Quiz #111. No “...One!”
What did NOT happen on New Year's Eve, 2021? Steve's Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz for January 1, 2022.
I can’t talk about New Year’s Eve without repeating the wonderful joke from the son of my co-worker Pete. Pete shared it with me several years ago–-back when we used to work together in the office–-and it’s stayed with me ever since, happily rearing its head every New Year’s Eve. Like most riddles from little boys, it’s deceptively simple and yet surprisingly insightful.
What’s the last word most people say on New Year’s Eve?
In the mess that was 2021, Sara and I missed “...One!”--a fitting end to another fucked up year. With Covid running wild again here in New Jersey, we’ve retreated back into near total isolation. No restaurants, no grocery shopping, no nothing. Return to the office is on permanent hold. We both had “off” this week between Christmas and New Year’s–-and we’ve celebrated by turning off the clock, unplugging together.
We had spent a lot of time and energy getting ready for Christmas so this has been a time to unwind, to put aside the lists of the things we need to do to get ready. During the day, we read, walked the dogs and drank coffee. At night, we watched movies.
My favorite movie of the week–-and of the year–-was “C’mon C’mon.” It’s really brilliant. In a group text message, I recommended it to friends Ryan and Zoë. Ryan, unknown to me, had already seen it–-something I discovered when my daughter Annie told me that he’d tweeted about “C’mon C’mon.” (On the group text message, Zoë was silent.)
If you watch “C’mon C’mon,” you will understand what’s seen in the trailer. The Joaquin Phoenix character is reading a children’s book to his nephew. The book is called “Star Child” by Claire Nivola. It’s equally brilliant-–but out of print. I have tried to find copies of the book on the internet but so far have had no success. I am hoping that the success of “C’mon C’mon” will change that. The best I could do was find a complete reading of the book on YouTube–only part of “Star Child” is read in “C’mon C’mon.”
For New Year’s Eve, Sara and I watched two movies, “The Lost Daughter” and “tick, tick… Boom!” In between, we talked about “The Lost Daughter.” I complained-–as I often do-–that I did not understand it. Trying to explain to Sara what I didn’t understand only confused me more-–while annoying her. (No spoilers, but if you see the movie, please answer this question and explain it to me, “Why did she take it?”)
As for “tick, tick… Boom!” it’s not exactly New Year’s Eve fare-–watching a movie about a man who you know from the beginning is going to die right before his greatest life’s work hits the stage. Still, the movie’s very good and Andrew Garfield is amazing.
The digital clock next to the TV told us that ““tick, tick… Boom!” ended at 11:47 p.m. Just 13 minutes until 2022 so we decided to stay up to ring in the New Year. Sara wanted to see what the Miley Cyrus and Pete Davidson party looked like so we tuned into NBC. Watching it confirmed what we already knew. We are, in TV language, “out of the demo.” We are old. The show–and its commercials–were not made for us. It was almost as if we were watching a New Year’s celebration in a foreign language.
Still, we hung in there. When the New Year approached, however, we kept waiting to see how Miley and Pete would mark it. Traditionalists, we expected some kind of ball drop, but all they had was a giant electronic scoreboard, far off to the side of the party set–and they counted down the final 60 seconds to 2022 with just those big white numbers, barely seen, on a black background, out of frame for most of the countdown.
When it got down to 0:10, we realized this scoreboard countdown of numbers was it. No descending ball. No visual anticipation. No nothing. So, at 0:08, we switched the channel to ABC–and just like that it was 2022. The ball had dropped and confetti rained down over a crowd of knuckleheads gathered together in Times Square during the height of the pandemic at the center of a city that’s been ravaged again by the virus.
We missed “...One!” For us, there was no moment when 2021 turned into 2022. Bewildered, it took us a minute to understand what had happened–our confusion amplified by the fact that our digital clock by the TV was a minute slow so that the New Year hit when it read 11:59 p.m. So what happened? My guess is that NBC decided to air Miley and Pete with a ten-second delay–-in case there was profanity or nudity (which there almost was). We didn’t know that at the time–so there was a time warp as we went from 0:08 before the New Year on NBC to 2 seconds after on ABC. No ball drop. No moment. No “...One!”
In general, I think people always feel better when the stories we tell–in books, in movies and yes in coronavirus quizzes–have an ending. I’m not saying that everything needs to be resolved, but there’s something reassuring when the words “The End” flash across the screen. You may not understand everything you’ve just seen, but you know it’s over. There’s a “Before” and an “After” with a universal “...One!” bridging the divide.
I think this is what was so hard for people to understand when the last episode of “The Sopranos” first aired. It didn’t feel like the show had ended–it just stopped.
If you’ve been a loyal reader of “Steve’s Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz,” you know that in 2021, it too just stopped. The last quiz I wrote was on April 6, 2021, Quiz #110. 28 Days. I had no idea when I wrote it that it would be my last quiz of 2021. Indeed, I closed it with this line, “I’ll get back to you in 28 days.”
Clearly, I did not get back to you in 28 days. Sorry about that. The closing paragraphs foretell the reason why.
I’ve read that by mid-May, we’ll have reached the point where every adult who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. Will that be fast enough? For now, it’s a race between vaccines and variants. Who knew the coronavirus would be so smart?…
In the long run, I am betting on the vaccines. They’re really incredible, but still, more than one year into this mess, I am constantly surprised by how little I know--and how wrong my thinking has been about where we’re headed and what might be next.
Who would have thought that when vaccines were available for all Americans, a vocal minority would refuse to get vaccinated? In large part, the quizzes stopped because I just threw up my hands trying to make sense of it all. No more trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense.
During this do-nothing week between Christmas and New Year’s, I read “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles. The book was a Christmas present from Annie. It’s great.
I found myself highlighting different passages as I read the book–and none struck me more than this one about photos and fate.
The funny thing about a picture, thought Woolly, the funny thing about a picture is while it knows everything that’s happened up until the moment it’s been taken, it knows absotively nothing about what will happen next. And yet, once the picture has been framed and hung on a wall, what you see when you look at it closely are all the things that were about to happen. All the un-things. The things that were unanticipated. And unintended. And unreversible.
Standing between past and future, it can be hard to make sense of the moments in between.
What have we failed to anticipate?
How are our actions impacting others in ways we never intended?
What are we doing now that will change things forever–-and make them “unreversible”?
Without giving anything away about “The Lincoln Highway,” the story takes place across ten days. In the book, Towles actually counts them down, with different chapters, simply marked with numbers, going from “Ten” to “One.” On his web-site, Towles explains how this happened as he wrote the novel:
When I renamed the sections as a countdown, I assumed I would eventually restore the Day One, Day Two, Day Three titles. But when I finished the first draft, it seemed to me that the reader deserved to have the same experience while reading the book that I had while writing it: of knowing that the story was not open-ended, but ticking down day by day to its inescapable conclusion.
As we start 2022, what’s the inescapable conclusion from this pandemic?
I don’t have a clue when we’ll come to the moment between the before and the after of Covid.
If you’re like me, you’re still dazed and confused, waiting for the “...One!”
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What did NOT happen with Steve and Sara’s 2021 Holiday Quiz?
It should not surprise anyone here to know that our holiday newsletter is written in the form of a “What did NOT happen?” quiz with ten questions about the people and animals in our family. In 2021, the quiz was available on demand. People could ask to either read it (as a Word document with an answer key at the bottom) or take it (as a Google form set up as a quiz with instant feedback and scores posted to a Google Sheet.) 10 people asked to “take” the quiz. What did not happen with Steve and Sara’s Holiday Quiz for 2021?
A. Of the people who took the quiz, daughter-in-law Erica scored the highest, 9 out of 10. Erica, I have since discovered, was the family’s most ardent reader of this coronavirus quiz, alerting other family members via text when a new quiz was posted;
B. The second highest score came from John, a doctor I met on the internet playing fantasy football. We bonded over fantasy football several years ago but knew little more about one another beyond fantasy football. He scored a 6 out of 10—and explained that even though he knew nothing about my family, he followed the logic of the questions and answers;
C. Retired college professor Ann Burnett who studies holiday newsletters for what they say about us took the quiz and scored the third highest score, 5 out of 10. I joked with her via email that I graded on a curve;
D. The question about Annie centered on text messages she sent in 2021. The correct answer for what did not happen was that Annie sent me a text which read, “You were right.” As those who know me know, I love being told “You were right”--and suggesting that Annie might tell me this is an inside joke. In the days after I sent out the quiz, Annie’s friend Nicole–-an avid reader of this quiz and a recipient of the holiday quiz–-sent me an email with the subject line, “We got her.” Within the email, she sent me a copy of text messages she traded with Annie in which Annie had texted Nicole, “You were right;”
E. The quiz ended with a rare “What DID happen?” question, asking people to identify the quality which Sara has told me that I need to work on after spending nearly two years with me as her primary contact with another person (and me with her). To my dismay, this was the question that was most often answered correctly–only 3 people out of 10 missed it. My flaw: mansplaining and explaining everything as if no one else knows anything about anything.
Want the answer?
Answer #111. No “…One!”
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Here’s the previous quiz in the series: Quiz #110. 28 Days.
Here’s the first quiz in the series: Quiz #1. Stella and Social Distancing, March 13, 2020
Here is an archive of all the quizzes.
The quiz is explained here: Steve’s Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz.
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