This time it’s different…

History doesn’t repeat. Sometimes it doesn’t even rhyme. There are, however, in my estimation, any number of trends we see again and again. Often, though, those trends flow across such long sweeps of time that there’s little or no “generational memory” of the last time they happened. 

COVID-19 was a great example. Confronting widespread plague or communicable disease isn’t something that was fresh and new for 2020. Humans have been dealing with pandemics since the rise of civilization. The last time we faced a pandemic of such scope and scale was a hundred years previously with the Great Influenza of 1918. Given the hundred-year interval, it was an event that had nearly passed out of living memory. Although civilization had seen pandemic many times before, “this time is different.”

The major stock market indexes are down 20% from their highs in 2021. Business reporters and talking heads are wringing their hands about wealth destruction, there being no floor, and the end of capitalism. They’re obviously ignoring the fact that bear markets are a normal part of the economic cycle. In fact, we’ve seen 14 bear markets since 1945. It generally takes about two years for markets to regain their previous high-water mark. We’ve been there and done that, but “this time is different.”

Currently, the United Sates is experiencing a year over year rate of inflation of 8.6%. It’s driving prices of all manner of goods and services higher at the fastest pace we’ve seen since 1981. Many of us are too young to remember anything from 1981, but there it is, right there in the recent history books. In all likelihood the Federal Reserve will crank up interest rates to and a little beyond the pain threshold, pull money out of circulation, and inflation will cool to a manageable level. You can already hear the cries that “this time is different.”

I hate to throw cold water on the almost gleeful panic, but the only thing different this time is that we’re the grown ass adults who happen to be the ones experiencing these events rather than our parents or grandparents. Nothing that’s currently dominating the news is new. It’s the same shit different day that people have been dealing with as best they can for hundreds of years – it’s just that our lifespan is too short to effectively pull back and see the whole board. It’s far easier to believe we’re living through special and unique circumstances that could happen only to us.

Let’s all come back in about 30 months and check my work. 

A better place…

I don’t think I’ve ever really understood people who don’t like dogs. I understand people are allergic and that makes dogs somewhat problematic for them, but the ones who just downright don’t enjoy the company of a dog are an utter mystery to me. The one thing I don’t think these non-dog people fully understand is just how much individual personality these creatures have. I’m always a little surprised when I hear comments that “dogs do this” or “This breed behaves like that.” While of course there are certain shared characteristic of all dogs and other characteristics shared by a specific breed, like the stock market, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

What I’ve most recently been struck with is just how different my two are from one another. They’re the same basic age, have had the same basic life experiences, but there are decided differences that I’m not sure can be attributed to their type. Winston is my cat. He wants attention purely on his terms and otherwise is happy to find a comfy spot, preferably somewhere in the sun, and keep an eye on everything from a distance. Maggie, by contrast is my needful thing. While I’m getting ready for the day she is never more than three steps from me. Every morning – and I mean every single morning – when I sit down to pull on my shoes, she bounds back onto the bed and tucks herself under my left arm insisting on a few minutes of chin rubs and belly scratches before heading outside. It’s my absolute favorite part of the day and as much a part of my morning routine as the first cup of coffee. Winston on the other hand doesn’t seem to be interested in much else in the morning than getting outside, having breakfast, and then putting himself back to bed. Like I said, basically a cat.

For their differences I wouldn’t want either of them to be any different – and I certainly wouldn’t want them to be the same. If anything, I’d like to see the folks who don’t like dogs act a little more like the critters they try to avoid. I’m not going to offer them belly rubs, but I still think it would make the world a better place.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. I keep a running list of the absurdities of life that I think might be worthy of including in the week’s edition of WAJTW. Because this week happened to include a federal holiday, I’ve spent the whole week vaguely confused about what day of the week it happens to be. As a result, I reached to that list and accidentally used one of the annoyances as an actual fully fledged blog post. That doesn’t seem like it would be much of an annoyance aside from the fact that most things have broken my way this week and there wasn’t much of a list to begin with… which is exactly why the first annoyance for this week is strictly a process piece.

2. Sports metaphors. I’ve seen enough sports in my life to understand most of the metaphors, but I’ve never quite understood our desire to try to take the lessons of the field and apply them to every other aspect of life. Since I don’t generally follow sports in any meaningful way maybe the stories just don’t resonate for me in the way they seem to for other people. I’m just a guy with a hard time applying the relevant lesson of the scrappy underdog team to the issues I’m fighting with on the daily. I realize I’m probably the outlier here, so don’t mind me. If it looks like I’m stifling a yawn, that’s because I am.

3. Prius Drivers. On Tuesday morning I sat in the truck and watched a Prius driver open his door, lean halfway out of the car, and back into a parking space. The next nearest vehicle was mine and Big Red was at least two dozen spots away and in a completely different row. Look, I know I don’t have an unblemished record here, but backing up in an effectively empty parking lot and landing between the white lines just feels like something you should be able to do without needing to nearly exit the vehicle… Especially when your car takes up about as much square footage as my kitchen table. The poor schmuck didn’t even have a pair of passing yoga pants to use as an effective excuse.

Flat out thinking…

There are always stories circulating about people who retire with thousands of hours of sick leave on the books. That’s good for them. 3000 hours of sick leave gives you a hell of a lot of credit towards your total years of service. As great as that sounds, I know I’m not going to be one of those people. I’m not an iron man. I don’t play hurt when I can avoid it and I don’t go in when I’m hacking up a lung. For one thing, I know that I don’t bring my A-game when I’m sick or hurt and for another it only seems decent not to wander in and infect everyone else with whatever crud I happen to have come down with. This week has been an object lesson in the former; a great primer for why I avoid playing hurt.

It really boils down to a matter of concentration and focus. When part of my brain is focused on just how damned uncomfortable I am, I’m not doing my best work. Chances are, I’m not even doing good work. I’ll probably never get nominated for employee of the quarter with that attitude, but it is what it is. One of the key lessons I’ve learned on the job is if you don’t look out for yourself, there’s no one else going to take the time to look out for you either. Long story short, yesterday’s post talked about the inevitable guilt that goes along with the sick day. I had plenty of time after writing that post to put some real thought into it – since laying flat on the floor isn’t good for much else than giving you time to think. It’s safe to say that after really reflecting on the last decade, I’m utterly cured of whatever misguided guilt I was feeling for staying put and taking care of me.

The job is happy enough to chew you up and grind you down. It’s your job to do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen. Here endeth the lesson.