As we went deeper and deeper into the pandemic, it was common to talk about the BC (before corona) days like they were so far in our past. We were inundated with executive orders, test counts, safety measures, press briefings, stimulus bills and many more issues by the hour. To be honest, it was a stressful time as our daily routines were blown up and our local economies shuttered. Personally, I just wanted to rewind and go back in time. Obviously, it wasn’t possible, so I settled for happy thoughts about the great BC era.
I don’t have the best view out my office window, but it has always been an impactful one. I can sit in my chair and watch cars streaming into Traverse City on Highway 31 from Interlochen, Benzie County and other locations to the west. For my 17 years at Cherryland, these vehicles have represented the lifeblood of our region to me. They are the construction workers, factory employees, waitresses, clerical staff and so many other blue-collar jobs that make our local economies vibrant.
I couldn’t see the stream of cars dry up because I was working from home. What was happening to all the nameless, faceless drivers was a constant stress on my mind. I wasn’t as worried about my co-workers because we were deemed essential. While simply inconvenienced with new working arrangements, our paychecks never stopped. I became increasingly frustrated with my inability to help our members.
Sure, we extended our disconnects, dropped billing penalties, relaxed payment arrangements and lobbied legislators. It just never felt like enough. In a storm, I can call for extra help and throw bodies at the problem. This storm saw every utility fighting the same battle at the same time.
Ultimately, the best thing we could do for our members was what we have always done—keep the lights on, operate safely and control costs. So, everyone at Cherryland put their heads down and went to work on our simple everyday mission.
I no longer look back to the BC period. I’m over it. Our economy will eventually rebound, but those days will never come back. We need to make the AC (after corona) period even better by learning from our pandemic experience. Was it a blip in our history or a turning point to something better? Can we make something good out of all the suffering? Can we take the lessons learned and provide better service?
There are more questions than answers at the moment, but the stress is gone because we have once again taken control of our situation by focusing on our mission of member service. Some employees may continue to stay at home. Others may see a 40-hour week go from five days to four. Video meetings may replace travel in some cases. More investment in technology may be necessary. The list goes on from there.
We owe it to every member to not waste this experience. Every employee at Cherryland is up to the task. I am excited to see where we will be one, two and three years into the AC period. Whenever the trickle of cars becomes a river once again, your cooperative will be stronger, better and more driven to provide each member the service they deserve.