Little Things Go a Long Way During a Pandemic

This article was featured in the online version of the Philadelphia Business Journal on April 13, 2020.

My brother-in-law Jesse is great company. Whether that’s a golf course or beach, kitchen counter or restaurant, you’re guaranteed to have a good time when he’s around.

So there I was on my 50th birthday, content as I could be, enjoying a hoagie with him from opposite ends of a table on my deck (shout out to Cut Above in Newtown Square, amazing sandwiches!) Cold beer, great sandwich, life felt pretty good, besides the, you know.

Around 5 p.m., my wife asked me to help her with something in the front of the house, so I obliged. The next thing I knew, I was face to face with a cavalcade of cars, an array of autos, friends and smiles, honking and cheering. Happy birthday signs hanging out of windows. They all had something special for the bar, and I’ve never felt more fortunate to have people like this in my life.

Welcome to how we party down “Q” style!

As a kid, I always loved the book Go Dog Go, and this was about as close to the human version of that as it can get.

Big cars, small cars,

Convertibles and trucks,

Red cars, green cars,

Imagine all my luck!

Apologies to P.D. Eastman, the author of the aforementioned book, of course.

A few of the drivers pulled over to have a socially distant acceptable drink with yours truly. This lasted about 20 minutes before some officers pulled up and kindly asked us to disperse. I had to laugh. 50 years old and getting in trouble with the law. The one officer started to shrug his way through why he had to break it up, but I stopped him mid-sentence. We all get it.

We just don’t like it.

Most importantly, I’m seeing the city and country I love really stepping up. A neighbor brought over masks that she sewed herself. My longtime friend Billy Godfrey, a real estate agent in Ocean City, donated 10 boxes of masks to Shore Memorial and Cape Regional hospitals. Incredible MIT students who made a very cheap but effective ventilator system, and introduced a ‘how to’ guide for anyone out there so they could make it, also. Michael Rubin of Fanatics fame transforming MLB uniforms into masks and gowns for our health care heroes.

I’ve also seen the birth of more entrepreneurs on Instagram who are coming up with designs for masks, from Eagles logos to monogrammed versions. Entrepreneurship meets COVID-19 head on with some style! If you transported me from last year to present moment, I wouldn’t ever get my head around this entire situation. Not that I have it figured out to any extent beyond doing my best to be patient and look for those SON’s.

Speaking of, my Semblance of Normalcy this week was winding my car around Rittenhouse Square after another visit to my office. I had gone to AgileCat HQ to say hello to my “old friend” in mid-renovation at 1818 Market. I love visiting but it hurts like hell, too. What was once a beehive of activity only makes the sound of humming from the lights that I hate to turn off when I leave. So as the sun splashed my car as I pulled up to open windows at Parc Restaurant, it felt almost slightly back to the way things used to be. And talk about an operation! This place could give a lesson in take out service with a huge emphasis on safety and health. Masks, gloves, 6-foot markers, and even a glass marked “sanitized pens” ready for those to scribble on their receipts.

If only I could have pulled a chair up to a table, had a glass, and chatted with Carol the GM, who I have no doubt masterminded how to effectively deliver their trademark service in light of all that’s going on. But it was mask and gloves on and pedal to the metal for me. The home office was calling.

A final thought: I don’t use the phrase “the new normal” because to me that’s self-defeating. I think this is the current abnormal and I can’t wait to get back to how we used to be, just like you.

Whenever that is.

— Peter Madden, President and CEO of AgileCat