Harley Hay

Harley Hay: 2020 – the year that wasn’t

I was chatting on the phone with my friend Richard from Calgary a few weeks ago and asked him, as a person does, “How’s your day going?” “Oh, not so great,” he said, sort of sadly. “It was garbage day yesterday and Lynn (his wife) went outside and pulled our empty recycling and garbage bins back to our garage. I was so disappointed. Now my plans for this afternoon are completely shot.”

This is the kind of thing that comes to mind when a person ponders 2020, the year that wasn’t.

When the Corona/Covid/epi-virus/pandemic descended on the entire world like a big black cloud of unprecedented bummer-ness, everything changed. When I look back I’m met with a remembrance of an unwelcome life on an unfamiliar planet. Like we were all suddenly, as Robert A. Heinlein first said, strangers in a strange land.

For example, in no particular order, this was 2020:

Working from home. In your pajamas. Or worse.

Driving to nowhere for entertainment. Aimlessly aiming your car around town, or even to a nearby town, just for something to do. Pretending you were going somewhere good.

As above, except walking around the block. Or in a park. Or nowhere in particular. This becomes either the sole remaining part of your exercise regimen or a last ditch attempt to retain sanity through the intake of fresh air.

Masks. Remember when you used to look twice at a person at the airport who was wearing a facemask? Now we stare at someone who isn’t. And we found that masks fog your glasses, smell like cheese, and somehow make your brain muddled. But while we’re at it, a shout-out to all those creative and talented souls who hand-made groovy cloth masks for their family and friends. Who thought a medically mandated face covering could become fashion forward?

Hand sanitizer. Hands up everybody who has had to lather on the expensive hand cream at home to counteract litres of constant hand-drenching with powerful skin searing, strange smelling squirts of liquid disinfectant. I mean, what’s in that stuff – sulfuric acid? Kryptonite? Vodka?

Binge-watching on Netflix (or many other online channels). This was popular before the damn-demic but in 2020 it became a necessary obsession for many of us. We took “couch potato” to a new level. A whole couch-potato patch perhaps.

Virtual hugs also became popular on Zoom and similar computer generated cyber-voodoo. Visiting with family and friends in little picture boxes on a computer isn’t perfect, but it sure beats staring at the wall and sadly wondering what your peeps look like these days.

Visits on the deck or around the fire pit in the snowy back yard, six feet apart and wearing masks are a strange and memorable earmark of 2020, especially at Christmas. The epic gatherings and feasts and festive parties this year became awkward smatterings of a few people shout-mumbling at each other and wishing you could just throw your hands in the air and have a really good hug.

We all have our own moments that made 2020 what is was, for good or for bad, but now that it’s a new year, let’s kick 2020’s sorry butt out the door and welcome 2021 to the annals of recorded history.

Nobody expects the looming specter of the year that wasn’t to disappear any time soon, but perhaps down the long and winding road there will be place where we can emerge from our dens like sleepy bears, shake off the nightmares and hug everything in sight.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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