We look back to Sept. 11 as a moment that altered the ways Americans behave. In the dynamics of cause and effect, though, what starts out as an effect often becomes a cause of additional change. Thus, the recent shifts in people's behavior will end up yielding their ownconsequences further down the line. Here's a forecast of some effects already set in motion. •Look for a baby boomlet next spring. A poll by HomeStyle magazine finds 28 percent of homeowners saying they've been "more physically intimate with their partner/spouse since Sept. 11." That's consistent with a U.S. News & World Report item that says contraceptive sales "have been climbing steadily since Sept. 11." Given the imperfect reliability of such devices, demand for baby-related goods should boost the economy nine months from now.
•Having gorged on comfort foods all autumn, Americans will waddle to health clubs in record numbers in the new year. In fact, the general air of menace already has prompted some to get in shape. Polling conducted for Arnold Worldwide finds 24 percent of adults saying they're now more likely to "take care of my body so that I'm healthy and strong."
•Americans will soon be ready for a respite from togetherness. Many polls have shown them communing with family and friends as never before. Without belittling that impulse, we must wonder how long it can persist among people used to going their own way. It's no accident, after all, that these folks spent less time with loved ones before Sept. 11. Ads that make a big deal of familial bonding may have a shorter shelf life than agencies now suppose.
•If we get through the next several months without Armageddon having arrived, some people will wish they hadn't stocked up for it. Gallup found 8 percent of Americans had bought a weapon and 9 percent had stockpiled food and/or water; Harris found 18 percent considering the purchase of an electric generator; 23 percent of the HomeStyle poll's respondents had bought a cell phone or a beeper. If we're lucky, Americans will have a coast-to-coast case of buyer's remorse as these purchases needlessly clutter up their homes.