Humans are creatures of habit.
Have you ever jumped in your car with the intention to go one way, but then turned the habitual direction for another destination, like your daily route to work?
When forced to change habits, humans quickly create new pathways in their brains. What was new soon becomes ingrained.
I live just off of Droubay Road.
Years ago when the Utah Department of Transportation had Tooele City’s Main Street all torn up, people had to find a new route to get in and out of town.
Many of those people found Droubay Road.
I watched as the traffic on Droubay visibly increased, especially near the morning and afternoon peak commuting hours.
After the work on Main Street was done, with a new everything, some people returned to their old route. Traffic on Droubay Road decreased, a little. but it never completely went back to the way it was before.
Some drivers apparently liked their new found route and despite the new pavement and fresh striped lines on Main Street, they kept to their new habit.
I wonder as I ponder about the day when the COVID-19 pandemic eventually subsides to the point that we get back to some kind of normal, what kind of permanent changes we might see in people’s behavior. And how these changes might affect our lives, society and economy.
Before COVID-19 was a part of our vocabulary, the retail industry was already experiencing a new trend. Online shopping was giving traditional brick and mortar stores and shopping centers a run for their money.
The convenience of shopping from home and waiting to have a package appear on your doorstep was becoming attractive to more people every year. Traditional retailers were getting in on the online shopping action. Even some grocery stores were offering pick up and delivery options.
With COVID-19 and its isolation and stay home directives, more people turned to online shopping as a way to stay home or a way to shop when traditional stores were closed or just out of stock.
When the COVID-19 cloud clears will people go back to real stores, or will they keep on shopping online? Has COVID-19 accelerated the shift from in-store to online shopping?
Does that mean a person that left a retail job at a store will need to find a job at Amazon or a Walmart online fulfillment center when it’s time to go back to work?
Even the nature of work has changed.
With encouragement from health officials, some employers started to allow their employees to work from home.
Employers that once were skeptical about workers really working at home have found that productivity did not decrease and in some instances it increased.
It seems that employees that aren’t stressed out from a long commute and are able to enjoy some time with family are happier and they get more work done.
That’s not to say some workers won’t be happy to leave home for a quiet cubicle.
Does working from home become part of the “new normal?”
Speaking of online shopping and online working, what about online school?
Now that teachers, students, and parents are familiar with online education, will we see it blended into the normal school experience?
And then there are restaurants.
Overnight every sit down restaurant and fast food place became either a drive thru, pickup, or delivery service.
Under our low risk guidelines, some restaurants are offering a dine-in experience, but it is much smaller than usual.
Now that I’m familiar with phoning in and then picking up my order. Once the full dine-in option is available, I may still, on occasion, choose the pickup route that I shunned earlier.
When I’m hungry but don’t want to cook or get dressed up to go out, I may try the pickup or car delivery. Restaurants may end up getting more money out of me with more options for service to choose from.
And what about personal hygiene. If we have all learned to cover our coughs, wash our hands, and stay home when we’re sick, what will happen to the flu?
I’m sorry, all I have done is ask questions.
But these are the new normal things that I ponder as I sit at the stop sign for Droubay Road waiting for traffic to clear so I can turn north and head to my favorite grocery store where I will pick out my own groceries while wearing my mask.