The Norm

Say it with me…


Every episode of Cheers, Norm walked in and was greeted by the gang. It’s what he did everyday, come to the bar to have a beer and shoot the shit. Norm would hate COVID!

The thing about COVID is that the best way to move past the emotional and social difficulties it causes, sitting at home during the summer, school closings, no bars or restaurants, limited gatherings, no graduations or proms, and a lack of rubbing alcohol… of ALL things rubbing alcohol, is to get used to the premise that there will no longer be a norm as we knew it. A new normal will the established, as the transmission rates and death toll this virus has claimed has barred Americans from traveling to most countries in the world, closed businesses for good, and left a nation of millions wondering where we go from here. Well I can tell you what, it won’t look like anything we’ve seen since Europeans arrived to the “New World”… This my friends is the real New World without the pillaging and stealing and lies. The only Christopher we acknowledge is Wallace.

“It’s unbelievable…”

As of today the most similar pandemic to COVID is the Spanish flu which was a deadly strain of influenza. It killed over 20-50 million globally and over 600,000 in the US from 1918-1919. Businesses shut down, schools closed, people were asked to stay home, the government issued living and food subsidies, folks had to wear masks and limit gatherings. No vaccine was ever found but eventually through death or immunity the spread stopped in 1919. Strict adherence to guidelines helped mitigate more transmission and death. I’ll repeat STRICT adherence to guidelines helped mitigate transmissions. But we are hardheaded and wanna complain about masks… MJ wore a mask just walking down the street, you can too! Certainly you don’t think you are better than the King of Pop! But whatever…

So as we enter what I think will be the second wave, we need to start wrapping our pretty little heads around this if we want a birthday party in 2021. And as much as I love leggings, I got dresses that require mimosas, girlfriends, and fancy brioche French toast. So we have to start envisioning what changes might be forever factors. Like tuberculosis outbreaks changed the way we interact… personal space became a real issue and germaphobes were born… this will change how we go about the world.

Sure, restaurants will reopen, but likely with stricter requirements for cleaning, especially things like flatware and glassware that people reuse. Kids will go back to school, but perhaps with some online requirements, smaller classes, shorter days over time to allow for proper disinfecting and just less time spent in crowded rooms. Many jobs will become primarily work from home, which was something that was already happening, and likely the easiest transition we faced during COVID. More on that in a sec. Places may install hand sanitizing or hand washing stations. Some people with certain immunodeficiencies will wear masks and other protective gear when they leave the home. People will utilize food and grocery delivery much more often, so much so the milk and vegetable trucks of old may resurface. People will limit their physical interaction and proximity to strangers.

On a larger scale I think some really very complex changes will happen.

1. America’s position globally will look much different, as we have the highest cases and likely the worse policy on how to mitigate this pandemic. We are banned from most countries y’all… Americans!!! That’s wild AF!

2. In terms of national security, doctors, researchers, teachers, front lines workers will join the ranks of military and elected officials as imperative to our safety as a nation… and hopefully ensure all are paid a wage commensurate with their job responsibilities.

3. An increase in community versus individualism, as this pandemic literally puts all of us at the mercy of the people we share space with… neighbors, co-workers, teachers, etc.

4. Heightened respect for education and experience. Two words: Dr. Fauci. Google has made everyone an armchair expert. Nope and more nope. While Fauci hasn’t been perfect under the pressure of the administration, his expertise had highlighted how important it is to receive specialized information from specialized sources. Leave the politics to the politicians… and that’s it.

5. A huge change in how we use digital and online platforms. As we have meetings and parties in Zoom, online seminars and classes, CGI based fashion shows, Instagram concerts, telehealth doctors appointments, etc. increased access to the internet will be needed as there will surely be increased usage. I believe the way our digital lives will change will be the greatest impact of COVID. It will change how we stay healthy, communicate, work, socialize, party, share information, and share our lives.

6. Less differentiation between home and work life. As we work more from home, work hours mesh with home and family time. On average people teleworking work longer hours and later into the day. This lack of boundaries between home and work life will need to be managed to ensure we are giving as much time and energy to our families as our coworkers.

7. Lastly I don’t think government will ever be the same. The need for some universally provided healthcare is at an all time high, including mandates about pharmaceuticals and companies that research and create testing. The unequal availability of testing was one huge failure and to ensure these issues never happen again, some Central agency will need to coordinate such activities moving forward. Additionally, with the need for big government we’ll likely see a lot of economic changes in the horizon to ensure people are financially able to afford the basic necessities and become productive in the economy. These changes will likely be met without much dissension as surely overtime a new trust in government will come as these necessary changes take place.

Not worse, just different.

And you’ll establish a new set of physical and social patterns, and yes… clink glasses again with the brunch ladies or the game time fellas… your new norm!

“All we wanna know is where the party at?”

Petty in a Time of Chaos

First of all, just let me start with this fact. COVID-19 has created a mental and emotional block on many of us who rely on our creativity to destress, live, feed our families, etc. Now lucky for you, you currently get this brilliant content (I’m sitting down and I’m humble, but I’m definitely smelling the yams) for free. However, it’s really not free. It requires you to think, take out a moment of your time to indulge me, and to consider some things or a perspective you might not otherwise have considered. So I thank you for that. The stress and uncertainty that has flooded us has also watered down our creative color. But like Van Gogh, we have to learn to paint in all mediums.

So, in my time sheltering in place, of course, I have needed food when I’ve got a man and a teenage boy, both 6’3″ and over 240lbs, sheltering in place in my house. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much meat consumed and they drink so much juice we need stock in Ocean Spray and Tropicana. I have needed toilet paper once as well, so I have hit up Meijer, Target, and Dollar General once or twice a piece during this six weeks.

Three Things: People do not know what six feet means. People are ignorant. People are pushing some of us to petty.

Okay so first off, I have had to verbally check people about giving me space. I don’t care if you aren’t coughing. I don’t care if you washed your hands. I don’t really care if I know you. If you are not quarantined in my house, Imma need six feet at all times. But people are ignorant and craving petty… so here we go.

Now I don’t do unkempt. Generally, I’m a wash my face, brush my teeth , curl my hair, jeans and sneakers girl. I need some earrings, perfume, and lip balm on and I’m good. But I refuse to look like I have been rolling around in a wrestling match with loneliness and regret. I will not be out here raggedy… nope. They make YouTube videos on how to do everything, figure it out. So when I’m called out for having my hair done in the store line, I released the petty. Yes, I talked through a face mask, my glasses were foggy, I had on rubber gloves, and the cashier was behind plexiglass… but the times call for petty in a time of chaos. I let miss thing with her Frederick Douglas bob know I’d gladly curse her out and the location of the hair care products available for purchase, but to start she HAD to move back six whole feet. They had it marked for her, just stand on it. X marks the spot where I might not throw this shoe at you a la Dr Mattie Moss Clark… get it right, or get out… of line. Oh and who gon check me boo… I invested in flatirons and paid attention while holding my ear at the stove. Invest in you.

On another such occasion I am picking apples off the apple display. This woman walks up, says hello, and proceeds to stand so close to me I could smell what reminded me of Afro Sheen and feel her elbow brush my arm. I had an out of body, and jumped from standing like I was long jumping, about four feet away. She looked at me perplexed, and before I could catch myself to react a bit better…

Me: CDC says six feet not six millimeters.

She laughed: Oh it’s man made, I don’t believe that stuff.

Me: I can pull up pictures of dead people that were walking upright a week or two weeks ago. I don’t care what you believe. You believed that bare feet and flip flops were a good footwear choice in thirty degree weather.

Random Man: I like you, you married?

See… foolishness is at an all time high.

I have seen folks eating with gloves on… think on that for a second. People pull money out of the underwear that covers their ass … don’t think about or do that EVER. Ten fools on a little tight ass porch like clowns in a clown car…wait there’s another one… eleven fools on a porch! You are eating COVID, handing folks COVID, and puff puff passing COVID. Stop it. More than that, you are driving those of us who are some combination of real, witty, and uninterested in your foolishness deeper and deeper into petty ways. We’d like to spread some info and tell a joke or two during this madness, but that’s morphing into the Grandest of Petty because of people who cannot follow basic directions.

Moreover… we don’t care where it came from, not right now. It’s like saying HIV was manmade. Who cares… wear a condom and don’t use used needles, and you won’t get it. So regardless of the plan to kill folks with it, because it’s a virus and does viral things, it can be controlled through reduction of transmission. Gimme six feet. In fact, gimme ten and keep your mouth shut… your throat will stay moist, you are less likely to cough, and therefore more likely to make it out alive. Folks are wild out here. Fear will do that. Foolishness, however, accomplishes nothing… it just increases the likelihood that you’ll get quarantine cursed out by pushing me towards petty.

It takes a nation of millions… be in that number that helps the cause, not hurts it. Besides, the less we take heed of the recommendations from researchers, doctors, experts in epidemics and pandemics, the more likely we’ll be dude in Van Goghs “The Hague with the New Church”…

…walking around liberated, but alone.

COVID-19 is Public Enemy #1… so be clear of your target. Shut it down, and backup … cuz you can get slapped up … by petty.

Can We Talk

Hello, this is Coffee Talk

And I’m your host Karyn DeShields.

So listen, in Michigan and Louisiana, the number of Black people diagnosed with COVID-19 is wildly disproportionate to our population. We represent 40% of all Michigan cases, with over 7,000 cases in Wayne County, where my hometown of Detroit is situated. 70% of Louisiana cases with 4,000 in Orleans county where New Orleans is located. So folks are popping off about how Black people are responding and not complying with government orders. But there is a lot of background there.

Black people have a storied history in America. You know it, I won’t go into it from Jamestown to today… but our relationship with the government is weakened by our VERY REAL experiences. The government told us we were free people after the Civil War… the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1963, yet it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston, Texas, bringing news to the town that the Civil War had ended and that all slaves were free. I could go on and on. But let’s not act like because the government or its figure heads say something that it’s gospel, truthful, or humane. Just a few months ago the COVID virus was similar to the flu; the numbers would go down in April because it’s warmer; and anyone who needed a test could get it. All lies. We are told if we obey the law and are law abiding we will be protected by police, yet Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland.

So we, meaning Black People, have to fix the messaging and re-deliver it.

Here’s the rub. If a Black man in a hoodie is a thug, a Black man in a red or blue bandana tied around his face may be seen as a gang member… that’s not far off. If a Black man driving is a threat, then a Black man in a face mask who you cannot identify, looks like a thief and might be considered one. Do we really believe that these brothas want to mask up or trust the repercussions of being out in public looking like a ninja assassin… hell naw. “Mask on. Fuck it, mask off!” But a mask strapped around your face is much better than a ventilator strapped around your face. So it’s necessary… but we should understand why it might not particularly be trusted.

As far as staying inside. No one should be having basketball games, parties, BBQs, none of that. But again, many people in the Black community work in the service industry, a lot of whose jobs are considered essential. We have to grocery shop. We should be taking walks and staying active. Some of us can’t afford to put two weeks worth of groceries in the house at one time. Others of us need to take public transportation to get to our destinations. Still very many of us were still attending events (social, professional, community) well into March, because no national plan of action was put into place by the Pandemic Response Team… cuz your President got rid of them to give his son-in-law a job. A lot of Black people who are middle class belong to social, cultural, community-based, and professional groups for support and networking not available to us otherwise. Those events were likely hotbeds for spreading the virus. You have to understand who and why we are FIRST, before you judge. We have to not lose sight of who and why we are to remember why we might be a little less willing to blindly obey government.

So let’s share our very real experiences with COVID-19, so people are aware of how real, prevalent, and important it is to follow CDC recommendations. Let’s dispel rumors and misinformation. Let’s share how we are staying healthy, boosting our immunity, staying active, staying positive, keeping our spaces disinfected, and washing our hands. There are many people making masks, I know a few myself. Wearing one glove to grasp door handles and touch high traffic surfaces while you are out is smart. Cleaning your home, washing your hands immediately when you enter your home, using Lysol on items from outdoors, and just overall heeding the dangers and transmission of this virus is smart. But we must also be understanding and compassionate.

This is unlike anything any of us have experienced. Or children are out of school, many of us are working from home or not working at all, it’s stressful, it’s weird AF, and it’s real life. It represents the beginning of the rest of our lives, as things will never be the same. Let’s help each other embrace our current norms and focus on being healthy enough to adjust to our new normal when this pandemic is over.

Now talk amongst yourselves…