Tom Clyde: 2020 — annus horribilis
2020 will be remembered as the year when the movie “Idiocracy” was reclassified from a comedy to a documentary. And it went downhill from there. Of course the plague was the big news, sickening everything else along with it. It wrecked havoc on the economy, and killed too many. There was never a coherent response to it. Instead, we maximized the economic damage without getting much health benefit out of the uncoordinated shutdowns. It should have been a common cause that brought a bickering nation together. But that’s not how things worked in 2020. The vaccines were developed in record time, truly a miracle of modern science, and the Trump administration deserves some credit for that, though it is largely offset by the bungled response to the outbreak.
Police shootings of unarmed black men were all too common. The Black Lives Matter movement grew up around legitimate issues of police reform. Progress seemed possible — then the movement got conflated with flat-out riots. The message was lost in the fray. We had murder hornets. Wildfires burned whole states to the ground. While the West withered under a persistent drought (with not a word about water conservation from our highly sustainable community), the Southeast was pummeled with more hurricanes then they could name. Salt Lake had an earthquake, biblically timed with the arrival of the plague, that knocked Angel Moroni’s trumpet off the Salt Lake Temple.
The federal government, under the astute leadership of a very stable genius, simply folded up. Congress passed emergency relief legislation early on, then abandoned us. It finally got something done, but nobody knows what’s in it. By the time more relief checks get out to people, it will be too late. We have 20 million people unemployed and on the brink of eviction, but at least we rolled back the energy efficiency standards for light globes and showerheads. For some reason, incumbent members of this corrupt, incompetent Congress were overwhelmingly reelected to keep doing the Good Work.
We’ve now been conducting business and television news interviews over Zoom for 10 months, and network television still can’t make the sound work. In fact, nothing really works smoothly. Instead of demanding things function, we dialed back our expectations. Stores without inventory are somehow OK now.
Locally, we were on a roll. The resorts closed early and abruptly, leaving tourists and employees stranded. Local businesses endured months of chaos, color coded with health regulations that changed almost daily. Wearing a mask at the grocery store in Kamas was simply too much to ask, and the east side of the county got sick. Park City filled up with plague refugees from all around the country who decided that if they could work from home, they could work from their second home. The Maverick gas station and convenience store closed. The city is planning to dump another $90 million on the arts and culture district even though the anchors, Sundance Institute and the Kimball Art Center, aren’t in any position to build new buildings.
The nefarious hamlet of Hideout has thrown a monkey wrench into years of Summit County planning by staging an incursion across the Wasatch County line. It’s on hold for a few months, but it seems likely that we’ll see a repeat all of the mistakes at Kimball Junction out at Quinns. The Jordanelle Parkway was feted to a grand opening, though it isn’t open. It created the illusion that the Mayflower project is alive.
The ski resorts are up and running with a “reimagined” set of rules that will work right up until they quit working. It takes some imagination to think you need to make a reservation to use the toilet at PCMR. For those unable to schedule their urination several days in advance, they have a few portable toilets available for 10,000 guests on the mountain. Can’t wait for the tree skiing to open up. If you failed to anticipate what time your child would become hypothermic and reserve time in the lodge when the blizzard rolls in, try reimagining a warm place. I guess you can do laps in the gondolas for shelter.
Awful as it was, there were some bright spots in 2020. We got through a terribly dry summer without burning the place down. The big fires were in isolated areas. Toilet paper is generally available, so there’s that. The vaccine is a ray of hope, somewhat distant, but on the horizon.
We can always treasure Rudy Giuliani’s press conference in the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping. I can’t think of a better metaphor for the criminal incompetence of the last four years than Rudy scheduling a press conference in a parking lot between a crematorium and a porn store instead of the Four Seasons Hotel ballroom downtown.
There was the Monolith in San Juan County. It sat there undiscovered for five or six years, then captivated the entire world for a few days before it was removed. By a professional slackliner. It was a joyous distraction from the annus horribilis of 2020.
After what we’ve been through, I hope in this next year will be full of hidden monoliths. They’re out there, somewhere.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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