By Don Desrosiers, Tailwind Systems
Maybe this whole COVID thing is close to being behind us. Hopefully the lessons learned will stay with us for a lifetime. Whenever something monumental occurs, it is very important to gather some sort of lesson from it. Sometimes it can take a very long time, especially when a lot of healing needs to happen first. When 1,500 people died on the Titantic in 1912, it took a long time for people in that era to make sense of the tragedy. Similarly, COVID-19 has killed more than four million people at the time of this writing. Eventually, we will want to know how many people it has saved. On a more local level, COVID-19 has cost you a lot and there needs to be a lesson in there somewhere. Twenty years ago I published a piece about 9/11. Here is what I wrote then:
It’s difficult to talk about drycleaning today. As I write this, the country, and surely most of the world, mourns the deaths of thousands of people whose only mistake was simply to be in lower Manhattan on September 11th.
How sad it is to see the work of madmen change everything – everything from the skyline of the city I call the hub of the universe to air travel as we know it, to the loss of the feeling that such terror could never happen on our soil.
It is a real possibility that we lost some of our own during the tragedy. I have many clients in New York and I therefore feel certain I have personally laundered and pressed shirts of those who gave their lives for the betterment of our futures. It is always hard to understand how we can see any good come from something like this. But there is.
When the movie “Titanic” came out several years ago, I had a discussion with one of my sisters whose viewpoint was that there is simply no reason to make, much less pay to see, a movie like that. She saw its making and its popularity as the exploitation of the deaths of hundreds of poor souls. I considered her view seriously and, for a while, felt guilty for having been a Titanic buff for most of my life and for thoroughly enjoying the movie.
Can our sadness for the victims in New York ever end? Will we ever forget the devastation? Will it ever make sense? Will any good ever come out of it?
I am a New Englander who lives very near the city where this maniacal plan came to pass. Couple that with being a mere 200 miles from the devastation, I feel certain people that I know personally have died and I simply don’t know yet. My sadness for the victims may not have even begun. In at least some way, I don’t believe that it will ever go away.
Making Sense of Tragedy
The World Trade Center towers stood as symbols of the USA, as symbols of capitalism. I will never forget the countless times I flew my airplane west from my home airport to the White Plains, New York area on to the Tappan Zee Bridge that crosses the Hudson River. There I would drop to 1,000 feet above the river and follow it to the Manhattan skyline where, from an airplane one still needed to look up to see the tops of the twin towers. They stand no more, but the rubble they have now been reduced to symbolizes the evil and hatred in the hearts of the perpetrators. We will never forget the devastation.
The destruction in the hub of the universe is the epitome of senseless violence and will never make sense. How dare anyone, jealous or envious of our society, reduce it to rubble because they value different things!
The sinking of the Titanic has saved thousands more lives than it ever took. It was a wake up call unlike any other before it. It pioneered nearly all of the commonplace at-sea safety procedures and laws in effect today. We board a cruise ship with great confidence nearly a century later because of the ultimate sacrifice made by those who lived and died many years before us. This is also true for the fire at the Coconut Grove in Boston in 1942. There, 492 people gave their lives so we, as citizens of the United States in the 21st century, can have sensible fire prevention laws protect us in public buildings. The Coconut Grove nightclub lacked everything we consider normal and ordinary today, such as exit signs, emergency exit doors, and flame-proof lighting fixtures.
Sometimes we are annoyed by the procedures we must follow to get around and about town. Sometimes we wonder why we must check in and out of official buildings, or why guards use metal detectors on cruise ships or why we are frisked before entering a concert arena. We understand it a bit more when we want to visit the White House but we now know terrorists aren’t too fussy about who they murder. All these procedures are a direct result of what has happened in the past. I, for one, want more of these safety procedures as I long for the day when I once again feel safe in my country. I hope the next time I am annoyed by some sort of a delay, caused by some sort of a safety procedure, it is an annoyance because I think someone isn’t being thorough enough rather than because I am being inconvenienced for a few minutes. There are thousands of people who were in New York on that fateful day who would surely have traded away their fate for a few minutes of inconvenience. Let us ensure the price they paid is never forgotten.
It will surely be many decades before we look back at the new Day of Infamy as anything but intense evil. It will take an enormous about of pain before we overcome the anger we all feel today. When we do, I hope and pray we have learned a great deal. Let us hope the magnitude of the loss is proportional to the benefits we somehow extract from all of this, no matter how elusive those benefits appear today.
United We Stand
As businesspeople of the United States of America, it may seem gross to go about our business, but I urge to do so. Do it with a vengeance. Buy a new cleaning machine. Replace your old shirt unit. Splurge on a new POS. Invest in that spring-activated heated collar cone. Don’t let the terrorists win. They wish to destroy our way of life. Show them, decisively, they have failed. Going about our business is not disrespectful to the dead. It honors them. It is what they would have wanted.
God Bless America.
Here in 2021, COVID taught us we must be ready to re-invent ourselves at a moment’s notice. Many of us sat fat and happy for a long time thinking nothing could hurt us. The way we do business has changed dramatically during the past year and the transformation is far from over. Changes we would never have dared to try a couple of years ago like closing stores and working from home are now commonplace.
Many of us have read (and if you haven’t, read it today) Who Moved My Cheese. You know Hem and Haw hung around waiting for things to go back to the way they were. This is a fatal flaw and is hopefully the key thing COVID has taught us not to do. Business is dynamic. The world is dynamic. Everything can change permanently in an instant and – most important – things are not likely to change back to the way they were. They might change back better, they might change back worse, they might change back differently, but you need to be ready to adapt. It may not be a bad thing but you may make it bad if you fight it.
It may be 20 more years before we start to see anything good come out of COVID-19 but it will happen.
Don Desrosiers has been in the drycleaning and shirt laundering business since 1978. He is a workflow engineer and a management consultant who provides serves to shirt launderers and drycleaners in the United States, Mexico, and western Europe through Tailwind Systems. He is a member of the Society of Professional Consultants and the 2001 recipient of DLI’s Commitment to Professionalism Award. He can be reached at 186 Narrow Avenue, Westport, MA 02790 or at his office by fax (508) 636-8839; by cell (508) 965-3163; or e-mail at email@example.com. He has a website at www.tailwindsystems.com.