I think a perfect analogy for the year 2020 would be taking a cruise during hurricane season on a COVID-infested ship named The Murder Hornet. To say that 2020 was memorable is a gross understatement. Similar to past generations with the Kennedy assassination and 9/11, everyone will have detailed stories about where they were and what they were doing in the year 2020. Here is a quick playlist of the sheer insanity of the past 10 months:
- Most precious commodity – Toilet Paper
- Least precious commodity – Oil (actually went to negative value and suppliers were paying their customers to take it)
- Zoom software is worth more than the top 7 airlines combined
- Most watched TV show – Tiger King
- Biggest box office movie – what’s a box office?
- Most popular phrases – We’re All in This Together, Wear Your Mask, Flatten the Curve, Stay Home, and Vote
Along with the nonsensical, we also experienced the horrible. The global pandemic has already taken over a MILLION lives and COVID-19 has infected more than 75 million people. Every person on this planet has been affected by the virus in some way or another. We also had wildfires that consumed lives and land in the U.S. and Australia; human rights protests across the globe, including every major city in the U.S.; and unemployment rates were the highest they’ve ever been in history.
But amid the horrors of 2020, we also saw the beauty of mankind. Healthcare and front-line workers were finally honored as the HEROES that they are. Everyone reassessed what was really important in life and spending time with loved ones became a treasured priority. Helping nearby businesses by shopping small and tipping big are the new normal for our local economies.
As far as the water industry is concerned, 2020 kept chugging along despite the turmoil of the world around it. Construction was deemed “Essential” early on in the pandemic, so some pieces of the industry barely felt a blip. While everyone had to adjust to masks and social distancing and working from home, the municipalities, engineers, distributors and manufacturers in the water industry made the necessary adjustments to protect and enhance our most precious natural resource, water.
Municipal field workers still had to keep their water systems in working order, they just had to mask up when they were around fellow workers and end-users. The distributors had to change their daily interaction with customers by limiting the counter service and office visits and delivering products out in the yard. Manufacturers had to make adjustments to their production layouts and processes to keep their teams spread out and eliminate as many “fingerprints” as possible. Most engineers and architects moved all of their operations out of the offices and into their homes. And for sales guys like me, airplanes, hotel rooms and handshakes were completely eliminated. Our interaction with customers is now completely dependent on technology and creativity, as Zoom calls and webinars have replaced the in-person sales call. Things may loosen up a bit in 2021 with “essential” travel added to the list, but video conferencing and webinar training are here to stay. As much as I miss visiting you in your office, seeing you on my laptop screen wearing sweatpants will have to suffice for now.
As 2020 winds to a close and reports of vaccines and cures are visible on the horizon, there is bright hope for 2021 and beyond. All of our lives were significantly changed over the past 10 months, and it’s important to keep up the good habits we’ve adopted and forget about the bad habits we eliminated. Be sure to give a heart-felt fist bump to the next health care worker you see, and for Pete’s sake, stop hoarding the toilet paper.