The new normal, same as the old normal
(because nothing is normal)


Well right there, that’s not true. Everything can be normal, depending on the perspective of the people and situations we’re considering. But… still… ok…

Some friends have reached out to me in recent days about a few comments I’ve made in recent efforts around my web site. They’re not saying I’m wrong. Not saying I’m right. Just want to know if they’re interpreting a few different ideas correctly. If so, then how I can say there never was a normal while at the same time offering thoughts that eventually we will once again find consistency and comfort in the everyday by applying differences that aren’t necessarily new.

(I know, I agree, it’s kind of a thinker. But essentially, they’ve decided I’ve said normal doesn’t exist, and yet everyone is looking for normal to return. And the answer is… yes… no… both… but mostly, sort of. Let’s take a bit of a meander about…)

Roughly ten years ago, a friend spotted me walking down a hallway, shouted out to get my attention and rushed over. He wanted to know why I wasn’t responding to his messages. I asked him what messages he meant. He replied his text messages. Said he had sent several and that I never returned any of them. I explained that I didn’t have a phone that received or sent text messages.

Back when I graduated from high school, no one had an e-mail address. And while actually, there likely were such things as electronically sent mail in those days (or at least similar enough to be considered the same concept), the idea I’m trying to convey is that e-mail wasn’t something the vast majority of people had even a vague sense of awareness about.

Today, smart phones and tablets and more are standards of doing business. You can order food and pay bills using an app, watch television on a streaming service, browse the web… the list goes on, all with a phone.

Developments, advancements, seismic shifts and whatever you care to consider are created, developed and implemented by all sorts of things. Imagination. Genius. Necessity.

Your grandparents and parents never would have guessed when they were children that a wireless phone would not only be portable, affordable, and easily available… and they certainly wouldn’t have guessed fifty years ago that such a phone would also serve as a camera, encyclopedia, wallet, and all-encompassing entertainment platform. (In color. And maybe stereo. (Never mind. Stereo idea is far from important.))

(Let’s move those thoughts to the side. Next step…)

Depending on where you are in the United States, a soda might casually be referred to as a soda, pop, coke, tonic, soft drink…

Depending on where you are in the United States, a sandwich made on a sub roll might casually be referred to as a sub, hoagie, grinder, hero…

Just two examples, but those are all regular, average, routinely used and normal terms.

(To the side. Next…)

How does your day move along from beginning to end?

Do you sleep when it’s dark out on most days because you work when the sun is out? Do you work overnight and sleep during the day?

What time do you eat breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?

If you’re employed, could you perform your job from home? Do you work from home? What is your work week schedule? What are your days off?

(Next. But this time, let’s see about uniting some of this stuff…)

For the sake of brevity, I’m simplifying in this essay. A lot. But I’d like to think that for you there’s already a lit bulb hanging in the air and a ding-ding-ding bell of realization sounding in the distance. You’ve sort of figured out what I mean when I say normal isn’t normal.

For all of us, normal is different.

The way I lived my life growing up in New England, we’ll say about forty years ago, is tremendously different than the way a person of similar age today is growing up in in the southwest of the United States.

Every potential aspect of that normal definition in some way matters in a comparison. Growing up, I was restricted by the length of a phone cord. Heck, I was restricted by only having one phone in the house. Televisions were still available for purchase as black and white models in significant numbers.

(This is worth a funny step aside for a moment. Articles discussing the disappearance of black and white televisions for sale date around 1992 and 1993 depending on the method you use and wording you search. Two reports I found said Sears used its last black and white model as a deal to get people into stores. Ready for this? The sources I had said it was sold in 1990 and the deal was $79. And, you may want to sit down, because in the quest for normal…)

It appears that at least one company may still be manufacturing black and white televisions. And, I saw a source crediting the BBC as saying approximately 7,000 people still watch television primarily in black and white. (I’m not wandering further down this road, but understand that the UK approaches television viewership in ways different than the US, so just from those two countries there are reasons why a person might elect to watch television in black and white in London that make no sense to someone from Chicago. Still… black and white television as a blanket topic… it’s considered a normal scenario for some homes.)

And so, yes, I think we have a clear grasp on the ides where using the term normal is effectively being presented not as normal, but rather as an equivalent for acceptable… practical… comfortable.

So, when I say we can’t go back to normal, I mean that because the reality is for most folks there is no way of balancing, equalizing or comparing normal for one to normal for another. Some folks don’t have cell phones. Some folks don’t understand when you order a pop. Some folks need child care… work weekends… and on and on.

So, when used, the term normal becomes a sweeping generalization and not a specific definition. A way for a television face to say “let’s get back to normal” and all of us hear that with a nod in agreement, even though your normal and my normal and the normal in Kansas and the normal in Montana and the normal in every home is different.

Which is why I say we want a return not to normal, but a return to what we’re comfortable with.

(And that brings us to the last stretch of this… the new normal on the way…)

Do you like cash? During those times when you read about security breakdowns for electronic transactions for this store or that bank, do you kind of feel happy you use cash?

Yeah… well… get ready for that new normal.

It’s been coming, you’ve been kicking and screaming as it approaches, and now people don’t want to handle money from everyone.

(Having worked in places where people pulled damp bills out of socks, or reacted to a price by reaching into the area of their bra right near the armpit, the understanding of why someone wouldn’t want to handle it is something I can only too readily relate with.)


Paying with a smartphone. A tap of a credit card. A swipe or insert or whatever of your debit card.

Yup. This amazing pandemic is sliding us from a time where places that only took cash were a bit of a novelty item into a new day where we might be headed to cash being used at all is a rarity. An extreme rarity, because some places will be trying not to take it.

And that’s where the phrase new normal comes into play the most strongly. Sure… we’ll see hand sanitizer dispensers far more frequently and prominently wherever we go… we’ll see more people wearing masks, even when restrictions requiring them are dropped… and you might start being more aware of your temperature in just a single day out of the house than you had been in the previous twenty-years combined.

But is that the new normal? I don’t think it is, even though I am not dismissing it as a reality. I’m just saying people will get back to restaurants, stores, movie theaters and more.

The new normal, for my argument, is the comfort involved. A transition. A movement into what we find as the way we do things.

Nothing is normal… mainly because to someone, every possibility is. And tomorrow, as we emerge again and return to our comforts, we’re going to find the experience is just a bit different than it was before.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at