The Anatomy of a Tragedy
It was just the beginning of the pandemic. The media spin on it was all over the place. Everyone had an opinion but everyone in a way was just clueless. I personally was convinced that it would over by the Fourth of July. I reasoned then that our planet has faced numerous challenges throughout history and there really isn’t anything we couldn’t overcome.
It is almost textbook order. Understand the threat, discover the cause. Create a fix, immunize society from a future recurrence.
Now we have missed a few beats I suppose. When I was in third grade planes were being hijacked to Cuba every month. They invented airport security and that issue was solved. Then again 911 taught us that those solved problems occasionally require a booster shot or updating operating protocols.
One morning in late February of 2020 I get a call from the manager of one of my limousine services on the East coast. He says Rich, “We are shutting down” I was stunned, I said I will work with you, let’s see ourselves through this.
I personally thought this guy was off the wall. I did not perceive pandemic chapter one as anything more than a small roadblock on the path of life. As different clients started acting or reacting differently, I realized nobody really had a plan. Many appeared scared. They lived comfortably in their luxurious cocoons but the foundations were starting to crack. Some inherited their companies from family and many lived in homes likewise handed down. Losing heirloom property to a social ill was personal. Financial self esteem is a real thing.
I learned a long time ago from watching the show “The Lottery Changed My Life.” It basically explained that working class people make poor millionaires and well off people can’t really function personally or professionally at the blue-collar level. We are all raised within specific comfort levels and make life decisions accordingly. One thing is for sure, the faster a company fell, the less they were prepared.
It sometimes appeared everyone shared the same accountant, I believe his name is “Slim Margin.” Sometimes I wondered if drivers and staff could read the fear in the demeanor of owners and gently exploit it.
That statement may sound crass, but an old wise man once told me at the beginning of Uber that one must be prepared for anything. I tried to explain that this was groundbreaking technology and one cannot possibly see it coming. He tells me to YouTube “Danny DeVito Buggy whips.”
I get it, I got it. I think a lot of operators have a different view of the future. Firstly, we all now know we can do much more with less. What if everything returned to normal tomorrow I can certainly expect most companies to maintain the simpler slimmed down versions of themselves. But most importantly as part of one’s operating style and overall structure we must remember the most important thing. There is no doubt that this was not the last tragedy to befall us.
Luckily, the Government had EIDL and PPP programs which, although certainly helped, I think did equal damage because once again people we’re wading in uncharted waters.
It reminded me of a story about a friend of a friend who was waiting for his big bailout. He knew it was coming. His papers were in order, his program was clean and he was tentatively approved though each step.
He would have these intense pow-wows with his wife and manager trying to decide how to disburse the funds. This went on for weeks, perhaps some personal, some business, put it in the house, the bank, just going round and round. Finally, the money arrived and him and his wife both got new dental implants.
I love a happy ending.