends, where we do deals, where we conjure up plans that, while theoretically helping the customer, usually benefit us as well.
So in the end, the best advice anyone can give is this: Follow instructions. Wash your hands but not your face. Indeed, don’t even dare touch your face (a neat trick, by the way). Stay indoors unless you have to go outdoors. Don’t use the subway — unless you need it to get to the office (unless the office has been temporarily closed). Don’t frequent restaurants, unless the food or the company is too compelling to pass up. And don’t do everything your friends or business colleagues are doing simply because you’ve always done everything your friends and colleagues have done.
Is that all clear? If so, you’re already ahead of the game. And, above all, remember this: If winter comes, can spring be far behind? Of course not. Especially if it’s already March. So try to enjoy the coming spring. And if you are unlucky enough to catch this virus, remember, in eight out of 10 cases, you’ll probably survive. Unless …