The way a lot of people probably feel these days: detail from ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch.

The way a lot of people probably feel these days: detail from ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch.

The Editor’s Desk: Welcome to Groundhog Month

Is it just me, or has 2020 already seemed to have lasted for at least two years?

We’re well and truly in what journalists refer to as the “silly season”: the dog days at the tail end of August, when regular news has usually dried to a trickle and reporters pray someone will throw them a bone in the form of a story about well-meaning kids setting up a lemonade stand and then being shut down by local authorities. As I’ve noted in the past, a skillful reporter can often milk this one episode for several stories, culminating in a heartwarming photo of local politicians awkwardly clutching cups of lukewarm lemonade and dropping some money in a jar.

Well, COVID-19 has shut down lemonade stands more effectively than even Ebenezer Scrooge could hope for, so there’s another useful indication gone when it comes to the time of year. Then again, 2020 has been like that; only the fact that I’m tied to the rigours of a weekly paper with a firm publication date has kept me more or less aware of what month it is, much less what day.

Even that isn’t always enough. Last week I was gazing over the front page of the Globe and Mail, and one of the headlines caught my eye: “Last chance to observe Perseid meteor shower” or something similar. My immediate thought was “Now that’s a silly story to be running, the Perseid meteor shower isn’t until August.”

A few seconds later it hit me: it is August. I knew that, obviously, but it doesn’t feel like August. And it’s not just this one month that feels out-of-kilter; most of 2020 has been like that, at least for me. It began in February, what with its 29 days, this being a leap year. There’s something about Feb. 29 that just seems weird, like saying something will be happening on Oct. 32.

However, that paled into insignificance come March. If February had one extra day, March felt as if it had three extra months. If there is one month I would choose not to go on for one minute longer than it has to, it would be March, but there it was. It got to the point where, when I tore a page off my desk calendar, I expected to see, not a fresh New Yorker cartoon, but simply the words “Yes, it’s still March” in 72-point bold type. It was as if the film Groundhog Day had become Groundhog Month, only instead of Bill Murray using the time to make himself a better person, he slowly descended into insanity, with the final shot a closeup of his face dissolving into Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”.

April was slightly — very slightly — better, and May was something approximating normal. Then came June and July, and I don’t know what the heck happened. You know that effect in horror films, where someone is standing in a hallway and wants to get to the far end, which suddenly starts receding into the distance, so that try as they might, the character can never make it? That was June and July for me.

At the beginning of July, when a screening of the Twilight Zone episode that was filmed in Ashcroft in February was arranged, I cast my mind back to when the film crew was here, and it seemed like a lifetime ago. I was trying to remember the date that a serious accident happened in the area, and finally decided that it must have been late last year, because it seemed like it must have been that long ago. When I looked it up, I saw that it had happened in March of 2020. The WRAPS theatre production of A Murder is Announced, which likewise took place in March, seems as distant as 2015’s My Fair Lady.

And now here we are, somehow, in August. I think the unseasonal weather is partly to blame, as well as the lack of almost all the usual events that mark the passing of the months. I hope September is better, but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, if any local kids want to set up a lemonade stand, let me know. I’ll be the first in line.

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