As I drove through my small town last night, I couldn't help but notice the changes that have taken place this year. My small town is a college town. The town caters to and is highly populated by college students during the semester. When driving through campus, one must be on the constant look out for jaywalkers and unassuming pedestrians carrying backpacks and listening to earpods. We "townies" often joke about the college students and their lack of ability to follow foot traffic rules. However, there is a noticeable absence of college students, foot traffic, and jaywalkers. Driving through campus is almost eerie.
Also noted are the endless For Rent signs lining the streets within walking distance of campus. Whole streets were decimated and multi-level apartment buildings erected to meet the off campus housing needs. These apartments that were once teeming with life and underage parties are now dark and quiet. Not only are the apartments barren but the businesses surrounding these temporary dens of fraternizing and knowledge seeking Gen-Z's are dark and empty as well. Mind you, many of these consisted of tattoo parlors, vape stores, laundry mats, pizza shops, and beer outlets; but they were once thriving businesses now gone dark.
I have had troubling conversations with faculty and staff who are facing lay-offs or termination from the college due to low enrollment rates, no face to face classes or the closing of entire departments. Which led me to wonder what will happen to my small town and its colorful and diverse population if the college fails. I believe we are only now beginning to grasp the serious financial troubles that this pandemic has caused for many of our friends, neighbors, and small business owners. The Bibbed Wonder and I were talking last night and the word I have been grappling for to describe what is happening finally came to me: restructuring.
I believe we are/will witness a restructuring of society. I believe there will be a restructuring of how we do business. Many businesses have to be aware that their employees are just as capable, efficient, and productive working from home as they are in an office building. There will be no need for inflated overhead such as insurance, mortgages/rent, or utilities. Many business models had moved away from or were in the process of moving away from face to face interaction. This has just expedited the change. If there is no longer a need for office buildings, this is going to change the scenary of many of our towns and cities. There will also be a rippling effect on businesses that rely on businesses. From insurance to janitorial supplies, the chain of supply and demand will be interrupted.
We could also see a restructuring of our traditional education system. Districts and teachers are forced to think outside the box, to be creative, and innovative to meet the needs of the student population. Personally, we opted to utilize our local districts cyber academy option and it is going really well. Part of this is due to The Bean's driven and self-motivated personality, part is due to the support of her teachers, and part is due to the fact that we, as her parents, put a strong emphasis on the importance of education. For us, it is a cocktail for success. However, this will not be the case for all students and families and that will have to be addressed. However, I do believe change is imminent.
If I allow my mind to wander too far on the effects this year could have, fear sets in because change can be uncomfortable. I wonder if my grandparents felt this way about automobiles, industry, and education. My grandparents remembered their families first automobile and the changes it brought to their family, neighbors, and towns. My grandparents also remembered the effects mining, farming, and manufacturing had on their small towns. They also remember the the changes brought on by the failures of said industries. Lastly, my grandparents remember one room school houses in their small communities. They also remember the building of the now elementary schools and high schools. They remembered their children having to be bussed to big, new schools, miles from the comfort zone of their small communities. They also remember the quiet closing of their small communities. The closing of the local grocer, drug store, dry cleaner, hardware, and bank. They had to adjust to driving into "the big town" for their daily needs. I wonder if my grandparents felt a sense of panic and uncertainty when these changes took place. I wish my grandparents were here to share their thoughts and experiences. Perhaps it would put things in perspective for us all.
What I do know is my grandparents survived. They not only survived, they thrived and led good productive lives. I know that things weren't always easy for them or their families...my family. However, human beings are resilient. I am confident whatever the future holds, we will all be okay in the end. Actually, I believe we will all be better than okay. Like those who came before us, we too will continue to live and thrive.
As always dear reader, stay safe, stay smart, embrace, live, thrive, and of course, wash your hands really well for twenty seconds, with hot water and hopefully, a good goat's milk soap.