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Ten of the most awkward moments from 2020

A monolith in San Luis Obispo.
(Matt Carver)

From Zoom interviews to monoliths, columnist Ryan Bradford highlights the most awkward moments of an already awkward year

This was supposed to be our year. Easy to remember, fun to write. The big double twenty. Optometrists were jazzed! But it didn’t turn out that way.

Here are 10 of the most awkward national, local and personal moments from 2020.

AB5: It’s almost quaint to think of the issues we faced before a deadly virus uprooted the entire world, but let’s not forget that this year started on the wrong foot thanks to Assembly Bill 5. The bill, authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, went into effect on January 1, 2020 and set out to codify what it means to be a contract worker. Ostensibly aimed at companies like Uber, Lyft and all other companies that exploit gig workers, AB5’s blanket language unfairly maligned all creatives and freelancers. Simply, it was a well-meaning bill that was a mess for all involved and left no one happy. Luckily, most of the arbitrary freelance restrictions were lifted, but big tech pumped a ton of money into Prop 22 — which passed this November — and pretty much negated the bill’s efforts in giving workers’ rights to Uber and Lyft drivers.

The first time out with a face covering: Masks are now so intrinsic in my daily routine that it’ll be super weird to go into a store without one. Like, I might as well just walk in naked, right? But back at the start of the pandemic, I was not so much an expert on face coverings. The first time I went to a grocery store, I had wrapped a wool scarf around my head multiple times, giving me a — je ne sais quoi — Invisible Man look? The fabric was old and rough, and the sweltering heat made me breathe like a genuine madman. It was truly frightening. The best part, though, was judging maskless patrons from behind my itchy bandages. I may have looked like a monster, but at least I wasn’t an asshole.

That first hangover during COVID: For those of us who drink, 2020 was ... wow. What a year! I hope bars are well stocked when they’re allowed to safely reopen because I have no doubt our collective tolerance has gone way up. However, given this trend, it was only a matter of time before we drank just a little too much, and the hell of COVID is that all the symptoms are the exact same as a hangover. I woke up one morning with a headache, sore throat and a sad stomach. I frantically Googled and, yep, it was COVID, and definitely not the glasses (multiple) of bourbon and spicy chicken wings I had inhaled the night before.

Handwashing videos: Once it became clear we were doing this whole lockdown thing, people began making cute videos of how to properly wash your hands. Back then, it was cute to see what people made with their cabin fever energy, but nine months and lots of devastation later, it all just seems so sad. If this were a true post-apocalypse, it’d be like looking back on the days of making jerky while chowing down on the remains of our neighbors.

The WAP discourse: Props to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion for writing the de facto song of the summer, but, uh, it was weird explaining to your mom what WAP stood for, right?

El Prez: Stay-at-home orders have not been easy for anyone, especially the small businesses and restaurants that survive on a thin margin. But nothing is more cringey than when establishments openly defy the safety measures put in place to keep people from, um, dying. And there was no middle finger to said measures more blatant than El Prez back in May. Social media videos showed unmasked spring breakers packed into the rowdy Pacific Beach bar (of course it was Pacific Beach) as if there wasn’t a highly-contagious virus decimating the population. I mean, I know we have the constitutional right to party (narrator’s voice: “we don’t”) but this was ridiculous.

Influencers during BLM protests: After the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, cities across the country exploded with protests and uprisings. It was an important moment in history — one that, sadly, was a reminder of how little has changed since the Civil Rights movement of the ‘60s. And for white people, it was a good opportunity to shut our mouths and listen. However, some took it as an opportunity to elevate their brand. Social media posts from white influencers during this period ranged from clueless (“WINE WEDNESDAY!”) and performative (a newly-purchased copy of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”), to egregiously bad (attractive models posing in front of burned out buildings).

Zoom job interviews: This year, many companies realized just how easy it was to go remote. Zoom became everyone’s office pretty much overnight. But despite the months we’ve spent on it, there’s still something inherently awkward about video conferencing. Where do I look? Is my background okay? Do I have to wear pants? And in the case of job interviews — of which I’ve had a few during the past year — that awkwardness increases tenfold. There must be something emboldening about being behind a virtual screen that makes people ask things that they wouldn’t ask in person, because I had one guy ask me what songs I could play on guitar after seeing one in my background. There was also a time when someone made me roleplay as an editor giving notes. Also, given Zoom’s ease-of-use and accessibility, some organizations have adopted a “more the merrier” approach to interviews and bring in a committee of question-askers for, in some cases, entry level jobs. Nothing nerve-wracking about that.

San Diego’s GOP leader in an unearthed Nazi video: San Diego’s Republican party has been in decline for a long time, largely due to mismanagement by its bull-headed party leader, Tony Krvaric. But the nail in the coffin (at least for the time being) was an unearthed video of Krvaric in his hacker days (he went by “Strider” back then) that featured animations of Hitler performing the Nazi salute. Yikes. That certainly didn’t help his ailing party.

The monolith: The mysterious monolith that appeared in the Utah desert captured the nation’s imagination. Was it artists? Aliens? (Did anyone consult blink-182’s Tom Delonge?) But as the coverage grew, so did the proof that we, the human species, cannot have nice things: It didn’t take long for monolith-seekers to trash the pristine desert site. And when other monoliths kept appearing in other parts of the world, it began to feel like a publicity stunt or guerilla marketing campaign. I, for one, can’t wait for the monolith to become a prominent character in the next Marvel Cinematic Universe film.


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