Bruce Hornsby has had more than one hit in his illustrious career… he’s no “one hit wonder”… but if you’ve ever heard of him, there’s no doubt you know his most famous song. And maybe that’s the only one you know. If he’d never written another song, his legacy may not be that different. It was pretty much the first thing he ever put out… it won Grammys, it went multi-platinum, etc. Deservedly so. And for many, that’s the last they remember of him.

The song, of course, is “The Way It Is”.

Bruce Hornsby’s song answers a lot of questions (that are typically rhetorical, but shouldn’t be) with that answer. Why Black segregation? Why such a divide between rich and poor? That song would go on for years if you kept adding relevant questions to it. Any well-entrenched part of society that’s unfair, unbalanced and/or just plain insane – gets defended by that answer.

The answer, “that’s just the way it is” is the ultimate cop-out. The ultimate passing the buck. The ultimate “not my problem”.

That song came out right around my 18th birthday, just a few months after graduation. And that is exactly the age where teens get thrown into the real world. Accordingly, they look around at where they landed… and ask lots of questions. And that particular answer is never accepted graciously.

Side-note, it was an argument with a university prof that was the final nail in the coffin of my academic career… me telling her that her sorting algorithms may have been great in the past, but recent advances in computer theory — and the languages that have emerged as a result — offer other possibilities. Nope, it’s her way or the highway. And her final response to my well-thought-out and logical and correct arguments? Too bad… that’s just the way it is.

After all is said and done, once this pandemic is over, we’re all looking forward to getting back to normal. Or are we? What, exactly, *is* normal?

Getting into your car, driving 25 minutes in rush-hour gridlock, finding parking that’s $19.00 for the first hour and then ten cents an hour for the rest of the day – when all you need is 30 minutes… wandering into an office and waiting, being guided into a room with lots of people and lots of papers laid out, signing them till your hand feels like it’s going to fall off, heading back to the car but stopping at the Starbucks on the way for a 300-calorie fancy drink that you didn’t really need and would never have gone out of your way for… but jeez, you know, it’s right there… so what can you do. Get back to your car — annoyed at the bullshit parking price you paid — drive home in lighter-but-still-stress-inducing traffic… get home, see that two hours have somehow elapsed… and for what? What part of any of that seems “normal” ? It didn’t feel normal back then, but if you’d ask anybody why all that’s necessary, you’d hear back:

“That’s just the way it is.”

And you’d ask, “Well, why? This sucks. There must be a better way.”

“Nope… that’s just the way it is.”

Funny how a pandemic can change things. You need all of this signed? No problem. But I can’t come to you and you can’t come to me. OK… figure it out… and figure it out they did, and I love it; Zoom at precisely 10am, say hi, flash the ID, step through the verification of the digital signature, step through the paper work and click-click-done. Twenty minutes, tops. No driving/polluting. No $20 parking fee down the drain. No 300-calorie Starbucks that you certainly could’ve lived without. And more than 90 minutes to do something actually productive.

Everyone is grumbling about how we’ll never be back to normal. There’s no going back. The “New Normal”.

Call it what you want… but I embrace it with open arms.

If you actually enjoy the song-and-dance I described above, don’t worry… I’m sure offices and board rooms and copy rooms will all be open fully soon enough, and then you can participate in all the signing ceremonies you like. But if the new normal means optionally throwing that away and adding the Zoom version, talk about a win-win. For me, for everyone who thinks like me, for the environment.

I understand that some people don’t like change, but as we’ve learned in so many ways over the past two years, there’s a lot that needs changing… and perhaps we need to be grateful to this pandemic for creating answers for questions that desperately needed asking. Bring it on.

And for those who don’t like it… well, for once… the answer is actually appropriate. Too bad. That’s just the way it is.