A Nation Regresses To The Mean

A Nation Regresses To The Mean


Leonard Zwelling


In The New York Times Business section on January 2, Sarah Lyell writes a cogent piece about customer fury and meanness. Apparently, the country is at a boiling point and the place where the heat can be best measured is the intersection of service providers and the public.

In the many instances Lyell relates of rage in the supermarket, in the pharmacy or on an airplane, most of the recipients of the ire have become aware that what this is about is not what this is about. People are Covid exhausted, supply chain weary and masked out.

The primary cause of the anger is the virus which seems to have become everyone’s problem and nobody’s fault which is frankly ludicrous. It has to be somebody’s doing that got us here.

In a way, the January 6 assault on the Capitol is the greatest embodiment of pent-up rage. That big battle is playing out on a smaller scale in aisle six of the HEB, the covid test kit section of CVS, and the economy class section of any airplane flying a domestic route in the United States.

The world is on edge and that anger and meanness is being transferred actively to the faces of the large corporations (and small) that are trying to interact with the public calmly while keeping cheese in stock, Covid tests on the shelves, and equanimity on your next flight to Cleveland. That would be your local supermarket clerk, pharmacist, or flight attendant. Some of the recipients of the public’s rage have gained a deep understanding of where this is all coming from and can meet the anger with the needed equanimity. Others get into pitched battles with the customers that have resulted in people being banished from stores and escorted off airplanes never to be boarded again. Other members of the service sector are just walking away. They quit. The Great Resignation. Who can blame them?

As someone who is able to survive mainly outside this bubble of trouble, I found myself recently having to beg for a Covid test as the last car in line at a test site at five PM on a weekday. I got that test. I was negative. Then. Now? Who knows, but I feel alright and maybe that ought to be the metric for determining who needs a test as it is with the flu. With infectious diseases, we tend not to screen the asymptomatic, but rather prevent the disease with vaccines. A good plan for the Covid-endemic future.

As this blog has recently noted, the pandemic is shifting to being an endemic constant in our lives as is the flu and the common cold. We all may be destined to contract some form of Covid and it seems as the Omicron variant rages and supplants Delta, perhaps the infections will be less severe supposedly because the viral receptors for Omicron reside higher in the respiratory tract than the ones for the other variants. Thus, the lungs may be relatively spared and what was once a fatal pneumonic illness may become a post-nasal drip. We shall see.

Suffice it to say, this may be the time to either: have another beer, take another Xanax or simply increase your mindfulness when entering the realm of commerce or airports. We would do well reminding ourselves that we are not children (if we are not) and to realize that we are in and have been in a terrible era of nerve-wearing anxiety about yet another threat to human existence along with climate change and nuclear war.

We live in the age of anxiety and expectations of instant service (you know, like on amazon), but in reality we are still just humans trying to do our best and mostly falling short. Perhaps because I play golf, I am constantly reminded of my coming up short on a regular basis. No one has shot an 18 yet, let alone a 55.

Let’s make a pledge that in stores and on airplanes we will at least strive to acknowledge the effort of those who are trying to serve us and maybe even thank them at the end of any transaction.

Covid has made us crazy but it need not make us mean. But that’s up to us.

2 thoughts on “A Nation Regresses To The Mean”

  1. Your plea for civility is so needed!
    Anger and hostility are under our control, and to blame the Pandemic or anyone else is missing the point: each of us is expected by others to offer mutual respect and help. Otherwise, we exemplify a form of mean behavior that is unacceptable. Stress does cause disordered behaviors. But, mindfulness, discipline, and a kind heart go a long way to a more just and pleasant society.
    Each day, I try to do three things to move me beyond the craziness of the Pandemic: (1) help someone, (2) say a kind word to someone who is NOT expecting it, and (3) have a belly laugh with someone. Don’t worry so much! Be happier! Get you chin up in the air and off the floor.

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