I’d like to begin by reminding everyone that the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang were in 2018. To me, the Winter Olympics feel as distant as the construction of the pyramids.
I’ve done everything possible to run from the breakneck pace of news, and I still can’t get away. I’ve put a filter on my phone so the screen is in grayscale. I’ve deactivated my Facebook and Instagram. I’ve turned off news notifications from all but one news outlet to stop the ever-present pinging. I don’t have Twitter on my phone.
Even with my devices out of sight in a plastic bin from the hardware store, the fact that the news universe continues to spin on without me keeps me from accessing any real peace and quiet. My brain has restructured itself as a newsfeed. It never stops scrolling. I’ve lost my sense of scale.
That should give you a sense of the wild ride that’s about to ensue as I review this year from the perspective of a millennial who has been repeatedly stubbing her toe on Twitter Moments for the past 365 days. I picked these events because they somehow rose above the rest. These were the pieces I plucked out of the disassembled puzzle in the breakfast nook.
My appetite has changed this year. I’ve taken an interest in the absurd, in the sublime and in the miraculous. If I can’t stop drinking from the fire hose, at least I can sprinkle in a little Crystal Lite.
TIDE POD CHALLENGE:
The first few weeks of 2018 brought us the Tide Pod Challenge, a testament to the utter lunacy of internet memes and to the beauty of a gently scolding press statement from a major corporation. In case you somehow missed it, The Teens of America™ started eating Tide Pods, concentrated laundry detergent in a package that looks vaguely edible, and putting videos online. Proctor and Gamble had to release a statement begging people not to play with or eat Tide Pods “even if it is meant as a joke." Somehow Tide landed on Rob Gronkowski as the perfect individual to herald the message that people should not eat laundry detergent. Is it any coincidence the Oxford Dictionary word of the year was “toxic”?
HAWAII FALSE ALARM:
On January 13, during arguably peak tensions this year with North Korea, some poor soul at the at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency accidentally triggered an alert sent to Hawaiian phones that said “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” For 38 long minutes, motorists hid in tunnels on the highway, college students hunkered down in classrooms and tourists at the Kualoa Ranch were transported to a concrete bunker in the mountains. The second alert, which was inexplicably not in capital letters, read: “There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.” People came out from hiding and governors from 49 states probably called their emergency management agencies and just let out endless screams.
MARCH FOR OUR LIVES:
February brought us the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which planted a seed of activism in many high school students all across the country. That seed sprouted into a tree in March, during the student-led March For Our Lives, one of the largest protests in American history. More than a million people followed the teenagers from Florida and marched for universal background checks and a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, among other gun control legislation. After her speech in Washington, survivor Emma Gonzalez stood silently weeping on stage, marking the time it took the gunman to kill 17 of her classmates the month prior.
It had been more than three years since the country was divided over The Dress, so it was about time for some other ridiculous debate to invade the street corners and office kitchenettes of America. I managed to avoid the Yanny/Laurel debate until a Lyft driver asked me which I’d heard and then wordlessly played it for me when I said I hadn’t listened yet. This internet sensation started with two high schoolers using the vocabulary.com page for the word “laurel,” and I would argue it ended with not one, not two, but THREE New York Times journalists who built a toolto accentuate different frequencies so people could hear both “Yanny” and “Laurel” from the same audio clip. And no, I won’t tell you which I heard.
THAI CAVE RESCUE:
New York’s hottest club is the Thai cave rescue. It’s got everything: 200 divers, representatives from about 100 government agencies, 2,000 soldiers, police helicopters and police ambulances and gazillions of prayers zooming toward Thailand like mosquitoes. The situation these people had to navigate was so absurd it was almost comical. At certain points the cave was barely wide enough to accommodate an adult human body. Monsoon season was coming. Oxygen levels were tenuous. The search claimed the life of a nearly superhuman Thai Navy SEAL. The rescue took seventeen days, which, in 2018, is basically the equivalent a full calendar year. Reading news headlines during this time was like getting knocked around by foam noodles in a carwash:
JULY 2: Divers find the team, all alive!
The best part of the Thai cave rescue, besides the scientific and logistical miracle that was the actual rescue, was Elon Musk ordering engineers from two of his companies to design a "kid-sized" submarine that no one asked for and that the head of the search operation said was “not practical for our mission.” Classic Musk.
Brett Kavanaugh: High school basketball team captain, Yale legacy, Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brother, and friend of P.J. and Squee. Here is an exchange from the now Supreme Court Justice’s now famous Senate hearing:
KAVANAUGH: Yes, we drank beer. My friends and I, the boys and girls. Yes, we drank beer. I liked beer. Still like beer. We drank beer. The drinking age, as I noted, was 18, so the seniors were legal, senior year in high school, people were legal to drink, and we — yeah, we drank beer, and I said sometimes — sometimes probably had too many beers, and sometimes other people had too many beers.
MITCHELL: What do you…
KAVANAUGH: We drank beer. We liked beer.
2018 US OPEN FINAL
Where were you during perhaps the most uncomfortable trophy presentation in tennis history? Chair umpire Carlos Ramos gave 23-time Grand Slam champ Serena Williams an official warning for alleged coaching, a second code violation for racquet abuse and a third code violation for calling him a “liar” and a “thief” during the final with rising star Naomi Osaka. Williams said the violations were sexist because male players have gotten away with worse. Osaka won. Twitter debates ensued.
Of course, just in case this match wasn’t painful enough, Osaka had previously said Williams was an inspiration to her and said she thought about what Serena would do during difficult moments on the court. After the match, Osaka hid her face in both a towel and in a visor and cried, saying, “I know everyone was cheering for her and I'm sorry it had to end like this.” Meanwhile, I had positioned myself in front of a ball machine and was shooting tennis balls directly at my face.
PETE AND ARIANA:
I met Pete Davidson once as an intern for SiriusXM, and I was also once in an elevator with Ariana Grande in Madrid and didn’t say a word to her, so I feel I am responsible for their five-month relationship, engagement and their subsequent breakup. This is the only current event (yes, current event) I can read about that doesn’t leave me in an hours-long state of rage. Ariana Grande, who is far too frequently called a “pint-sized pop diva” in media coverage, suddenly started dating SNL comic Pete Davidson. They got matching tattoos. They got engaged. They ate lollipops on the streets of New York. They got a pet pig. Ariana’s ex-boyfriend died. Ariana and Pete broke up. Ariana Grande wrote a song about it, and Internet trolls descended upon Pete Davidson post-breakup despite his public struggles with mental health. I never expected myself to buy seaweed at Star Market because Ariana Grande eats a Japanese macrobiotic diet, but the Ariana/Pete drama opened a door to celebrity obsession I previously didn’t understand. Join me on this journey. Thank you. Next.