• Jeanette Prather

The Quirkier Side of 2020


Instead of dwelling on the erratic chaos that was 2020, I've decided to focus on the weird (take "weird" in a positive light to mean "what once was not regarded as normal that has become regular in 2020") sh*t that people did this year as it comes to a close; interested to see if these new habits will stick around or not. Some having to do with correspondence between people, some having to do with new cultural norms, and some brand new habits we've developed.


For the sake of highlighting the "quirk" elements of 2020, I've decided to keep the angles unique and subjective (i.e. what I've noticed, how I processed these occurrences, my opinions, etc.). Let's take a look:


* Closing emails with "stay safe," "stay well," "stay healthy," etc. While previously these types of salutations have popped up at the end of emails here and there, I've discovered a very common presence with this. Additionally, formerly-overlooked acknowledgement from the recipient is now taken very seriously with replies of the same gesture. I'm guilty of this and think that it is a sweet way to close out a correspondence.


* Messages in home and car windows, on the sides of the road, and on public buildings that range from "Say their names," to signs thanking essential workers to congratulating 2020 grads, to "we're all in this together." Communities and newly established cohorts created more grassroots ways to get their words out there than I've ever seen. And while congratulating graduates by writing on car windows is certainly not new, the sheer quantity of homemade signage posted up basically everywhere, is palpable. Maybe this simple form of communication will join the ranks of more complex, digital modes of messaging.


* Howling at 8 pm -- whatever that means to individuals in different time zones around the world -- to commemorate and thank our medical teams around the world. While we wind down 2020, I've noticed this phenomenon less and less, but at the start of the pandemic it was most certainly a "thing" that was prevalent all over the place. [Funny, quirkier anecdote: My 9-year-old son and I were on a scooter ride one evening around 8 pm, and unknowingly stumbled within earshot of a particularly rowdy, howl-y group of celebrators that startled my son, who clearly thought the sounds were wild animals and went running away from a nearby bush. After stifling laugher and explaining to him what was going on, he was able to accept this as normal, eventually participating in the evenings that followed, and chuckle at the memory of his reaction.]


* Protesting and the rise of TikTok. Again, while this is certainly not new or solely indicative of 2020, the way that people protest seemed to evolve into a more sophisticated, collaborative, and organized endeavor than years past. This may just be my perception of the global protests that sprung up, but the exposure and peeling back of systematic layers that I witnessed were done in methodical, well-thought-out manners. The best part was watching police and protesters unite, and the worst part was watching violence and/or looting unfold. [A strange element I noticed while overhearing a protestor once, was that person trying to match the cadence and melody of nearby traffic noises while announcing their protest. Because the situation was not within my vision scope, I had no idea what was happening but thought it was an interesting way to get the message across nonetheless.]


* Face masks dangling from review mirrors, off of an ear, sewn on shirt collars, etc. People got creative with how and where they would put their masks as to not forget to wear them or bring them. My favorites; around my wrist and clipped to my purse.


*Hoarding (shudder!) and the chaos that was the paper products, hand sanitizer, flour, and meat isles and shelves in grocery stores. I feel like most of us have anxiety surrounding the memory of this nonsense. I remember once being in Walgreens for a different purchase, and the phone wouldn't stop ringing. Every so often the cashier would answer the phone and basically rattle off what was probably the hundredth time that day, "Nope, sorry, we're all out of hand sanitizer, toilet paper [fill in the blank]." I feel like we can let this one go moving into the future, although I will miss the funny memes on social!


* Bikes and RVs flying off the shelves and out of lots. I wrote an article for Growing Up in Santa Cruz on this phenomenon (shameless plug! Article available here), and it's real, real. The percentage of sales growth during this pandemic was in the hundreds, while suppliers struggled to meet the demands of the people. [Since publishing the September article in Growing Up, I've visited a local bike shop that mentioned they were FINALLY starting to catch up to the demand].


* People dodging other people on sidewalks. This is a weird one, for sure, as well as something I'm happy to see fade away with the onset of a COVID vaccination. Personally, I find it stressful to go for a jog, begin approaching someone walking their dogs (both of us all masked up, I'd like to report), and then need to step off the sidewalk into the street while an oncoming car flies past. I've been in both seats -- the runner and the driver -- and it's straight-up dangerous. I've also noticed something for the first time ever; different neighborhoods in Santa Cruz have taken to sticking up City signs proclaiming, "No Thru Traffic." I'm not sure how I feel about this. One part, I'm happy that there is attention being paid to pedestrians and children, but another part I'm hoping it doesn't enable children (mine included!) to play in the streets going forward, or even now for that matter.


* A political system collapse (which will hopefully turn into something better). I don't want to get too much into politics here, but CLEARLY 2020 has been its own version of a sh*t show when it comes to U.S. politics and, unfortunately, our leaders in Washington. And, it's STILL unfolding for some reason...


* The growth in attention paid to astronomy and astrology. This is probably my favorite take-away from 2020. I've always been interested in both astronomy (the study of stars, planets, galaxies, asteroids, etc. and the way they interact with each other as well as their specific properties) and astrology (the application and belief that the celestial bodies affects humans and earthly events), but this year was a doozy! I can't even relay all of the celestial phenomena that occurred this year here, or this blog would never end. Just do a simple Google search on this year's astronomy and astrology, and then go ahead and fall down that rabbit hole. [Special shout-out to my astral buddies who've indulged in woo-woo conversations with me throughout the year!]


On we go! (Don't worry, I'll be done soon...)


Additionally, some pre-2020, rarely used vernacular have become regular in daily conversation among our culture. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, I've decided to take a less subjective approach to the vocabulary that was 2020 by writing a list of words/terms that became normal in our language this year (much like I would during a second grade spelling test, lol). Some of these words I'll be happy to release, while others I'd be happy to see stick around.


Let's see what may or may not make themselves regular vocabulary in daily conversation moving forward (alphabetized for further objectiveness):


* 6-Feet Apart

* Astronomy

* BLM

* Cancelled

* CDC

* Challenging

* Civil Unrest

* Climate Change

* Cruise ship

* Cohort

* Crisis

* Difficult

* Distance Learning

* Dr. Anthony Fauci

* Election Results

* Erratic

* Essential

* Evacuation

* Face Mask

* Frontline

* Hand Sanitizer

* Health

* Heat Wave

* Injustice

* Inoculation

* Medical

* Pandemic

* Physical Distancing

* POD

* Protests

* Quarantine

* Questionable

* Shelter-in-place

* Social Distancing

* Social Justice

* Solidarity

* Stimulus

* Streaming

* Toilet Paper

* Travel Restrictions

* Uncertain

* Unprecedented

* Vaccine

* Virus

* Wildfire(s)

* Zoom


Are there more words that should be included on this list? ABSOLUTELY! Do I have the patience or time to add more to the "spelling/vocabulary list of 2020" here? Nope! [Caveat: If I've carelessly missed an important word or term, feel free to comment and I'll insert it. I did make a conscious choice to leave off the names of the police brutality victims because of the sheer volume of them, sadly].


While not all of 2020 was a bust (I myself accomplished a lot and know a bunch of people with similar stories), the verdict is out and I'm pretty sure I can speak for a lot of people when I say, "Buh-bye 2020! Thanks for the lessons learned, the skills developed, the strength and grit imbedded, and the time you provided us. Good riddance!"

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