A 2020 Reflection – The Critical Realization

Day 291 of isolation.

2020. The year that everyone thought would provide “perfect vision”, did so in a way that we could have never imagined. 2020. The unforgettable year that we really won’t want to remember.

For me, the first two months started off blissfully ignorant. All I knew was that a virus had originated in China and was apparently unlike any our current generations had ever experienced. For the first two months of 2020, I observed, but went about my business – sharing food at restaurants, large gatherings, shopping, riding the Metro, etc.

But as cases started popping up all over the world, including outbreaks on the west coast of our country, and the first case in our state, not far from me, I started paying better attention. I continued about my business, but I was becoming increasingly cautious.

On Saturday, March 7th, a friend and I had lunch in Manassas at Public House Kitchen & Brewery, then got coffee from Jirani Coffee House. That day, I would have never imagined would be my last friend date for an indefinite time. On my way home I went grocery shopping, to Michaels and Dollar tree – mainly to prepare for our upcoming Spring Fling/St. Patty’s office party.

That Monday night after work, I hopped on the Metro to meet fellow bloggers in Arlington for dinner. We visited TNR Cafe, to show our support for Chinese restaurants, which were among the businesses that initially took the biggest hit, due to fear and racism. We enjoyed amazing dishes and drinks, and had a great time promoting this awesome restaurant. But on my ride home, I sat on the edge of the seat with my handbag square in my lap the entire time. I didn’t want to touch a thing, and I was hoping no one sat nearby. I remember thinking “I probably won’t have many more outings like this for a little while.”

The week felt mostly normal. Northern Virginia counties started seeing an influx of cases: there were now 30. I convinced myself that “30 isn’t a lot considering there’s over a million people in my county alone.” Little did I know, those 30 cases were in the process of rapidly spreading, uncontrollably, throughout the region.

Cases continued to grow, and so did concern, but it was mostly business as usual. I did more grocery shopping, got my daily Starbucks, and bought lunch from vendors at work. Friday the 13th was our office party. That’s when things started to grow increasingly aberrant. Many coworkers were out that day. K-12 schools already started to close, leaving parents to scramble with work/life balance. Crazy to think that our Spring Fling/St. Patty’s party actually ended up being a Goodbye party 😦 Looking back, as St. Patty’s decorations and March calendars still adorned the deserted office 10 months later, kind of feels like it was the apocalypse.

That weekend I tried to focus on normalcy. Sunday, March 15th, I went to dance, but upon entering, I had to remove my shoes, take a towel, wash and dry my hands with my towel, take another towel, and clean my area with alcohol before beginning. I went to lunch after dance, my last dine in lunch. I grabbed a quick gyro from Opa Mezze Grill. I sat in the window so that people could see diners still in restaurants. Only two other tables were seated, as most people transitioned to take-out. A woman’s elderly mother was coughing, and she turned around and said “Please don’t be concerned! She coughs as a nervous tick!” I laughed and said, “That’s fine. I wasn’t concerned.” But was I?

March 15th. That was the day. Overnight things turned a complete 180. The world we lived in the day before, no longer existed. Virginia reported its first coronavirus death. The state reached 45 cases, mostly in my area. We were heading full-throttle into completely uncharted territory. Most of us with absolutely no idea what was about to come.

Monday, March 16th, I woke up and went hesitantly to work. My dinner plans for that night with a group of fellow bloggers were cancelled. My dinner plans for St. Patrick’s Day Wednesday were cancelled. Half of my office had already started working remotely, as the other half contemplated what we would end up doing. By Thursday afternoon, we had no choice. The decision was made for us. We were instructed to pack up our office and work remotely until June 10th, the earliest, no exceptions. I packed up that Friday afternoon, and left crying. Since I was supposed to start working remotely in 2021 anyway (pre-pandemic and unrelated), my gut told me I may never work in that office again. My heart was heavy.

Saturday I spent the day running errands to prepare for my two week isolation so that I could then relocate to my parents’ for the Spring. Hand sanitizer was sold out everywhere. I got the very last Clorox wipes from Target (a 3-pack that I had to crawl into the back of a bottom shelf to retrieve.) On my way home, I picked up dinner from Sisters Thai Cafe. When I returned to my apartment, I began my 14 day isolation/WFH – leaving my apartment only once during those two weeks, to give my car a drive, and walk around campus on a beautiful spring day.

One morning as my radio alarm went off, I laid in bed a few minutes listening to a news talk show. There was a man expressing his grave concern as a 71-year-old bus driver in Detroit. He feared for his health and his safety as the pandemic started to spiral out of control. I was saddened. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of his situation, and for really the first time, just how many other people would be so negatively affected by this.

Ten months later, and he still randomly pops up in my thoughts – the first incidence that I really grasped the gravity of what was about to develop. Is he ok? Did he, as an elderly front-line worker, catch the virus, and if he did, did he survive? Or was that radio phone call one of his last moments on this earth? Like the 341,000+ lives and counting that have left us. (Four Five that I knew personally.) *Edit: When I wrote this blog on Dec. 30th, I had known four people personally who passed away from the coronavirus. As of 4pm, Dec. 31st, New Year’s Eve, I learned that the girlfriend of my dad’s co-worker passed away that morning.

But for the part we should all care about: it didn’t have to happen like this. So many lives and livelihoods could have been saved if we had a competent government. I had a blast for two months this year: parties, dining out, shopping, friends, dance, valentine’s day, one of the few people who had a pre-pandemic birthday. Had we been properly informed, I would have happily given that all up in order to save lives and livelihoods, and not have to spend the next ten months still isolating, our country stuck in a cycle of shutting down.

donald trump will rightfully go down in history as the worst president this country has ever had to endure. The lying and mishandling of the pandemic is only one tiny drop in the bucket, but it’s reason enough on its own. Historians will accurately record these times – this year, 2020, and the pandemic. trump is not just a “narcissist” as is popularly spouted. He’s a criminal. He’s a vile, pathologically lying, multi-bankrupt, racist, misogynistic, criminal, and by far, the most inept, sorry excuse for a president we ever had the misfortune of having. Twenty-one more days until he gets the boot! I truly believe that eventually all intelligent and decent people will ultimately come to realize what a disgrace he has been.

In the meantime, LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Mask up. Wash your hands. Socially distance. Get the vaccine when it’s your turn. Take care of yourself, and take care of each other.