2020, The Year of the Suck

My wife has labelled 2020 the “Year of the Suck.” Hard to argue with her on that account. We’re in that delightful demographic so fondly known as the “elderly”, and this was supposed to be our time to kick back, relax, travel, visit our adult children and enjoy life…you know…retirement. Little did we know that the year of the suck would come along, the Communist Chinese would fumble the ball (or in this case lethal virus), and “kick back and relax” would come to mean self-quarantine. Year of the suck.

The year of the suck started back in March, (oh God, has it really been 8 months already?) when my wife and I took my Subaru WRX for an overnight trip across Florida from St. Augustine to the Gulf of Mexico. The purpose for the trip was to drive my zippy little AWD car on the only curvy road in the entire state of Florida, known as the Tail of the Gator. (I bought the car when I lived in Virginia, where there are multitudes of curvy country roads and I used to play ‘dodge the deer’ at sunset. Then my wife decided she wanted to be in Florida). Year of the suck.

Anyhow, when we left for the “Gator” the world was screwed up, but the normal screwed up…you know…murder…mayhem…terrorists…impeachment…an election year…traffic woes…hurricanes (this is Florida), the usual stuff. But, when we returned the following day, we entered an entirely new universe, where the world has shrunk to the dimensions of our 1200 square foot condo. Year of the suck.

We turned on the news, and apparently some guy in China had eaten an uncooked bat (yummy) and managed to get infected with a lethal Coronavirus. Or alternatively, the Communist Chinese launched a bio-warfare attack on the world, and no noticed. (Our useless news media are too busy spouting Democratic or Republican propaganda to notice. They wouldn’t even notice if Chinese jet fighters did a fly-over of Washington, DC, especially if they were paid enough yen to ignore it). Year of the suck.

People all over the world were dropping like flies, at least people in our demographic (remember?  Those “elderly” folks, like us.) I read that over 90% of the Covid deaths are elderly, in that over-65 category. You’d think eventually we’d run out of us. Year of the suck.

According to the government and some venerable man named Sir Fauci, or maybe it was Doctor Fauci, we should/should not wear a mask to protect ourselves/others from this virus. At least everyone seemed to agree it was, in fact, a virus that was killing people, and not the usual cow farts that get blamed for global warming. I was glad to hear that it wasn’t cow flatus. I always felt bad for cows when people blamed them for the destruction of the planet. Seems sad to blame something that is kind enough to turn itself into a Big Mac for our problems. I’m pretty sure the cows would prefer a different career choice. Year of the suck.

Then the Surgeon General came on TV and told us, “No need to wear a mask. You won’t get sick. We need those masks and gloves for health care workers, because only they get sick from this virus. And, you’re all going to die anyhow.” This was kind of confusing. Why do health care workers need masks, if you don’t get sick? And, why are we all going to die? And, why don’t we appoint a new Surgeon General? Year of the suck. 

Then the mayor of NYC came on TV (I definitely need to throw my shoe through the TV so I stop watching the damn thing) like Chicken Little, flapping his wings and yelling “The sky is falling. We’re all gonna die.” Or something to that effect. It was great to see how our fearless leaders were so calmly handling this thing that came to be known as a “pandemic.” Year of the suck.

Then, everyone seemed to forget that there were thousands of people dying on ventilators, and spent the next two weeks arguing over whether or not it was racist to call the virus the Chinese virus, even though it clearly came from Wuhan, China. Hell, the Chinese didn’t even deny it, although one of their scientific experts on coronavirus did apparently disappear mysteriously. I didn’t much care what the hell they called it. I would have preferred that someone figure out how to kill the damn thing. It would have been upsetting to me if they’d called it the cow virus though. Again, I have a soft spot in my heart for cows. They’ve taken enough blame for man-made disasters. Year of the suck.

The confusion got worse. Decisions related to response to Covid was left up to the states, which seemed to make sense. Any rational person might conclude that the public health response to a lethal virus in NYC, with a zillion people per square foot, might be different from the response in the Nevada desert, where there are no people (I exaggerate for effect). Year of the suck.

The confusion came when some states like Florida declared that it was impossible to catch Covid on the beach (again, I exaggerate, but only a little), while other states like Michigan made it a felony, under penalty of death, to mow your grass or trim your hedges, mask or no mask. I believe in Michigan you have to wear your mask at all times, even in the shower or while swimming. If you get caught without it, the governor immediately disinfects you by setting you on fire. (Could that be what all those protesters are really doing burning the cities to the ground…disinfecting from Covid?). Year of the suck.

As I’ve probably mentioned, we live in Florida. We are also in that demographic so fondly referred to as the “elderly”. A couple of important points related to this fact. First of all, approximately 150% of the population of Florida falls into this demographic. Second, the government’s recommendation for the elderly with respect to the Covid pandemic is, stay the hell home, don’t go anywhere, self-quarantine, live by yourself, don’t eat anything that you haven’t cooked yourself, don’t breathe…have I said ‘never leave your house? And, if you get Covid set yourself on fire to disinfect. (Again, perhaps I exaggerate, but they did basically say that old people should stay home at all cost.) Year of the suck.

So, our lives have changed. We used to go sit and read or bicycle on the beach, go to great restaurants, take in a movie once in a while, or visit one of the beautiful state parks in Florida. My wife used to go to her yoga class every morning. We had a bucket list for retirement that included traveling to places like Nova Scotia, Vancouver, Ireland, St. John’s and others. But, thanks to that bat-eating Chinese guy, not-so-much anymore. Now it’s survival mode for us. Year of the suck.

This new 2020 year of suck also includes a presidential election. I have the choice of voting for a very old guy who even wears his mask in his basement, and won’t come out of the basement no matter what, and a slightly younger guy who got Covid and breathes on everyone. And, it’s also interesting that in this great USA, where we’re so incredibly focused on racial diversity, that both presidential candidates are old white million/billionaires. (I’m getting a headache just writing this). Year of the suck.

Even more incredible is the fact that, as bad as these two candidates are, half of the country wants to shoot the other half of the country for voting for the other guy. Another reason to self-quarantine, to avoid getting shot because you look like you might vote one way or the other. Year of the suck.

So in this year of the suck, my wife and I only venture outside for two reasons. When our joints start to seize up to the point where we’re afraid of terminal immobilization, we put on our N95000000 masks that keep out particles down to the molecular level, including oxygen (makes it tough to breathe) and take a walk. Year of the suck.

We do this at odd times when no one else is out but vampires, and according to Dr. Fauci they’re not as dangerous as Covid. The walking does help loosen things up a little. Have I mentioned that some people will shoot you if you wear a mask, while others will shoot you if you don’t? There seems to be a common theme developing here. To be shot, or set on fire, that’s the question? Year of the suck.

Then there’s our two cars, although I keep asking my wife why we need two cars. We never go anywhere, because there’s no safe destination for the elderly. There’s no restaurant, hotel, spa, movie theater, no place safe for us old farts (apologies to the cows). But, it is necessary to drive a car once in a while to keep the battery charged and the important parts lubricated (if we could lubricate our joints, maybe we wouldn’t need walks, but I digress). So, a couple of times a week we take one of the cars for a drive. Year of the suck.

Due to the lethal-to-us-old-farts Covid virus, this involves a lot of work. We get dressed, wash our hands, put on our masks, wash our hands again, collect our travel bag full of disinfectant wipes, paper towel and matches in case we need to set ourselves on fire, and head out. Year of the suck.

We drive around for a while, with our condo being the exciting final destination for our trip. If necessary, we stop for gas, which includes wiping down the credit card, gas pump handle, gas cap, pumping gas and then burning the credit card and washing our hands with hand sanitizer. For some real fun, we often drive the car through one of those car washes. There’s one in St. Augustine with bright blinking lights that’s especially entertaining. If we were younger, we could at least make out in there. But, my arthritic torso can no longer contort itself into the required positioning for such antics. Year of the suck.

When we arrive at home, we carefully enter the condo, remove our clothes, put them in the washing machine already pre-loaded with soap. Then, we take turns in the shower, washing away all that lethal virus. And finally, we wipe off all the things we took on the trip with us; small bottle of hand sanitizer, keys, glasses, cell phone, etc. By the time we finish all of this, we need a nap (we are elderly). Year of the suck.

My wife and I decided to go on a date once a week, to add some excitement to our lives. Since we can’t go anywhere safely, this involves making popcorn and watching a movie on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. This can be a tedious process. My wife likes romcoms and I like sci-fi, horror and movies where they blow stuff up. So, one of us usually sleeps through the movie, depending on who gets to choose. Fortunately, we both like murder mysteries, and we’ve watched so many of those over the past eight months that we ought to have some mad skills at solving murders. Not very useful, although this might come in handy if states keep defunding the police. Year of the suck.

Then there’s the buying of the groceries. Even us elderly folks need to consume food to keep moving, although there’s not a lot of room for movement in a 1200 square foot condo. Since going to the grocery store requires taking your life into your own hands, the wearing of the n9500000 mask, and the exhausting routine upon returning to the house, we use a personal shopper. We fill out a grocery list online, and a kind person goes to the grocery store, purchases the groceries and delivers them to our door. This is usually someone not in the elderly demographic. Year of the suck.

Even this seemingly simple task ends up being exhausting. It is still unclear whether Covid is transferred through contact with things such as grocery items (thank you scientists and news media for the incredibly confusing and politically driven information on this subject as well). Therefore, survival mode dictates that we wipe down each item with disinfectant wipes before bringing it into the house, and then allow the items to sit a while before putting them away. My wife is short, so she does the wiping. I am tall, so I haul the stuff into the condo and put it away. Then it’s showers, wash the clothes and infinite washing of the hands all around. Then another nap. Year of the suck.

We have taken our lives in our hands and ordered takeout a couple of times. We mainly do fried chicken or pizza, things that we can bring home, wipe down the packaging and reheat to approximately the temperature of the sun to kill any contaminating virus. (I exaggerate again. Sorry. But we do reheat pizza and chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, supposedly enough to kill virus). One of our favorite places in St. Augustine is Cold Stone Creamery, and I told my wife I would love to get a takeout banana split. She pointed out that heating to 165 degrees might be problematic. I was sad. Year of the suck.

It’s interesting the way this bizarre new world affects people differently. Myself, I’ve always been an introvert. My life really hasn’t changed all that much. My daily routine includes working out in the morning, and I have a place set up with sit-up bar, floor mat, weights and exercycle, along with a TV to keep my mind busy. Working out without something to binge watch would be unbearably boring. Then I eat lunch, take a nap and write in the afternoon. I’m in the process of publishing my latest comedy murder mystery, MURDER BY ROAD TRIP, which will become available on Amazon, B&N and IngramSpark in November. Year of the suck.

In the evening, I go into my VR world with my Oculus Quest and play awesome games, either alone or online with my daughter in NYC. My wife has a Quest too, and sometimes we travel to exotic places like abandoned Venice with Covid, abandoned Rome with Covid…well…you get the idea. I never liked crowds anyhow. Alternatively, I might watch a movie or a murder mystery series that I am binge-watching with my wife. I finish off the evening with some late night reading, and then it’s off to bed. The only things I really miss are eating out at one of the great seafood restaurants, visiting the beach or state parks once in a while and maybe a movie. Year of the suck.

My wife, on the other hand, used to spend her mornings walking on the beach, going to her yoga class, shopping in downtown St. Augustine at the craft shops and visiting all the various museums. She is the one who needs contact with other human beings and loves to travel. Since she can’t do any of this, being in that elderly demographic, she has taken up knitting and crocheting as a way to keep busy. Year of the suck. 

My wife has a lot of energy; I didn’t realize how much until now. We now have an entire room filled with blankets, comforters, hats, scarves, children’s clothes, baby clothes. She even made me a nice warm stocking hat, complete with ear flaps, to wear when I go to the beach, which is pretty much never. So, if anyone out there needs a blanket, comforter, or piece of clothing, just send me your size. I’m sure there’s already one sitting in a pile somewhere in our spare bedroom. Year of the suck.

I guess the most interesting thing about this strange new world is how much it resembles past sci-fi movies, like, say, The Matrix, where the actual world is destroyed and humans just stay plugged into virtual reality all the time. I find that I am spending more time with my Oculus Quest as the days go by. Year of the suck.

I discovered a game called Pistol Whip, where the player gets one or two pistols and travels through various mazes shooting all manner of attacker. The colors are spectacular, the number of enemies increase dramatically as you progress from stage to stage, and the game is played to music. I’m sorry to say that rhythmic killing (of avatars, not real people) strangely fits into this bizarre new world, and some of the music is quite nice. There’s one very spiritual song, that encourages you to shoot the bad guys while a song called “Let Go” plays in the background. Not disturbing at all. Year of the suck.

Then, there’s the new Phantom game, where the player paddles around in a kayak in an extremely realistic future world where flooded cities have been taken over by foreign invaders. You paddle along quite realistically, pistol, sniper rifle and plenty of ammo at hand. The bad guys try to kill you and sink your kayak, and you have to eliminate them in order to progress through the game. Year of the suck.

I realize that some people would be disturbed by the violent content of these games, what with all the shooting, blowing things up and all. But, I would argue that, compared to the real world of Covid, rioting, murder, mayhem and worst of all, a presidential election, I would rather be plugged into this VR world. For one thing, when I get shot I seldom ever die. Second, I don’t have to wash my clothes, take a shower, or set myself on fire when I’m finished. And third, I would never, ever play a VR game where I had to harm a cow. I wouldn’t mind it though if someone came up with a game for shooting bats. I could really get into that. Year of the suck.

Everyone stay safe, and who knows, maybe I’ll see you in the virtual world one day. I’ll be the tall, clumsy old avatar that keeps falling out of his kayak. Year of the suck.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy one of my books, including my newest comedy murder mystery, MURDER BY ROAD TRIP, coming in early NOVEMBER. I co-wrote this one with my youngest daughter (26) Jackie. It was inspired by a 30-day, 7600 mile cross-country road trip that we took together in 2016. For more, go to my launch page at https://johnjjessop.com