CONGRATULATIONS. If you’re reading this, it means you were not killed by an asteroid the size of a football stadium.
Yes, there was one in the neighbourhood, but evidently the celestial body dubbed 2002 NN4 by astronomers took one look at the Earth, went “no, no, no, no, God, no,” and decided to keep going. It locked the doors, stomped on the gas pedal and missed us by five million kilometres, probably breathing a sigh of relief.
Normally, this would not be cause for celebration, as we have become a tad blasé about close(ish) calls involving Near Earth Objects, as such asteroids and comets are known. It is not that rare for them to come uncomfortably close to our planet without actually striking it. They’re like Trump’s re-election: potentially devastating but unlikely to happen.
Not this year, though. This year we have grown to expect that anything that can go wrong, will. So any time we cross the road without being hit by a bus (or meteor) it feels like we won the lottery.
This year should have come with a trigger warning. It’s as though they chucked out the Farmers’ Almanac and decided to just read from the Old Testament instead: Plague, social unrest, wildfires in Australia, locusts in East Africa and India, murder hornets in Nanaimo.
Last week, a big chunk of a Norwegian village simply fell into the ocean, sploosh. Basically, 2020 has been a Charlton Heston film festival, with The Ten Commandments, Earthquake and Planet of the Apes played back to back to back.
Let’s recap the year so far: Takaya the wolf, Wet’suwet’en tug-of-war, mass murder in Nova Scotia. Riots in Delhi and Hong Kong. Brexit. Megxit. Trump’s acquittal. Trudeau’s beard.
Kobe Bryant died. So did John Prine. So did a little bit of your soul after you binge-watched Tiger King. Oh, and in case you forgot global warming, scientists say this could be the hottest year ever.
January began with Trump ordering the assassination of a top Iranian general, which brought a retaliatory Iranian missile attack on a U.S. base in Iraq, which ramped up the threat of war, which led a trigger-happy Teheran anti-aircraft battery to mistakenly shoot down a Ukrainian passenger jet carrying 176 people, including 85 citizens or permanent residents of Canada. To repeat, Iran kills a planeload of Canadians, and five months later things have gotten so messed up that many of us HAVE FORGOTTEN ALL ABOUT IT.
Because then COVID-19 entered the game, which — not to be a complainer — seems just a wee bit like running up the score.
I mean, it all reminds me of one long-ago night when I had the flu. So did my wife. So did the infant, who while writhing in 3 a.m. discomfort managed to head butt me in the face, splitting my lip. Nauseated, sleep-deprived and bleeding from my mouth, I staggered back to the bedroom, flopped back on the mattress and thought “What next?” Then I heard the dog in the hallway, barfing. That’s 2020 in a nutshell.
On the other hand, natural disasters happen every year. Beloved figures die without warning. Injustice breeds rage, again. Just when you think nothing can out-earworm Gangnam Style, the radio won’t stop playing Let It Go.
So, when we flop back and ask “What next?” the answer is “Something,” because there always is: Syria, ISIS, Charlottesville, Harvey Weinstein, the Quebec City mosque, Fort McMurray fires, Gord Downie, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370….
For some reason, these intrusions leave us stunned (just like when it snows in Victoria, which it never does except for every single winter) until on Dec. 31 we chuck the old calendar into the recycling bin and — forgetting all the good bits — say thank heavens THAT year is over, as though the next one is going to stick to the script without Tom Hanks being picked off by a passing asteroid or Trump being struck by lightning when he tries to hijack another church for a photo op.
The difference, of course, is that while every trip around the sun provides a predictably unpredictable series of stepped-on-a-rake surprises, 2020 has given us the bonus of one that whacked the whole world in the face at the same time.
Oh well, as they say: life is 10 per cent what happens to you and 90 per cent how you react to it. Good advice, because life does in fact happen every year, some more than others.
Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloopsian who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.