Well, my friends of Key West, here we are, smack on the cusp of a new year. If even legendary columnists, like Miami’s Dave Barry, can’t resist the temptation to write a year-ender, how much less so I?
We write these things, not because we actually sport prescience greater than regular folks, but because we have ink, pixels and platforms demanding to be filled even when there’s nothing going on. (Were I Dave Barry, I’d have capitalized NOTHING GOING ON.)
Not that nothing is going on, but that nothing worth writing about is going on. It’s that two-week, end-of-year, don’t start new projects time when no one’s going to answer email, lift the phone or send a text. In the old days BC (Before Covid), these two weeks were best spent tossing three-ring-binder projects that never got funded. Maybe a bit of Pledge on the clean-for-a-day desktop.
Or writing postmortems on the Year Past, while pretending to insights about what’s coming.
Like this perfect paragraph from Barry: “Finally, mercifully, the troubled year nears its conclusion. As the nation prepares to celebrate New Year’s Eve, the mood is subdued and thoughtful. People are still getting drunk and throwing up, but they’re doing this in a subdued and thoughtful manner. Because nobody knows what 2022 will bring. Will it suck as much as this year? Will it suck more? Or will it suck a LOT more? These appear to be our choices.”
Here are my predictions for Key West in 2022:
Covid Year Three: Mask, wash, sorta distance. Get the vaccine. Get the booster(s). I figure there’s going to be at least two more boosters in 2022. We’re going to be on good terms with the shot people. Because, yay, we live on a sub-tropical island, get outside. Short of being a hermit (totally your choice, my friends; I respect it), for the rest of us, 2022 — no matter how many waves and spikes and variants we encounter — is the year we settle in for the long haul. And, it’s the year we stop slapping scarlet Cs on friends or foes who get Covid. Because, guess what, most of us will sooner or later catch some Covid variant. Since I don’t have time to mess with five, much less 10 days of the Covid-variant of Key West Crud, I’ll be wearing a mask and in line for another booster.
Cruise ships: Some will be back. Some will be too big; some, like Goldilocks, just right. But we will not see a return to 2019-style schedules. Referendums and politics aside, Covid is radically shifting the cruise ship business model. We might not see the full evolution for 10 years, but cruising as we knew it, is dead. Sort of like the horse and buggy giving way to cars. “They” said it couldn’t happen. See how that worked out?
Single member districts: Key West will keep its single member districts despite what appear to be now-faltering attempts to turn the city toward at-large election of city commissioners. The proposed change was, I think, a solution is search of a problem. On the flip side, Monroe County needs district, not county-wide, voting. The county now permits all voters regardless of where they live to choose district representatives. In short, that means Key West residents choose county commissioners for Islamorada and Key Largo — and vice versa. Time for a change to keep local representation local.
Labor shortages: Earlier this week, I did a round of Key West outs-and-abouts. Groceries. Errands. A handful of restaurants and happy hours. Retail shopping. Two things are crystal clear: Businesses are short staffed, some by a lot. And workers are exhausted.
Demographic geeks have predicted the labor shortage for years; Covid exacerbates it. There’s no magical fix for this. I’m unsure there’s any fix. The only solution to staffing and housing shortages may be the collapse of today’s economic model.
Oh, and there’s this: Local owners who have been the backbone of the Key West community are retiring and selling or closing their iconic businesses. They’ve reached that certain age when they’d rather be retired than running a cash register seven days a week. Who can blame them?
Key West will keep on keeping on. Because that’s what we do. Climate change will raise sea levels and flood us unexpectedly. Storms will pull back into the sea the sand we just trucked in from the mainland. We’ll argue over what our island “should” be and, perhaps, occasionally we’ll find common ground.
And, when we put down the cudgels, we’ll head to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park to remind ourselves that we do, after all, live in Key West and there’s nothing much better. You’ll find me under the Australian pines this afternoon. Stop by.
Here were my predictions for 2021: Not too far off — and yes, I was right about living in Key West.