By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
There’s a persistent urban legend that some of us have 2020 Bingo cards. You know, the cards with various possible, or for bonus points, unlikely, even impossible events that earn points if they match the description on your card.
You see these at various birthday parties or wedding showers.
I don’t remember hearing about them before 2020, but we certainly have never had such a bingo-card worthy year.
Consider just a few of the unlikely events few, if any, of us would have foreseen in 2020.
The worst pandemic in a century, costing hundreds of lives each day, took many of us by surprise (but not Bill Gates and several authors and medical specialists – for an analysis of past pandemics and their future inevitability, check out these recommendations: https://www.aarp.org/entertainment/books/info-2020/books-about-epidemics-and-pandemics.html or these – https://www.fastcompany.com/90479368/the-quarantined-reader-10-brilliant-nonfiction-pandemic-books or these https://electricliterature.com/12-books-about-pandemics/).
Even the unprecedented economic fall-out creating the highest unemployment rates in our nation’s history were semi-predictable. Again, for a variety of reasons, a major economic reversal was on the horizon for many observers of interest rates (near, or even below, zero in many nations and markets) employment and global trade developments.
But who would have imagined a full year with essentially no “markers” – no baseball season (maybe later this month?), no big events like fairs, sports seasons, conventions or even full-blown holiday celebrations?
As the year dragged on, with few reference points, each day, even each month, blurred into the next.
Drive-by birthday parties, even weddings, and graduations became a thing. For a while.
Grocery shopping became either a mad frenzy or disappointing tour of empty shelves.
Our holidays, both their observances and the sales usually associated with them evaporated.
We seemed to lurch from one rumor, fear and obsession to another.
Who would have guessed that there would be a surge of baking? Or home gardening?
Who could forget the great toilet paper frenzy of early 2020?
2020 will certainly go down in history for many reasons, but one is that for several months, a single roll of toilet paper cost more than a gallon of gas.
But speaking of gas, who would have imagined empty freeways? Or closed borders? Or vacated airports?
COVID-19 and its repercussions revealed America’s racial split, class distinctions and digital divide like no other event.
Families with internet access could work or carry on with school from home without much disruption, those without web access were isolated even more.
Many stores required masks on customers – except those customers with darker skin tones. For obvious reasons, which few were willing to explain, it was more dangerous for those customers to enter a store or bank with a mask on than off.
Established traditions and expectations were abruptly dropped and new ones – often for a week or two – took their place.
Routine activities, like going to a park or to a movie, or even a predictable work (or school) schedule evaporated like a distant morning mist.
Schools became drop off points for lunches for school kids.
Mounds of food were buried or burned because of the closure of restaurants across the country.
But some, motivated by the need as well as the waste, stepped in.
Food banks, like everything else it seems, went to extremes; bulging with food one day, empty the next.
Impromptu Food is Free tables (https://foodisfree253.com/) popped up all over Pierce County.
Home deliveries – in some neighborhoods – became the new standard. In fact for days, if not weeks, at a stretch, delivery vehicles were the only traffic in many areas.
Drive-in movies, at least for a while, have returned – https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/02/walmart-transform-160-store-parking-lots-into-drive-in-movie-theaters/ – and many are free.
Work, for some, went on as usual. Some work increased dramatically while others areas, like travel and hospitality, dwindled beyond recognition.
And who of us knew, or cared about Zoom six months ago?
Who would have pictured many of us doing almost everything online; work, school, shopping, even parties or family gatherings? Distance became irrelevant – at least if we had internet access.
Church services, weddings, even dinners began to take shape online.
Most of Europe closed its borders to Americans. Canada closed its borders to all but the most essential crossing for Americans. Even Mexico, at its Arizona crossing, closed the border to US citizens.
2020 had so many bizarre occurrences from Murder hornets to Godzilla Saharan Dust Storms that 100-degree (F) temperatures above the Arctic Circle or even U.S. Air Force videos of extra-terrestrial aircraft otherwise known as UFOs –https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/28/us/pentagon-ufo-videos.html – barely registered on our news headlines.
President Trump is involved in near non-stop scandals, dismissals, betrayals and tell-all books. (We must have pity for Mr. Trump, the poor man has been surrounded by hoaxes, scandals and false accusations his entire life).
Vladimir Putin rewrites the Russian Constitution to allow him to be President for life. The move is copied by other leaders of former super-powers.
In a final abandonment of logic, reason and civil discourse, “Because I said so” is the final word on any topic. Besides being used by toddlers, it has become the favorite term (in slightly different words) for CEOs, neighborhood bullies and a few select political figures.
As you look over these 2020 Bingo events, consider how many of them seemed fantastical even a few months ago.