The water may be deeper than its ever been
- Chance the Rapper
The last few weeks have been a little strange to say the least. If you don't live in Italy, you've certainly heard or read about what's happening here. So I decided to write something for you the reader that is relatively easy, entertaining (I hope) and most of all, that uses words and idiomatic expressions (in bold and italics) that you can think about, explore and use. What you're about to read doesn't contain a lot of details about all the troubles we’re facing now in Italy and the world. But it is about this moment and some of my own personal experiences with life on-line, now and in the past. And just one more thing: there is no glossary of definitions or meanings at the end. Presumably, you, like me, have a lot more time on your hands, so I have decided to let you walk on your own two feet and to not spoon feed you. Finding out what everything means will be up to you. Enjoy.
It’s an understatement to say that Italy is going through a rough patch right now. It makes me want to listen to music that encourages and sustains like Chance the Rapper. His message is simple in Finish Line / Drown: when the going gets tough, don’t give up. Some places in Italy have really been hit hard, but the North seems to have gotten the worst of it. Since a government decree on March 7, the whole country has officially been on lock down. The government has asked us all to stay at home. We can only leave for essentials like food or medicines - and we should try and shop as close to where we live, and as infrequently as possible. Adding insult to injury, everyone can take their dog for a walk, but if you're suffering from cabin fever you're out of luck. Recreational sports are frowned upon right now and most people are refraining from jogging, taking a spin on their bikes or a dip in the pool for the foreseeable future. In fact, with so many stores and businesses closed, many places around the country are looking like ghost towns right now.
While all of this is serious and with no end in sight, people are trying to cope. One way is by going on-line. Usage is up more than 50% in much of the world and some are asking if the Corona virus will break the internet. From school lessons, to physical education, to doctors’ appointments, many aspects of our daily lives have moved online and with all the people working from home, remote-work platforms and services have struggled to keep up with increased demand. Across the developed world, millions of us are now connecting to the internet from our kitchens, living rooms and home offices 24/7.
Though e-commerce has been around for years, many Italians were reluctant to buy on-line in the beginning. I remember not long ago, a friend of mine tried - and failed - to promote an Internet Food Shopping service in our city. People looked at him like he was a Martian. I guess he was a little too ahead of his time. But something similar happened to me too. Twice!
In the mid-90s there was a wave of on-line training happening in the US. I was teaching English at a multi-national giant here in Italy at the time and thought I could deliver customized grammar, vocabulary and testing through the company intranet. My reasoning was that it would help me optimize my face-to-face group lessons and create ongoing team building sessions, coaching employees on specific themes like public speaking, conference calls and writing emails. I knew it would also help me be more effective tracking students’ progress and I could probably save the company some money. I asked the IT guys about its feasibility and they thought the idea was out of this world. We all looked forward to doing something innovative for the company. Unfortunately, when I pitched the idea to the training department, they were less enthusiastic. They thought the idea was out of a sci-fi novel. Like so many things, you’ve gotta be in the right place at the right time. I tried again about 5 years ago and the results were even harder to swallow that time.
Again I was teaching English it a company. They were a smaller, younger and fast growing bunch, and because of my background and experience, the owner was constantly bouncing his ideas off me, trying to find a competitive edge. Before long, I had my finger in every pie and was involved in training, evaluation, personnel selection and coaching the staff. I even got to organize and conduct day-long team building events every year, off site, where all company employees were in attendance. But despite my input, I was never able to convince him on tele-work. I tried every angle. I talked about the savings, I researched the benefits, I even tried to paint a picture about how he would be perceived as a visionary in a world of work where everyone was still commuting to work and clocking in. Nada. Nothing worked. He was a young man himself, but he also liked coming into the office each day, and liked seeing everyone around him, admiring what he had built from the ground up. He also liked managing people.
Fast forward to today and the Corona virus pandemic we are all dreading. Living on-line may have its pros and cons; but it’s all standard fare now. Both the culture and language and the infrastructure of on-line living is all very familiar to people now. Only the most out-of-touch or Luddite among us is unwilling or incapable of navigating the web and using the various instruments available to us these days, to communicate, browse and buy whatever we want, whenever we want it.
Oh, well. Guess I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time then. But that’s neither here nor there. These days, I am thoroughly enjoying a steady stream of films and TV shows I’ve always wanted to see. And now I can take all the time I want, to write emails and messages, to friends and family all over the globe. Who knows how much longer we will have to watch this drama unfold, waiting for the moment when we can all breathe a sigh of relief , come out from hibernating in our caves, and get back to our regularly scheduled programs?