Anna’s Year in Review 2020

Time for the year in review. 

It was a terrible year. 

All done!

Oh, heck. I guess we’ll go into some detail. 

This year started out with a failed attempt at an impeachment and ended with over a million and a half people dead worldwide from coronavirus. 

We gathered new phrases into our collective lexicon, such as “grim milestone,” “the ‘rona,” and “dick nose.”

Tens of thousands of Americans became unemployed and lost our health insurance. Here on the island, we’ve been lucky to have The Vashon EOC, a group of volunteers doing testing, helping people get unemployment and health insurance, doing contact tracing, planning for vaccine distribution.m, and communicating with the public on a daily basis. So good they were written up in the New York Times.

We’ve been stuck inside, which means we’ve been online. Metrics show a huge uptick in posts and comments in the groups starting in March and continuing the upward trend through December. Let’s take a look at the ones that riled us up the most.

So many of our posts have been about problems with mail and packages. USPS has had a rough year with a huge increase in packages, as well as mail-in votes and a postmaster general dismantling key machinery. But still so many packages made it, and we reconnected people with their misdelivered meats.

We had many discussions about the exact right speed to drive on each stretch of Vashon Highway. There is no correct answer to this, as even “the speed limit” is not acceptable to some. When driving, check your rear view mirror to see who’s behind you, and change speed accordingly. 

With Granny’s closed and going off-island hazardous, we’ve taken to giving away stuff and asking for stuff online. We trade obscure dolls for antique dishware. Some people got frustrated with this sharing and said we shouldn’t be unloading our stuff on the groups. What’s the difference between sharing and unloading? If someone is willing to swing by and grab an old espresso maker off your porch, what’s the problem? I guess it clutters up the group’s page, which would ideally be devoted to complaining about people using the wrong garbage cans. 

Now that so many people are working from home, Internet infrastructure has been an issue. Comcast made internet access such a challenge for some people that they formed a group to advocate for better service to the island. Huge props to this group. There is nothing more soul-crushing than making endless calls to customer service and getting pushed to other departments, put on hold, and finally told a committee will meet about it in four years. Your determination and advocacy is much appreciated.

Way back in the before times, we used the group to insist that if you’re ordering pizza, you need to come up with your order ahead of time before you call. Decades ago I was a shift manager at a pizza shop, and I used to help people figure out exactly which fraction of a pizza should have which toppings based on what everyone in the group wanted. I’d draw up a diagram of the pizza if it got too complicated while customers waited in line and dinged that little bell we had next to the register. (Remember when we had things like bells that everyone would just touch? Weird.) Such were the things we concerned ourselves with in the halcyon days before the virus came. Now we have bigger issues, like whether it’s ok to post pictures of spiders. 

In the visual delights group, someone asked that people refrain from posting pictures of spiders. This spilled over to the rants page, where the question of what accommodations are reasonable came up. 

To what degree do we accommodate others’ needs, and at what point do we expect others to manage their own emotional needs? Where’s the boundary between our own responsibilities and those of the wider community? Each instance has a different context and there’s no one universal answer, so how do we decide what’s right? If someone oversteps the bounds, does that open them up for ridicule, or should it lead to a civil discussion of the group’s policies?

There were two opposing camps, one saying that we should put a content notice on stuff that is upsetting to many people, and the other camp saying that anyone under 40 is an entitled snowflake, living in their parents’ basement (likely because rents are high, wages are low and they’re saddled with student debt.) We never found a resolution. October passed, and with it the tendency to post pictures of spiders.

And speaking of heated debates, there was one about changing the name of the High School mascot. Apparently, someone brought it up at the school board meeting. Although the board listened and thanked the person for their contribution, the board never intended to make the change on account that there are much more pressing issues. But the Beachcomber mentioned the comment in their article about the board meeting, and boy did we all ever go bananas about it.

Some people insisted that pirates were murderous men who raped and pillaged. Others pointed out that  pirates were mad cool, actually. They screwed over kings and stole their riches, sharing equally among each other, and there were also a number of women pirates.

The truth is likely somewhere in between murderous thugs and benevolent communists, but a mascot is supposed to represent an ideal.

A compromise to change the picture on the flag but not the mascot itself was suggested. It’d be cool to have some high school students design a new flag that portrayed a diverse group of pirates. 

As you can see, political lines have been drawn around these hot issues. Find your place on this handy political alignment chart. Are you an A,B,C, or D? 

Many threads this year involved animals on the road, animals escaping, and animals being found. I do not envy Amy from VIPP, who is tagged in each post several times. Personally, I think it’s great when animals escape because then people post pictures of them, and the one redeeming quality of social media is that you occasionally see a picture of someone’s cute pet. The only reason I’m even on Facebook is to see pictures of Axel the Pig wearing sunglasses. Well, that and free espresso makers. 

Mormons have been going door to door proselytizing. They come at night, in the dark, on unlit streets, to share the word of Jesus and possibly also coronavirus. Who puts young people in this dangerous position? Who can we call to complain about this endangerment of youth? Do the Mormons have a customer service line? 

Sometimes we go online to passive-aggressively shame each other. Whether it’s because a neighbor reported us to the county for building a deck without permits or because people are wearing their masks under their noses because they somehow don’t know how breathing works, we sometimes just need to vent. For the most part we’re resilient. We’ve dealt with the horrible blows of deadly virus, interrupted school, lack of social engagement, loneliness, anxiety, loss of income, negligent government. We’ve come together to manage these overwhelming problems. But it’s the little things that bring us to the breaking point – that point where we log on. We might even go so far as to get ourselves banned from VashonAll, a feat accomplished simply by posting there. 

We got sad about all the things kids are missing out on these days. Not just the social interaction, but the mud bog days when people would hang out looking for the party, dirt bike all over the island, or just have a keg on the beach. It definitely sucks to have the years of your life when social engagement is a pressing mental and emotional need stifled by a deadly virus. Props to the teachers and parents who’ve made this year as stimulating and enriching as possible. 

The year’s been so empty of joy and so full of stress that it completely passed me by who became unofficial mayor. For all I know it could be me. 

It’s been quite a year, but we’ll sign off with some good news. Tina’s stackable washer-dryer set is doing well.

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

4 thoughts on “Anna’s Year in Review 2020”

  1. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading your posts! Every one of them cracks me up. Thanks for keeping us updated.

  2. In the confusion and pain of 2020, many helped. The front line efforts of our Fire Department, who also oversaw the volunteer Emergency Operations Center, and coordinated with Vashon Be Prepared was a remarkable effort on many fronts. Help for businesses, unemployed, shelter, food and efforts to help people understand the essential need for masks, washing and distancing. The Medical Reserve Corp (volunteer doctors/ nurses/ set up on-island Covid testing with extraordinary efforts from Community Emergency Response Team. Their efforts for rapid testing and contact tracing was phenomenal! So… although the year was painful… the community spirit which makes Vashon such an incredible place…. shown brightly! Now, how can we ensure island resiliency into the future? Knowing the mainland will not be able to help in the Big One (earthquake) every household needs to be ready. That readiness will also allow our ability to handle winter snows, floods and fires by BEING PREPARED!

  3. Hilarious! At least the fruit stand at the 4-way stop is no longer an issue. Actually, I kinda miss that being an issue.
    Happy New Year Vashonians and Mauryites!

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