"Check out my new ornament," my friend texted in our group chat.
A moment later, a video appeared of her new Christmas ornament to commemorate the year. It was of a dumpster on fire, with lights flickering in bright yellows and oranges and "2020" written across the bottom of the ornament. The 2020 dumpster fire — how appropriate.
In the final days of this dreadful year, it's hard to sum up what 2020 has been. A number of definitions come to mind: global hell, collective nightmare, 30-pound weight gain, the year of increasing alcohol tolerance, breakfast in bedlam, hot mess, butt-imprint-on-couch year, train wreck, the year of obsessively scrolling through the cheap flights to exotic destinations that I can't take because of COVID-19 restrictions, omnishambles, chaos curtsy, buy-a-Peloton year, never-use-my-Peloton year, pj's-all-day year and, of course, the beloved dumpster fire.
The single word that stands out most to me when I think about 2020 is "superstition."
It's not that this year was full of superstition (though there is probably a decent argument one could make). Rather, the term "2020" will be the superstition of the future. In the decades to come, at 20:20 (Or 8:20 p.m., for those of us who don't actively practice military time), elders and children alike will hold their breath and wait for the moment to pass, lest they cause another pandemic. The year twin siblings turn 20, they will be banished from their families for fear of the evil their 20th-20th birthday will bring. (Perhaps you think this sounds cruel, but just imagine the rocking 21st-21st birthday that follows.) At the optometrist, mothers will scream at the abject horror of discovering that their children's vision is 20/20. No, please, say it ain't so! Not 20/20!
Think this sounds extreme? Bear in mind that we still fear the number 13 because some mopey Norse god crashed a private party at Valhalla thousands of years ago. We still shudder at broken mirrors because the ancient Greeks thought the sick would die if they saw ripples in their reflections in water. And thanks to the faulty springs in Victorian England's umbrellas — resulting in unintended injury and broken personal property — we still avoid opening umbrellas indoors like the plague.
Ooh, sorry. Probably should avoid saying "like the plague." But you get what I'm going for. We just endured a pandemic during a time of political division and social strife. The term "2020" has to be in the running for some crazy superstitions!
Considering that your 40th birthday (20+20) is when we start making over-the-hill jokes already, coming up with doom-and-gloom 2020 superstitions shouldn't be hard. Perhaps we will start avoiding the number 20 in buildings the way we do the number 13. Perhaps we will run to wash our hands for 20 seconds upon mention of the dreaded year. Or perhaps our natural walking cadence will include an odd skip as we effectively leap past every 20th step. Similar to how we throw salt over our shoulder to combat the bad luck of spilling salt in the first place, maybe we will throw a vial of vaccine over our shoulder anytime someone coughs. For added protection, we will follow in the steps of the witches and wizards who spoke of Voldemort and call this era "the year that shall not be named." And instead of knocking on wood to prevent an unpleasant occurrence, perhaps our descendants will keep matches handy and light dumpsters on fire whenever they speak of their hopes and dreams.
Superstitions carved out of 2020 are coming, but I believe slang culture is coming first. In a decade, teens going through painful breakups will say, "It's just so 2020, ya know?" And those of us who lived through home-schooling those teens during 2020 will roll our eyes and tell them that they don't know what 2020 was really like. That irritation, however, will pale in comparison with the annoyance we'll feel when "2020" makes the slang transition from meaning "bad" to meaning "good," the way "ill," "wicked" and "sick" did.
As this terrible year comes to an end, let's be proud that we survived a year that was surely terrible enough to spawn a superstition or two. I mean, if a faulty Victorian-era spring gets one, I think we've earned it. Don't you?
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Follow Katiedid Langrock on Instagram, at http://www.instagram.com/writeinthewild. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.