The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Opinion: We best embrace the new 'normal' headed our way


May 3, 2020

Sid Strebeck had an idea.

Clovis’ steakhouse owner understood he had to comply with the governor’s social-distancing guidelines during this COVID-19 pandemic, but he also wanted to keep his business going.

And so he proposed “a different dining experience.”

• He would set up 30 picnic tables in the KBob’s Steakhouse two-acre parking lot.

• Each table would be at least 30 feet from the next table.

• Customers would order and pay online.

• On arrival, customers would remain in their vehicle until the food was placed on an assigned table by a server who would wear a facemask and gloves.

• Then the picnic could begin.

Strebeck said he didn’t know if his customers would like the plan or not. Turns out, it didn’t matter, because Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham denied his proposal. She said maintaining a seating area would violate the public health order and put diners at risk of contracting the virus.

But before we get lost in whether the governor is right or not, the point of this story is to applaud Strebeck’s entrepreneurial spirit in the face of adversity.

Face it, folks. We’re not getting back to “normal” anytime soon.

Even if the governor lifts her shelter-in-place orders in the next few weeks, many eastern New Mexico residents will be wary about returning to restaurants, to work, to the mall, etc., right away. Even when the health professionals tell us it’s safe as before to leave our homes, many will continue to avoid crowds, wear masks, and sanitize anything in sight until they’re confident the “experts” are right.

Gripe about the politicians and the media and tell yourself the flu is way worse than this ... But no private business or public institution will thrive in the post-COVID-19 era unless its customers feel safe. More than 60,000 deaths in less than two months, from a disease we don’t yet understand, tends to make thinking people a little uneasy.

And so, like Strebeck, we all have to “think outside the box” as we move ahead.

Restaurants are already planning to install protective shields between tables and we may have to start making reservations so capacity limits can be met.

Some retail stores are improving their websites, providing patrons the option to order online and pick up in the parking lot.

Schools will likely incorporate online learning as part of their routine. They were already headed that direction. Assuming students return to actual classrooms in the fall, their desks may be 6 feet apart, meaning more classrooms will be needed, or students may have to learn in shifts.

Many visits to the doctor may remain virtual. Get used to having your temperature taken wherever you go. Don’t be insulted if someone follows you around the widget store, wiping down everything you touch.

Sorry, but the roar of the crowd may not be a part of this summer’s ballgames, since the crowds may all be watching on TV, or in pickups surrounding the ballfields.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

But do embrace new ways of doing things — as business owners and service providers and as consumers — because this is happening.

And it’s not all bad.

Think of the time you can save while navigating smaller crowds. Think of the diseases you won’t get in the doctors’ waiting rooms anymore. Maybe the lines will go away at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

As an added bonus, we might end up healthier and happier at the end of all this, too.

Come to think of it, a picnic might be kinda fun.

— David Stevens



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