A lot of people in our country have spent many years wishing they were living in 1950-1970. Good times. Good music. Good friends doing fun things. They want all that. Again.
The other day at the grocery store, I heard a woman say to the checker, “I’ll be so glad when this virus thing is over and we can get back to normal.” “Normal?” She said “Normal.”
I guess, to her, she meant as life was last February. Or March. Or 1963. “Normal?”
The same word - normal - seems to be what those armed protesters wanted when they stormed a couple of statehouses the other day. “Open up.” “Give us back our freedom.” “Open the bars and restaurants.” “I need a haircut.” “Open it all up so we can get back to ‘normal’.”
Well, let’s see what a piece of our future “normal” will look like after whenever COVID-19 and Trump are no longer threats to our lives. Let’s take just one example: airlines.
There’s a little desert town a few miles from us: Marana, Arizona. You’ve probably never been to Marana, Arizona. But, if you go one day, several miles Northwest of Marana, you’ll find Pima Airpark. It’s got a very long runway, but no control tower. No navigation system. No landing lights. Daylight flying only. A small building for a few workers. Private.
Now, look at the picture above. That’s most of Pima Airpark. Note the little white things. It’s a picture of mostly commercial airplanes and a few, smaller regional aircraft. Jet aircraft. All of ‘em.
They’re being “mothballed.” They’ve been cleaned out inside. Anything that would deteriorate by heat or direct sun has been removed and all windows have been covered by some sort of film. They’re all but abandoned. Asleep.
I count 70. But, the picture is a month old so there’s probably more sitting there now in the same condition. Abandoned. Asleep.
Some belong to United Airlines. Despite being paid several billion dollars in bailout tax dollars last month, United has told employees the company will cut 30% of staff and equipment in October. You see, the bailout had a clause that said United had to keep the present employees for six months. October is the sixth month. Then, CUT.
I don’t know what new work an unemployed flight attendant can find. Same for all the pilots suddenly dumped on the market. But, it doesn’t stop there. Every airline in the country is doing the same. Cutting employees and “mothballing” or outright selling planes to whoever wants one. Or more. At reduced - greatly reduced - prices.
Besides Pima Airpark, there are at least a dozen more just like it in Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada and Southern California. All of ‘em - all - are getting planes to park. Spokesmen for the airline industry verify the numbers and, further, predict no airline will ever return to the size, either in equipment or employees, as they were prior to COVID-19. Additionally, many - many - commercial flight routes will be cut.
Now, how many more airline companies are going through the same downsizing at the moment? And how many sub-contract companies? General Electric, maker of jet engines - and all their suppliers - are laying off. Nobody’s buying jet engines. How about those flight meal providers who will either cut back or close? And the other companies that do regular major FAA-required overhauls of commercial jets in this country and abroad. Thousands of jobs worldwide in just that one support industry.
And, we’re just talking commercial airlines here. What about cruise ship companies and the thousands of businesses that provide the necessary support? Where do a few hundred unemployed first mates or pursers go looking for a job?
You can multiply all this downsizing - and resulting staff reductions - by as many career fields as you can think of. And by any industry/service companies. Whatever your eventual answer, it’ll be anything but “normal” out there. And it’ll be bad in many ways. We already have 35-million out-of-work. How many more coming?
I’ve never been good at predicting the future. But, I can tell you this. Anyone - anyone - who thinks we’re going to see a return of whatever their version of “normal” may be is going to be disappointed.
Life as we remember it - even January or February of this year - that life is gone. Something new awaits. In just about everything.
Between the pandemic and Donald J. Trump, it’s going to be very different. The next eight months - and some years beyond that - will bring great changes. Upheavals, if you will. Governance, industry, science, commercial business, travel, health care, education, society in general - all will not look like we’re used to.
What will our new “normals” look like? How will our lives be different? How far from 1950-1970 will we be?
Will those commercial jets mothballed at Pima Airpark ever fly again? None of us know.
But, here comes our new “normal.”