Only in 2020 would running errands be the most exciting thing you do all week

Rushing out to get milk was once the height of tedium. Today, it’s an anxiety-inducing thrill ride.
Running errands during the pandemic might be an anxiety-inducing chore for some, but for the extroverts among us, it has been a saving grace (Photograph by Christie Vuong)
(Photograph by Christie Vuong)

This has been a year of realizing that what we thought was solid ground beneath our collective feet was in fact a cliff that would crumble away with just a bit of natural erosion or one sharp blow. We reflected on 2020 to find truths, exploded. This is one of them. Read more about the year that changed everything »

Think back to the before times and what it felt like to realize there was only a teaspoon of milk left in the carton. Or you forgot to pick up your prescription. Or you ran out of coffee.

More often than not, rushing to the store took time you didn’t really have to spare. Waiting in line was the height of tedium. As you grabbed items from the shelf and tossed them into the cart and marched to a cashier, your mind was racing with the rest of your to-do list, and your free hand was texting “Sorry, I’m running late.”

It will not be controversial to suggest that errands have never been the height of fun (unless maybe the errand was walking your dog to the pet store, because he is and has always been a very good boy). But we have entered a new era.

OUR EDITORIAL: Looking at truths, exploded

People generally fit into two broad archetypes when it comes to pandemic shopping. With apologies to Sesame Street, let’s call them Bert and Ernie. To a Bert, errands are full of terror. To an Ernie, errands are full of delight. Neither are bored. Let us demonstrate with a few examples.

Getting ready to leave the house

Bert: Wipes phone with Lysol, stares at maps app. “This route has a few twists and turns but, yes, I think it will keep me as far away from other people as possible.” Wipes phone again.

Ernie: Stares at the closet for quite some time. “I’m going out into the world today. People will see me. My outfit needs to slay. My mask needs to match.”

On the way to the store

Bert: Listens to podcast about rising case counts. Checks pocket for hand sanitizer. Scowls at passers-by anywhere near a distance of two metres. Checks pocket again.

Ernie: Takes the scenic route. Smiles at strangers. Invents reasons to extend errand runtime. “Another trip to the liquor store wouldn’t hurt.”

Selecting items

Bert: Mission is a go. Notices and appreciates floor arrows. Beelines to pre-selected products. Touches no unnecessary surface. Admires own efficiency.

Ernie: Considers wandering through the entire shop, aisle by aisle, Ikea-style. Takes several minutes to ponder chip flavours. “I deserve this chocolate bar. Heck! I deserve two!”

Cashing out

Bert: Smiles politely. Averts gaze. Keeps an eye on line spacing.

Ernie: Makes small talk through Plexiglas. Discusses the weather. Experiences pang of emotion upon realizing how nice it is to discuss the weather.

Returning home

Bert: Washes hands vigorously. Sips in a deep, maskless breath for the first time in half an hour. “Good thing I won’t have to do that again until next week.”

Ernie: Feels renewed. “When can I get back outside?”

14 things 2020 proved wrong

‘Democracy is destiny’

The worst system except for all the others has been under attack for years. Trump just made us notice.

‘The future is virtual’

The pandemic has made it clear in more ways than we would have thought to count: you actually need to be there

‘Rich countries can overcome’

The awful response to the pandemic put the final nail in the myth of liberal democracy’s pre-eminence

‘In a crisis, leaders will lead’

The job description is right in their title, but too many simply failed to show up for work

‘Women are winning at work’

The economic crisis spurred by the pandemic has unveiled inequalities and obstacles once thought a thing of the past

‘The individual is supreme’

Our decades-long love affair with rugged independence has suddenly fallen away

‘The stock market has meaning’

Long treated as a key economic indicator by many, it is now completely detached from how the economy is actually doing

‘Climate change can’t be stopped’

After decades of planet-threatening growth, emissions fell off a cliff. Environmentalists sense a turning point.

‘We value our seniors’

Decades of promises to improve the quality of life of elderly Canadians have gone unfulfilled

‘Kids are resilient’

Children’s ability to bounce back has been pushed to a breaking point, and exposed some ugly inequalities

‘Running errands is boring’

Rushing out to get milk was once the height of tedium. Today, it’s an anxiety-inducing thrill ride.

‘We need the gym’

The pandemic shutdown forced a reality check: for many, all that time spent in the gym was more luxury than necessity

‘Bureaucracy is slow’

The pandemic forced a culture shift on government, proving that red tape really can be cut

‘You can ignore racism’

Denying systemic racism is no longer tenable. But will the outrage of the past summer translate to substantive change?