What Is Going On?

“May you live in an interesting age” is a curse attributed to Chinese sources.

These days are an “interesting age.”

It was ten days ago that I left for Amelia Island.

Things were tentative. COVID-19 was largely confined to China but cases were showing up in northern Italy and Iran. There was some trepidation upon boarding the plane to JAX but disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer were in my bag.

I didn’t wipe down the rental Dodge Durango at JAX – even though Avis couldn’t manage to wipe off the water spots on the hulk’s mirrors.

There were a few elbow-bump greetings at the Concours on Sunday but more handshakes with blithe acceptances that, “We’ll all get it eventually.”

By the time I got back to JAX on Sunday I wiped: the check-in terminal, the armrests and table in the Embraer, the lavatory buttons and door and my hands after I got off the parking shuttle at BOS.

Coronavirus and COVID-19 are that quickly affecting lives. We will never be quite the same.

The “Patient Zero” itineraries are revealing, spreading from the Biogen conference in Boston across the world in days, infecting (and cancelling) this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix not to mention nearly every (non-NASCAR – now non-spectator, which is about what they’ve been lately anyway) sporting event and series in the U.S.

This is an interconnected world and the idea of “six degrees of separation” is outdated. Separation means the person in the seat next to you in the airplane, your predecessor in the toilet or the last person to handle the grocery store carriage.

The Amelia Concours and auctions last weekend were the end of an era of joyous gatherings to celebrate collector cars and gather with collectors to exchange views, opinions and “what’s new with you and your family.”

Don’t mistake the consequences. We’re going to lose friends, acquaintances and colleagues to COVID-19.

We’re going to withdraw into personal space even if the magicians of biologic pharmaceuticals find ways to mitigate the “novel” coronavirus’s spread or deal with its effects.

In the little world of collector car auctions some have adopted an optimistic view and rescheduled, e.g., RM’s Essen sale optimistically rescheduled to “mid/late June” and B-J Palm Beach from April until October. Others have converted to a hands-off online format, e.g., RM Palm Beach.

2020 is going to be an interesting age.

Credit the bat-eaters in the Wuhan wet market for implementing the Chinese curse.

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    • Mark R>
    • March 14, 2020

    Ditto on the bat-eating types o’er yonder, Rick. When I see canned goods (and more) from Asia you have to wonder why exotic animals have to end up in their soup. At the same time, I’m curious as to why the collector car thing hasn’t taken off in Asia? They have lots of money and the newest infrastructure. Are they just calling-in their bids? Thanks for your reports!

      • rickcarey1
      • March 14, 2020

      The Asian question has bedeviled much more knowledgeable people than you or me, and for many years.
      The Japanese property bubble brought the first waves of collectors, but they were for the most part doing an asset play: they had huge resources and played some of it into collector cars mostly as an asset class for diversification.
      The Chinese may emerge, although the coronavirus has so seriously dented their economy that resources, both private and public, will be deployed by central direction into economic recovery for the foreseeable future.
      The Chinese have no history with cars until this century and, if and when they have discretionary resources again, any interest will probably first be for the late model Ferraris, Porsches, Paganis, etc. A 250 GT SWB means little (if anything) to the generations of Chinese with net worth. I don’t anticipate any flush of interest in a near term time frame.

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