'Definitely optimistic'

Life at the Murphy house, adventures in pool-ordering, and what they're thinking at the beach. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

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My wife and I are parents of a preschooler. It’s funny; I admit I can get so caught up in my own life that I forget, at least for a moment, that not everyone has had same kind of lockdown experience.

I’m talking about things like:

  • building an impressive number of “couch cushion forts” over the last two months,

  • trying to teach a child to ride a bike (work in progress),

  • reading every kids’ book in the house aloud 20 times, and

  • having the short, simple, and insanely catchy theme to the Australian cartoon TV show Bluey on near-repeat in your head. (Link, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

We love our daughter more than anything, but I have to laugh at what our lives now entail sometimes. It’s also why I started thinking long ago about what summer might look like for families with very young kids, assuming there’s at least some degree of social distancing and staying at home involved.

“Hmmm,” I thought after gaming it out. “You know what I’ll bet? I’ll bet there’s going to be a run on swimming pools.”

True, public and community pools might open this summer. But if they do, they’ll be operating with social distancing restrictions. As someone who spent my high school and college summers lifeguarding, I’m sure that’s going to be a stretch.

Summer camps are a big question mark, too. Many are still trying to figure out (WSJ, $) if they can open, at what scale, what it will entail, and whether parents will still send their kids.

So, I concluded, parents who never would have considered getting an above ground pool are now going to be longing for them—especially those relatively inexpensive, quasi-portable ones. Example. (No affiliate link, FYI.)

I acted fast, buying three of them in different (small) sizes so I can see how they’d fit in our yard. Our extended family and friends already have dibs on the ones we won’t need.

Sure enough, I was right about the demand. The pools I grabbed for just a few hundred dollars total are now going for many multiples of that—if you can even find them.

“Are pools the new toilet paper?” as KMOU in Missouri put it. And, here’s the president and CEO a national pool trade association describing the market to Marketwatch:

“With COVID, and the trepidation with travel, people are taking that money and investing it in a backyard pool. Most of the industry had shut down for a period of time. Now they’re saying their phones are ringing off the hook.”

Of course, even more than the idea of a big plastic pool in my driveway, I love a good summer beach vacation. Recent years have seen the Murphy Family trying spots all over the northeast: Cape Cod; Cape May; Long Beach Island; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Will that happen this year? Again not sure, but let’s say I’m following the situation closely.

At some beach towns however, where “the window between Memorial Day and Labor Day is make-or-break for hotels, restaurants, arcades and T-shirt shops,” as the WSJ ($) put it, there seems to be cautious optimism.

Take Adam Showell Sr., majority owner of the Castle in the Sand Hotel in Ocean City, Maryland. He explained his mental journey like this:

  • First, a fear of total financial disaster, including fear of widespread cancelations given that 36 million Americans have now been laid off.

  • Then, an emotional rebound, in the form of a “roughly $500,000 forgivable loan” under the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

  • Then, practical prioritization, including plans to delay renovations and defer mortgage payments.

  • Finally, buoyed expectations, with his 181-room hotel expected to be at about 50 percent occupancy for Memorial Day weekend.

The ultimate result should be lower sales, he told the WSJ, but “typical” net income.

“It was catastrophic two months ago when all this started coming down. I was scared to death,” he said. “Now I’m definitely optimistic.”

You and me both, pal. I think this summer will be different, but here’s to having one we remember fondly.

(Hey, and while we’re at it, here’s to hoping and praying that it turns out sunshine actually does kill the virus.)

I’m not sure if I’ll do a comment thread for Friday; I’m still waiting to hear if the technical problem from last week has been fixed. But maybe let’s try it here.

Tell us about your predictions and plans for the summer. Will it be business (or pleasure) as usual? Are you waiting to see? Or do you already have an idea to do something different?

Leave a comment

7 other things worth your time

  • See you in July: The border between the U.S. and Canada will stay closed for another month. (Yahoo News)

  • President Trump threatened to “hold up” federal funds to Michigan and Nevada, after both states made it easier to vote by mail. (McClatchy)

  • “Weekly mortgage applications point to a remarkable recovery in homebuying.” (CNBC)

  • Here’s how that’s reportedly working out for some people in NYC, according to one agent: Smaller apartments are “flying off the market,” and people with money are simultaneously snapping up houses in Connecticut. The idea is to have a place to stay in New York, and a place to escape to. (Stamford Advocate)

  • President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, will get out of prison this morning and serve the remainder of his three-year sentence in home confinement. It’s related to the release of prisoners due to Covid-19. (WSJ, $)

  • A University of Pennsylvania study predicts a stark tradeoff between the number of jobs lost and the number of people who will die of Covid-19, depending on how quickly the states remove stay-at-home orders: between 117,000 deaths and 18.6 million jobs lost on one end, versus 350,000 deaths but only 500,000 jobs lost on the other. (CBS Local Philadelphia)

  • “Controversial study shows rats prefer jazz to classical music, when on drugs.” No word on what the researchers were smoking to even come up with this. (Classic FM. But I went through and checked out the NIH study.)

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