Tom Clyde: A very long year
I got my first plague vaccination. The operation out at the film studio couldn’t have been more efficient. A big thanks to dozens of volunteers who were out in cold and windy conditions guiding traffic, checking people in and ultimately giving the shot. A volunteer effort on that scale reflects the real soul of Summit County. The combination of a complicated — really miraculous — scientific achievement, and the boots-on-the-ground volunteer effort to get friends and neighbors vaccinated makes me think we might see normal again.
It’s been a strange year. I keep a pretty consistent journal, and took a look back at March of last year. The virus, which had been on the radar of the health professionals, was grabbing headlines by March 6. There were cruise ships that couldn’t find a port to dock in because of their infected passengers. The stock market plunged. Toilet paper vanished from the grocery store shelves.
I’m the manager of a tiny water system, and got an official notice from the Utah Division of Drinking Water assuring me that there was no reason to panic. I wasn’t inclined to panic, at least not until I got official instructions not to panic. When the Drinking Water Division says not to panic, it’s time to head for the bunkers. But there was nothing about the sneeze-borne virus that seemed like it could affect our water source.
On March 10, I enjoyed a lovely ski day with friends, and noticed that Kamas Valley had almost melted back to bare ground, and Heber Valley looked green from the top of the mountain. Too early for the melt. The stock market gyrations continued. But things seemed more or less normal.
By Friday the 13th, things were suddenly quite different around here. Deer Valley had basically shrink-wrapped the food service. Silverware was hidden away behind the counters, instead of out there on the counter for everybody to cough on. The salad bar was behind a plastic curtain with a confused girl from South America sealed inside. She would hand make each salad to order, struggling to understand what people wanted (“Are those chickpeas or garbanzos?”), and doing the limbo around shelving that was all designed to be serviced from the outside. The dessert counter was also shrink-wrapped, but there was still chocolate cake to be eaten.
On the way home from skiing that day, I stopped for groceries in Kamas only to find the market packed like the day before Thanksgiving. There was nothing left to buy. The cashier said that at about 10:00, KPCW had reported the first case of community spread in Summit County, and “all hell broke loose” in the grocery store. It was stripped bare. The schools closed for a couple of weeks, then months and even the Mormons canceled church.
The NBA shut down after a Jazz player, mocking the whole situation, playfully touched reporters’ mics — then tested positive for the virus. There were press releases on Saturday, the 14th, from both ski areas about changes they were making to their operations to keep everybody safe and happy, both employees and guests. No cause for concern. Skiing was really good, and the usual gang had a great morning of spring skiing followed by a long and pleasant lunch at Deer Valley, served from behind new layers of shrink wrap. That was the last time I ate inside a restaurant. It’s been all takeout since, and not much of that.
On Sunday morning, March 15, it was all over. Both PCMR and Deer Valley abruptly closed for the season, leaving employees and tourists confused. There may have been 10,000 vacationers marooned in a closed-down town until they could reschedule flights to get home. A friend sent me a photo of Main Street at dinner hour on St. Patrick’s Day. There are two cars parked on the street between the Treasure Mountain Inn and Heber Avenue, and only one person walking down the middle of the deserted street. I’m not sure how they even found a meal in town. Everything was closed, and I guess they had to rely on what they could find at the thoroughly pillaged grocery stores.
Just for good measure, on March 18 we had an earthquake that knocked Angel Moroni’s trumpet off the top of the Salt Lake Temple. The apocalypse had begun. The only thing left in the frozen vegetable case in Kamas was a package of chopped okra. By March 22, the Wasatch Back accounted for 42% of the total case number in the state. A few days later, I learned that a friend had died from the virus.
It’s been a long year of do-it-yourself haircuts, annoying masks and Zoom meetings. Parents have struggled with school and day care. Hospitality jobs vanished. Prestigious colleges became TV shows with $30,000 tuition bills. Nothing really works anymore. The failure of leadership at almost every level made it much worse than it needed to be. We maximized the economic damage while minimizing the health benefits of the scatter-shot closures. It’s great to develop the vaccines so quickly. Maybe “normal” is just around the corner.
I suppose one of these days I should eat that can of pandemic panic beans. I’m not touching the okra.
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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There are several major development proposals looming in Park City. Tom Clyde says the time is now to “place your bet on which one turns the first shovel of dirt, and which one goes back on the shelf.”