Avoiding Regret

2021 has been deeply disappointing to many people I interact with, not just me. Folks were looking forward to enjoying the collective activities this summer, like before Covid-19. For a little while in the late spring and early summer, vaccinated people made plans. Then travel and group activities became dangerous again. Maybe not as dangerous – vaccinated people are unlikely to die from Covid – but still life-threatening to children and other people who can’t vaccinate. (Also, no one wants to get Covid, even if it doesn’t kill you.)

By July, most people were, yet again, making those decisions about what activities to do, and what activities to forego in order to avoid catching the more infectious version of Covid.

Resiliency ebbed, regret mounted

At work, earlier in 2021, on a Sunday, I attended an open house that did not require masks for vaccinated people. The very next Tuesday, I attended a home inspection with four people, in masks, at the request of one of the people there. The person who requested that we mask is an immigrant. Where he grew up and still has family, they had an extremely low Covid-19 rate through 2020. The disease did not spike the way it did here. However, when the Delta variant reached their shores in 2021, it spread like crazy. Because the 2020 threat was not as big a problem there, vaccination rates were low., and the Delta variant hit hard. A strict lockdown was called in the late spring. The graphs of infection and death looks very different in other countries, like his. It was late spring when I first I heard of the Delta variant from this immigrant.

Sure enough, soon everyone in the U.S. heard about the Delta variant too. We started reading stories about hospital bed shortages again. It sucked. Just as I and hordes of other people started making plans. Those plans had to be revisited for Covid safety, again!

My resiliency got arthritis. Where I typically would be pliable, I was stiffening against the next thing I couldn’t do that I wanted to do.

Not knowing what I could do safely, again, made me grouchy. The grouchiness of other people made me grouchy. The stories of people ignoring what I saw as common sense precautions made me grouchy. I faced it; I was a grouch.

I collected a list of regrets. It made me, well, grouchy.

So-and-so did this. I didn’t think it was safe. X number of people got infected. Glad I didn’t go.

So-and-so did this. I didn’t think it was safe. Everyone had a great time. No one got sick. Now I feel left out.  I regret it.

What to do to avoid regret:

Advice from my work life: My company aims to use a “low regret” model of negotiation.

When I work with homebuyers who are deciding how much to offer on a specific house, I help them sort their decision by asking a question like this, “Which would you regret more? Not getting the house and finding out the top offer was $5000 more that yours or getting the house, then finding out that the offer below yours was $10,000 lower?”

The best decision in that situation comes from discerning what is more important, buying that particular house or not regretting overpaying for it.

First: Data point one is what it should sell for, given a study of recently closed houses like it. Then, a guess at the competition.

Second: The personal decision is best based on how typical the house is; will there be more like that? If there will be more like that, buyers have more options to let this one go.

Next: Buyers need to look at monthly carrying costs of this particular house; will they resent the expense and the loss of things they could have spent that money on?

Back to Covid:

In a not real estate context, like deciding about attending events during Covid 2021, the question is: how important is that particular interaction with people? Will you miss a once-in-a-lifetime event, like a wedding or time with small children? Can you replace the interaction with another time with the same people that has a lower risk of Delta variant exposure? Will you regret missing the event more than you will regret getting sick from Covid, or worse, infecting someone else?

The Covid vaccine has reduced the life-and-death level of risk. That is what it was intended to do. It’s not a zero risk to vaccinated people, and there are people who can’t be vaccinated.

In my heart of hearts, this summer I hope to be making plans as if the disease was on the way to being wiped out. Delta stopped that. That made me grouchy.

Even though I have been so grouchy, I have successfully navigated the should I/shouldn’t I attend decisions this summer. However, I am stiffening around how much more difficult this will be once the weather turns cold. This is how I did it. Your mileage may vary.

Make personal rules:

  • Masks inside buildings, except at home with family.
  • Only outdoor dining in public restaurants.
  • Indoor dining with no more than six people in their home or my home. Windows open when feasible.
  • No buses or airplanes. Subways, away from peak hours. This, only when necessary, masked of course!
  • Masks or open windows when in a car with people outside my household.

How to decide to make exceptions (my examples):

  1. I have a friend who is in poor health and lives on a limited income. One of her big pleasures in life is having onion rings at a particular bar restaurant. There is no outdoor option. I have dined indoors with her there, three times. We choose late afternoon when there is almost no one there. It’s worked out fine. Decision: Making this exception does not add much risk.
  2. We are attending a wedding in October. It was postponed from last November. They are close neighbors. We are going. We’ll be masked when we are not eating. We will decide, on the spot, whether we will take off our masks to eat. We might step outside to eat. We may eat less.  Decision: The exception is only for eating times during the party. We can mask all other times. We are there to see them wed! This is a once-in-a-lifetime event.
  3. Anniversary party was supposed to be a barbeque at the couple’s home. It poured. We did not go. Decision: There will be too many people in a small space, eating. We would regret catching Covid at a house party. We’ll go out to dinner with the couple later on. 
  4. A significant birthday party (with a 0 at the end) and a 25th wedding anniversary party was called for this September, as a replacement for a postponed 2020 event to celebrate these milestones. The couple live two hours away. The hosts cancelled it. We didn’t make the decision. We don’t regret it. We are calling them more often to keep in touch. What is lost in being with them can be made up later; maintain the relationship!

Summary: I recommend having an internal dialogue about how to keep what is important to your social life while sticking closely to your personal health plan during the pandemic. I retain the right to be grouchy. You do, too.

Leave a Reply