The pizza has been delivered. A Netflix movie is streaming while they eat. The kids will then go downstairs to play multiplayer video games on their own 40-inch TV sets while they text their friends on their cellphones. Their friends are all doing the same thing next door and miles away.
The mailman delivered all the stuff the family had ordered from Amazon yesterday afternoon this morning. Dad ordered more Tums and Billy got a new drone with a better camera to spy on the neighbors, but the neighbors rarely leave their house.
Mom paid all the bills online. She hasn’t mailed a check to anyone in five years. The bank does all that. She doesn’t even know where the bank is located. Why would she ever need to go there?
Dad hasn’t left the house in a week. He works at home on the computer. He says he works for a company that makes a penny every time someone types in the “at” character on their computer, but no one really knows what he does. They just know that it keeps him busy and food delivered to the table.
And it’s not just pizza that gets delivered anymore. There are already companies that will deliver fresh food to your house with instructions on how to prepare it for only five or six times the cost of buying the same stuff at the supermarket.
McDonald's just announced they plan to start delivering food. Starbucks is also trying out delivery at some high-traffic locations. Sure, you could buy their brand of coffee in the supermarket and make it at home, but then you wouldn’t have the fun of tipping the barista. Even if you don’t get the food delivered, people seem to prefer eating already-prepared food at home. Restaurants report take-out meals sales were up 18 percent last year.
Home is not just a place to hang your hat anymore. It is the clothes store, the bowling alley, the bank, the drugstore, the post office, the gym, the casual dining restaurant and the movie theater of our lives. Welcome to the Stay-At-Home Economy.
Work and school are about the only two things that require most people to leave the house. And how long will it be before work and school are something that most people do at home, too? Why go to a brick-and-mortar school when you can Skype into each class and Snapchat your friends at the same time?
And if you ever feel the need to get away from all the people at home and be by yourself, you can go to the mall. It’s empty. There are graveyards with more activity. If you see someone else at the mall, it’s a good chance that they work there. There is still a crowd at the cellphone store. And every cellphone they sell to a new customer means they’ve just created another stay-at-home shopper who may never visit the mall again.
Turning old, dying malls into something new has become a business in itself. One city turned an empty mall into a medical center. The wide hallways and large store entrances all on one level made it easy for people in wheelchairs and walkers to get around, and all the different types of doctors are now clustered under one roof. The once nearly empty parking lot is now full from 9 to 6 every day. And best yet, the repurposed mall pays taxes once again. In some places, second-floor mall shops are being turned into apartments. Like the way cities used to be -- apartments above the stores.
Mom wonders where Billy will ever meet anyone if he never leaves the house. He did go on an online date last year, but it didn’t work out. He liked “World of Warcraft” and she was a “Call of Duty” person. Thank goodness they never met in person. It might have been dangerous.
Home Depot and Lowes still seem to have real, live customers. If you’re not going to leave home, you may as well make it look nice.
(Contact Jim Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.)