(Rated X for X-tremely Daunting)
By Tobye S. Stein
When the filming of the last scene of a movie ends, it’s typical for the director to say, “It’s a wrap, folks.” The director then takes her work to the editing room, where sound and visual effects are added, scenes are deleted, and decisions are made about refilming scenes that flopped. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that with 2020, a year with an unprecedented pandemic, social unrest, high unemployment, and millions of people wondering where they will get their next meal?
When I arrive in the booth to start the editing process on my film 2020, the action begins with me heading to sunny Florida in January for a week of relaxation at the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney World. I know that two days after my return to Michigan, I’ll be heading to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak for a hip operation. But wait, three days into my sunny vacation, my iPhone rings. It’s an unknown caller from the surgeon’s office, asking me if I’d like to change my surgery date to January 30. I say, “No I wouldn’t.” I am told I have no choice, but no reason is given.
After this inauspicious beginning, the year goes downhill. We are plagued with a pandemic, people are getting sick and dying, there is no toilet paper, paper towels, or sanitizing wipes anywhere, and the food shelves are gobbling up all of the groceries, from dried and canned beans to pasta and cereal. Ice cream freezers are bare and frozen fruits and vegetables have also been swallowed up. Even frozen pizza that tastes like cardboard is gone.
A couple months into this nightmare, with most Americans sheltering in place, we all witness a video of a Black man being murdered in Minneapolis by a white police officer with his knee pressed on the man’s neck, all because the dying man is suspected of having handed a store clerk a phony $20 bill. Millions take to the streets in protest. People of color, white people, religious people, young, old, all recognizing something we should have recognized years ago: Black Lives Matter.
As if things couldn’t get worse, millions of people are laid off from their jobs because of this pandemic. Restaurants, bars, malls, hair and nail salons, and gyms are forced shut in an attempt to obliterate this horrible virus.
And yet, the federal government does next to nothing to stop this horror. We are repeatedly reassured that everything is under control. the virus will be gone soon, everyone will be back at work, children will be back in school, and the number of deaths will be negligible. As if death is ever negligible to the survivors.
It’s depressing viewing this movie, even in the editing booth. I’m certain that no audience in its right mind would ever believe that so many catastrophes would occur in one film.
So as this miserable year draws to a close, I’ve decide to subject 2020 to a major re-edit. In this version, I’m going to Disney World and having surgery as scheduled. Impeachment hearings are held and senators from both parties find the sitting president guilty of the charges against him, and he is removed from office.
There is still a dangerous virus, Covid-19, and it begins in China. But this time, the federal government pays attention to the intelligence community and embraces the scientists and the medical professionals. Naturally, the government begins to implement the pandemic response put in place by the previous administration.
Americans are informed about the virus and grocery stores, big box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, and pharmacies are given plenty of notice to place limits on items, making sure everyone has access to the merchandise they need. Hospitals and other medical facilities receive the PPE they need to protect workers. American manufacturers are quickly instructed under the Defense Production Act to begin making additional PPE and ventilators. Restaurants and cafés have time to convert from in-person dining to carry-out .
Congress steps up and acts quickly to provide funds to those who are unemployed and makes sure that small businesses receive the help they need to pay their employees during the month-long shutdown.
In the meantime, Big Pharma immediately begins working on vaccines that are safe and effective. Although the virus is contained by now, it’s regarded as critical to get as many people vaccinated as possible because the virus is still dangerous and can continue to spread easily.
After the killings of several Black people by police officers, the officers are charged and tried for their crimes. Cities and states begin investigating police violence against citizens of color and revise their training procedures. More money is spent adding mental health professionals to police departments rather than wasting the money on assault weapons and tanks.
We have a presidential election in November, free from foreign interference, in which people can comfortably vote from home or in person and everyone accepts the results.
Regardless of party, we all celebrate, hang our American flags, and go on to live another day. Thanksgiving is spent with family and friends without the danger of infecting each other. Jewish families gather early in December to play dreidel and eat latkes of every variety. Later in the month, Christian families gather to celebrate the holiday with turkey or ham and all of the traditional family favorites.
When at last, New Year’s Eve comes, we all celebrate the victories of 2020, including having put the Trump family and associates behind bars for crimes committed against America during the past four years. Roll the credits!
Tobye S. Stein retired as Chief Human Resources Officer from a California-based financial services organization. She once landed a job by replying to the age old question, “Why should I hire you instead of the other two candidates” by simply stating “I’m funnier than most people.” It worked.