Tone deaf

A local cyclist sent out an email for his upcoming grand fondue, encouraging riders to sign up right away so they could get a discount (up to $100!) before the “deadline.” At the bottom of the email he encouraged cyclists to “support” hungry children by “donating” whatever extra money they could, I suppose because in the most horrific economic crisis of our lifetimes we’re all prioritizing a group bike ride over hungry kids.

The trial lawyer association I belong to sends out daily news updates and the bottom of each email reminds us that September’s “biggest annual gathering of trial lawyers in the nation” at Las Vegas is OPEN FOR REGISTRATION, so sign up now to get your discount by the deadline.

I understand that the quarantine has thrown everyone’s finances into disarray, mine included. The grand fondue is this cyclist’s biggest event of the year. The CAALA Vegas convention is the organization’s single biggest money-maker and sustains many of their myriad operations. I think these two attempts to fake everyone into normalcy are helpful in that we should think about them, whatever our line of work. Did I mention that my finances have been thrown into disarray, too?

First, with regard to cycling, the good old days of several thousand cyclists showing up to do a big event together are over. Yes, those events will still take place, but rest assured that the nation/state/county/city is already developing guidelines for how to run public events to minimize the risk of infection, especially since frightening news is suggesting that everyone who gets the novel coronavirus isn’t necessarily immune, hinting that the virus may be more like AIDS than the flu.

What if once you get it, it’s yours? Does that change things up?

Good-bye to the days when you will be able to cram a hundred people into a tiny restaurant. Good-bye to the days when you could cram hundreds of people into economy seats. In the post-Covid-19 landscape, we’ll all have tons of legroom, if not sealed off individual compartments. Good-bye to sold-out sports arenas. Good-bye to shoulder-to-shoulder queues at Disneylandworldplace.

The idea that you’ll be able to host a giant event with several thousand people absent a host of safeguards designed to minimize contact and reduce the number of participants is wishful thinking. And then of course there’s the painful solicitation to “donate extra” to “help hungry children.”

Folks, if you want to help hungry children, the ticket is not an expensive entry to a grand fondue. The ticket is someone like John Jones and his East Side Riders, who are cooking breakfast and distributing food M-F in Watts. Not once a year, every fucking day five days a week. If you believe that we’re in a Great Depression and that people are hungry, you are not being noble and generous by tacking $5 onto your $150 fondue entry. You are being generous by sending the entire $155 to John and ESR.

Leaving aside the grotesquely self-serving nature of the solicitation, bike event organizers need to start thinking carefully about demand for their events. Even if there are no post-quarantine rules and regs, which is impossible, do you really think that your customers are going to return to doing things the way they used to?

I know mine won’t, and I also know that however badly it impacts my law practice, I’ll keep telling people to stay off their bikes during quarantine, that even a single fall takes up hospital resources potentially needed by someone else. I’ll keep telling people that the best thing that’s ever happened to my practice is the huge decrease in bike-car collisions. Less income? Yes. More healthy people? Yes. That’s the new normal to shoot for, not a return to crowded streets and dead bicyclists.

With regard to bike events, the demographic is primarily older people, precisely the ones who are most terrified of getting sick. How many guys in their mid-50’s are going to wake up in October, say “Glad that bad dream is over!” and dash out to mix and mill with two thousand other bicyclists? Especially without a vaccine? And especially when they realize that yeah, they might not get sick, but do they really want to bring the possibility of infection home to their wife, kids, and grandkids?

Whether you want to hear it or not, people’s behavior as cyclists is going to change forever. Better figure out how to integrate and make money off of Zwift events, or how to otherwise blend your “real” ride with a #fake one, because no matter how many emails you send out, the bread and butter of your event has for the most part packed its bags and isn’t coming back.

And even if it does, do you want to be the promoter of an event that completely ignores the pain, suffering, sickness, and death visited on the world by this pandemic? Do you want to be the guy who’s raking in the bucks by pandering precisely to the obliviousness of other people’s suffering? If you do, you are not a very good person.

This is all another way of saying that now is the time to redesign your event, and to not do it with a plea for money that sounds generous because you’re encouraging some charity donation or other. It’s a way to say that now is the time to be honest. People will appreciate your financial struggle if you’re honest enough to tell them about it. People will support you if you provide them with an innovative way to do the ride and contribute to your weal.

Maybe you could do what Jack Nosco is doing, encourage people to buy a tune where the entire funds go to help the beneficiaries of the ride. Or maybe you could do what Methods to Winning is doing, turning Eldo into a Zwift event, because what people will not do is believe that in a couple of months everything is going to be fine, which itself is ironic because people are so desperate for things to go back to the way they were that you can see it in their eyes.

This brings me to CAALA. If the average cyclist event organizer is tone deaf, the average lawyer lacks any sense of sound at all. CAALA, dedicated to protecting consumers from the predations of corporations and other bad actors, continues to hold its annual event at the Wynne Casino even though Wynne is the single biggest emblem for sexual assault. Sex assault cases make up a significant practice area for CAALA lawyers. It’s like paying the NRA to host your gun control convention.

Like the cyclist soliciting help for hungry kids by having you sign up for his fondo, CAALA pretends that in September everything will be normal, and for many of the trial lawyers who attend the convention, “normal” means getting shit-faced drunk, doing drugs, whoring, gambling, pissing away money, and behaving horribly. Like the cyclist who can’t give up the thought of his bike ride, many trial lawyers cannot relinquish the idea of debauchery in Vegas.

Don’t get me wrong … if debauchery is your thing, debauche away.

But what’s debauchery really going to look like in September? It’s hard to imagine Nevada staying shut when debauchery is the only thing that runs its economy. But as with the gran fondo, how eagerly are unemployed people in terror of infection going to dash out to Sin City to max out their non-existent credit cards in crowded casinos?

In the post-quarantine world, how many lawyers are going to double down on debauchery and how many are going to single up on trying to behave like, you know, adults? How many are going to say, “I’ll just get my MCLE online, thx.”

Most critically, how is the tone deaf approach of “Let’s party in Vegas!” going to sound? Can you really look at ten thousand cars in a food line and say “Fuck that, let’s party!” If you can, there is something wrong. With you.

I think “Let’s party in Vegas!” is going to sound a lot like “Let’s go do the fondo!” Some people will jump at it because it sounds like normalcy. It sounds like light at the end of the tunnel. It sounds like a chance to get back and ride our bikes and support our friends. It sounds like the good old days.

Good luck with that.


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14 thoughts on “Tone deaf”

    1. Thanks! Airlines are already announcing passenger limits to enforce quarantines …

  1. Hi Seth. We don’t know each other but I’ve been reading you for a while. I really like what you’ve had to say the last few weeks. Keep it up. I’ll keep up my subscription.

  2. One thing is clear. Things ain’t NEVER going to be the same. Some people posit that all these people sitting around thinking is going to result in some GOOD ideas rising to the top and becoming part of our new reality. These might include questioning big industry’s cost-benefit analysis regarding profit versus human life, or questioning the extractives industry’s “right” to destroy the very earth we depend upon for life, or questioning an unfettered capitalistic economy that requires constant growth and consumption in a world with finite natural resources.
    It’s time we converted the coin of the realm into ideas instead of filthy lucre. And while we’re at it, we should pay teachers and first-responders $100K/year. Just my .02!

    1. Albert Lagunas

      J. Marvin, in California, teachers and first responders (police, fire, registered nurses) either through generous overtime pay or comprehensive benefits packages can easily supplement their base salaries to essentially and comfortably match the earning power or lifestyle of those who earn 6 figures. Teachers, firefighters and police are also part a vanishing class of employee, those provided with pensions. That said, in these times, they’re obviously proving that their worth to society is orders of magnitude greater than the share of revenue we as a society allocate to them.

  3. That is a tough attack on Phil. The same guy who was asking folks to contribute money to No Kid Hungry when he was broken in the hospital after his bad crash on the track. It was his attempt to turn his bad situation into something good. I met him several weeks ago here in Atlanta, he came across as someone genuinely trying to good work. Tone deaf or trying to move forward? Who really knows right now?
    I’m looking forward to getting to a new “normal”, whatever that is going to be. Y’all stay safe in CA.

  4. Hi Seth! After years of reading your blog posts (for free!) and sharing them on #socmed, I finally ponied up and subscribed.

    Keep the truth coming.

  5. I have come and gone a number of times, but I am here for and w/ you now brother. **FCK NETFLIX** (I hardly knew ye)…here ya go ESBR. Thanks for the link Seth and for helping me be a vicarious muckraker.

    -Your Humble Braggart and Inveterate Zwifter,


  6. Carissa Horowitz

    What you forgot to meantion is that just about every local event that gets people to sign up for it and pay, never give back that registration fee when the event is cancelled. It happens EVERYTIME!!!!

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