2020 Review: The Year The Shit Hit The Fan

January

  • The year started off so well. My New Year’s resolutions included traveling, keeping in touch with friends, traveling more, and eating and living healthier. Okay those resolutions didn’t work out so well.
  • We started 2020 with a bucket list vacation, hitting stops in South America and Antarctica. While we were gazed at volcanos, waterfalls, icebergs and wildlife, people in Wuhan were coming down with a mysterious illness. Those days on the cruise ship seems so long ago. The new world began to sink in when we boarded out flight to return home and noticed the crew were all wearing masks. I thought that was odd. Welcome to the new normal.

February

  • Back home everyone was unsure on how to prepare for what was coming. Each day a couple of COVID-19 cases would pop up in Toronto and Vancouver. In each instance it was someone returning from a trip from China, Iran or Italy. People were anxious but you didn’t see any panic.
  • The Chinese response to the virus felt like a science fiction movie. We decided to prepare by streaming Contagion, 12 Monkeys, and Pandemic. After watching the films, I decide to dispose of anything in the house that was made in China. I then had to go out and purchase a new phone, two TVs, a set of pots and pans, and numerous other household items.
  • By late February when towns in northern Italy began to quarantine, it was obvious that we were headed in the same direction. At the end of the month, there were only 5 cases identified in Ontario. Still, I began to stock up on staples like coffee, wine, bagels, Oreos, and toilet paper. Things I couldn’t live without.

March

  • The last time I was officially out in public was at a Toronto Maple Leaf game on March 10. The NHL shutdown the next day and the WHO declared a global pandemic. But since the Leafs won that night things weren’t so bad. The WHO announcement was like the captain of the Titanic acknowledging the ship was sinking with the water almost at the deck level.
  • The next day my family doctor advised me to self-isolate because I was immune compromised. Too bad I’m not an introvert. This was going to be painful.
  • Around this time, the panic shopping hit full gear. Who will ever forget the scary scenes of people fighting over rolls of toilet paper, boxes of pasta, hand sanitizer, boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, and whatever else they could get their hands on? I got hold of a two-year supply of peanut M&Ms. Two weeks later I ran out.
  • On March 17, a state of emergency was declared in Ontario. Everything but the most essential services were shut down. My new wardrobe consisted of sweatpants and t-shirts.
  • The World Health Organization announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out.

April

  • I will never forget those first few weeks of the lockdown. The Toronto region has over 6 million people and some of the worst traffic in North America, but in the first month of the lockdown there was no traffic. The empty roads left you with an eerie feeling. Wildlife began to take over the neighbourhood. One morning I noticed a group of racoons lying out in the sun in the middle of the road enjoying their breakfast.
  • I settled down to my quarantine routine: writing daily, going for walks, ordering things we needed online, and watch the news.  Here in Canada, every politician took to the airwaves to provide daily updates on the pandemic. They were like cheerleaders with catchphrases like “we’re all in this together” and “these are unprecedented times.” Within weeks, half of them had tested positive.
  • I learned that hand sanitizer could remove those telltale orange Cheetos stains from your fingers so that was a good thing.
  • The Canadian government offered to pay people to stay at home and millions took them up on the offer.
  • I mentioned to my wife that it’s so nice to be able to quarantine with someone I enjoyed spending time with. She said, “it must be nice.”
  • One morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into my house, told my dog–we laughed a lot.

May

  • A strange phenomenon began to emerge. People found they needed to get out of the house and have some form of exercise began walking. The sidewalks were packed. It was no different on weekdays since most people were at home.
  • People were careful to maintain a proper distance on sidewalks. One day a man and a woman walking in opposite directions met and came to a complete stop just outside their six-foot perimeter. The man signalled to the woman to step around him. She waved him off and offered to let him go first. Neither one of them would budge. The sidewalk in both directions got backed up for almost three blocks, each person remaining at least six feet behind the person ahead. It was the first Toronto traffic jam in weeks.
  • Finally, police showed up and were able to redirect the other pedestrians and then tried to assist this pair in deciding who would go first. It was finally sorted out when the woman’s husband drove over to take her home.
  • Thousands pack a park on a sunny day in Toronto, becoming the poster children for covidiots.
  • I developed a quarantine coffee. It was quite good and consisted on three parts tequila and no coffee.

June

  • Small talk changed with the times. Canadians love to small talk about the weather. “That’s some rain we had,” or “cold enough for ya?” The pandemic dominated conversation. “How many new cases today?” was a common question these days. Then of course the discussion switched to food. “How are you getting your groceries?”
  • We all agree that quarantine life has been boring and monotonous. Each day was more or less a repeat of the day before. I couldn’t remember if it was Monday, Friday or Saturday. So, to make things simpler, I referred to every day as Sameday. 
  • New terminology crept into our lexicon:
    • Quarantine = 14 days during which you don’t have to deal with your spouse or children.
    • Social distancing = It is the limit that people will tolerate you approaching them when you haven’t showered in six weeks.
    • Herd immunity = When enough people ignore medical experts and scientists so that there are no dumb people left in a region to pass the virus on to.
    • Essential worker = Amazon drivers, liquor store workers drug dealers and sex workers.
    • Karen (or Kyle) = A pejorative term for a woman (or man) who screams about freedom and oxygen levels, thinks the Earth is flat, and has a trailer full of toilet paper.

July/August

  • The summer weather emptied the walkers from the streets and filled the parks and backyards. As new coronavirus infection rates dropped, everything began to open up. Restaurants set up patios to encourage people to dine out.
  • After almost four months indoors, I moved out onto my deck. Invited friends I hadn’t seen in months and enjoyed the great weather. We showed off our pandemic haircuts. Some friends commented on what I was wearing. I called it COVID casual. They claimed it was pyjamas.
  • Some people acted like the pandemic was over and dropped masks and social distancing not realizing the worst was yet to come. Stores stopped screening shoppers or limiting the number of people allowed inside at one time.
  • All the sports leagues began to operate again because sport fans who have been cooped up inside want to spend more time indoors during the nice weather. The Toronto Blue Jays are denied permission to play in Toronto and play out of Buffalo. What could be worse than being stuck in Buffalo during a pandemic?
  • One day I found an AA pamphlet in my recycling bin. The people picking up the garbage were getting too judgmental.
  • I bought a Peloton because my wife claimed that the sofa wasn’t an exercise machine. I lost that argument.

September

  • Schools reopened after six months of virtual learning. The same schools that couldn’t control lice and strep throat infections were going to keep kids from picking up the coronavirus. Within days infections were reported in dozens of school systems.
  •  Many parents decided to continue home schooling their children. If you think things are bad now, in 20 years we’ll be run by people who were homeschooled by parents who were drinking all day.
  • The World Health Organization announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. To be clear, WHO let the dogs out.
  • I realized my local gym had a more detailed COVID plan than the White House.
  • Date night in 2020 is Netflix, a glass of wine and falling asleep on the couch.

October

  • Governments across Canada advised the public to not have been gatherings for Canadian Thanksgiving and stick to their own household. There was a big sigh of relief from the Turkey community.
  • I needed to change my routine, so I put a drink in each room and called it a pub crawl.
  • I’ve washed my hands so many times since March that my exam notes from my university days that I had hidden on hands began to reappear.

November

  • As infection rates climbed, government began to shutdown some business and tighten up restrictions again with no or little impact.
  • One morning I thought I had come down with COVID-19. Turns out I had accidentally made decaf coffee. Pandemic life was starting to get to me.
  • One day I was skyping with my Jewish mom and she let out a big sigh. I asked her what’s wrong. She said I looked so good in a surgical mask. “So, what’s with the sigh?” I asked.  She said she was just imagining how much better I would look if I was a doctor wearing the mask.

December

  • The government asked the public to stay at home except for essential trips. The following day malls and liquor stores were jammed with people. It seems Christmas shopping was essential.
  • Nail salons, hair salons, waxing center and tanning places were closed again. It was about to get ugly out there.
  • I was surprised as anyone to see Canada begin its vaccination program in the last few weeks of 2020. Makes you want to look forward to 2021. Just hope the vaccine doesn’t come in pumpkin spice or peppermint flavours.

Wishing my readers, a safe and healthy New Year and return to more normal life.

Willie

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