The raccoons were already common when I moved into Madison Park. Then one night on a dog walk, I saw my first coyote. She wasn’t a big one, but she was followed by two pups. Wary of me and the dogs. Careful, yes, but she seemed not afraid of a man and two big sheepdogs.
Now a pandemic holds sway, and nature has noticed that the humans are gone. Retail boarded up. Restaurants empty. Streets vacant. Animals reclaiming habitat, adapting to asphalt and concrete. Eager to reclaim hunting grounds, while humans retreat to digital and an opportunity to think about the built world we’ve amassed on top our beautiful blue planet.
Amazon keeps the supplies coming. Grocers keep us fed while we adapt to a digital world for commerce, friendship and family.
If we have work, now it’s from home. Our commuting days are over; those days may be gone forever. I do miss the transition time, as I’m sure many of you do. The leisurely ferry ride, catching up with neighbors. The snooze on the train, adjusting from home to office. Or the multi-tasking in the car with makeup, coffee and appointments while steering with knees.
What will happen when the corporations realize there’s no point in hanging onto that expensive retail and office space? Work from home is now the norm. Why go back to what was before? Why go back, even if a vaccine does arrive?
Will office parks revert to being just parks?
Will office towers become condos and apartments when the corporations abandon them?
What will happen to the debt holders on those towers when the rent is no longer paid?
Malls have long been thought obsolete; now, with their wide halls and spacious parking, they could become the future of retail.
Some have predicted that among retailers only Amazon, Walmart and Costco, with their deep pockets and unsurpassed buying power, will survive.
And on it goes. Through it all one thing is certain: The digital transformation is sweeping aside everything that doesn’t require physical contact. The lesson: Be digital or die.
So don’t be surprised if you encounter a big cat on your early-morning walk past boarded-up retail. She won’t be worried about your new digital life. Only whether you could fill her hungry belly.