Dockless scooters on the Pacific Beach boardwalk
Dockless, motorized scooters on the Pacific Beach boardwalk have sparked controversy. Photo by Chris Stone

By Harvey Radin

It’s “a feeling of anxiety and unhappiness,” the word — angst — in the Oxford Dictionary. I’m feeling angst reading current events. And then my telephone rings. A recorded voice says I have a security problem with my smartphone cloud. That’s awfully strange since I don’t have a smartphone.

After the telephone call, I’m back to breaking news. Dockless bikes are “being strewn about” in Charlotte, according to a North Carolina paper. Charlotte is among a number of cities nationwide where people are renting dockless bikes and scooters and leaving them wherever they please when they’re done riding.

Pedestrians strolling along sidewalks in other cities— San Diego, Dallas, Washington DC, San Francisco and Seattle, to name a few — are teed off when motorized scooters go whizzing by. They’re irritated when they have to dodge around scooters and bikes left along sidewalks, and when they have to move them out of the way to get inside buildings. In the news, there are pictures of a scooter someone tossed into the branches of a tree and of someone at a train station throwing a scooter from the platform onto the track.

Then I’m seeing pictures of mosquitoes and ticks in articles warning everyone to get ready for fevers, probably more Lyme disease and other illnesses, thanks to climate change. And for some reason, I’m thinking back to a story in the Huffington Post about a “bachelorette party from Texas” renting a house in New Orleans through a short-term rental company. The women tied anatomically-shaped inflatables “to the front of the house, perhaps not realizing that the neighbors — families and other longtime residents — might mind.”

Just thinking about all this news is giving me angst when an ad appears on my computer. There’s a picture of a passenger plane and the words: “Up to 90 daily flights…within a growing California network.” I happen to know the plane pictured in the ad from hearing the sound of airplanes in the subscription airline’s fleet flying over our neighborhood and neighboring communities.

The company can fly its planes out of small, general aviation airports. There was an article in a northern California paper, the Mercury News, with someone in a crowd of 185 people at a public hearing wondering how the desires of nine passengers, the number of people the subscription airline’s planes can carry, could “mean more than the lives of the 150,000 people they are disturbing.”

No wonder there’s angst, with newfangled businesses doing their thing, unwanted phone calls, fevers and diseases brought on by global warming, and what else? Did I mention politics? Well, I’m not touching politics or anatomically-shaped inflatables. But here’s the thing about businesses shaking things up, doing their thing. They’re certainly admired for innovation and for changing paradigms, but they’re also disparaged if they appear to be running roughshod over people.

Can they keep wowing people with nifty services and somehow reduce angst? Maybe they can. Seeing ahead more, that might help, with businesses doing more, perhaps, to more fully understand how new business models might delight some people but cause feelings “of anxiety and unhappiness” for others.

Harvey Radin is a crisis communication veteran who lives in Northern California. His commentary about business and government has appeared in a number of media outlets, including Business Insider, Talking Biz News, American Banker and regional newspapers.

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