Was March 2020 the weirdest month of the 21st century?April 1, 2020 9:46am

March 31-- An old phrase says "May you live in interesting times," and while it sounds like a blessing, it's often thought to be a curse.

The coronavirus has upended life as we know it. Store shelves and city streets are empty; drive-thrus for both fast food and pandemic testing are essential; and distilleries are producing hand sanitizer instead of hooch.

For the first time in generations, people of all generations agree on one thing: This is something none of us have experienced before.

And it's pretty weird.

In fact, March 2020 may be the strangest month yet of the 21st century.

Of course, there are serious health, societal and economic implications of all that happened last month, and my colleagues are covering those issues around the clock.

But this story isn't about those things. It's about what made the month even weirder in the face of a global pandemic.

PALIN OPENS FOR TRUMP WITH SIR MIX-A-LOT

"The Masked Singer" was already doing just fine in the completely-insane-reality-show department before Sarah Palin sashayed onto the stage.

In what other singing competition could rapper T-Pain beat out Gladys Knight or basketball star Victor Oladipo best Patti LaBelle?

But when Palin, a 2008 vice presidential nominee, was unmasked as the Bear on March 11, and performed Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" to close out the episode, the show took strange to a whole new level.

Even more surreal was that for those who viewed the show live on Fox, Palin's performance of the song-the most popular line of which is "I like big butts and I cannot lie"-led directly into President Donald Trump's Oval Office address about the coronavirus pandemic.

So, a former vice-presidential-candidate-turned-reality star inadvertently opened up for a reality-star-turned president.

And we were all like "Oh my God, Becky, look at her sing about butts."

GAME OVER

Also on March 11, NBA officials announced they were suspending the season. The following day, the NHL and MLB followed suit.

Amid the sports desert we find ourselves in, the definition of sports seems to have broadened exponentially.

Before all the bars were shut down, some Philly establishments began showing more obscure events, like the biathlon.

And now, some 24/7 sports networks are taking interesting chances, like Fox Sports 2, which aired the 144th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Saturday. On March 22, ESPN aired an entire lineup of obscure sporting events, like the World Sign Spinning Championships, the Stupid Robot Fighting League, and Slippery Stairs: College Tour.

Bored sports commentators, like Englishman Nick Heath, have even begun to comment on everyday life as if it were a live sporting event. All of social media marveled at his commentary for "Pigeon Dressage" and "Drag A Load of Tat."

THE EMPTINESS

From empty streets to empty shelves, the barren landscapes of our cities and stores have an apocalyptic overtone that's hard to shake, like we should all be stocking up glasses so we don't end up like that bookworm in the Twilight Zone episode.

For city dwellers, it's been particularly strange seeing subways cars and buses empty.

And it's not just the pictures of our hometowns that stun us, the emptiness is worldwide, from Times Square-where the singing Naked Cowboy was both naked and singing for nobody in particular Sunday-to the Vatican, where Pope Francis said a prayer for the world in the rain before an empty St. Peter's Square.

THE DRIVE-THRU HAS ITS DAY

The drive-thru-that place you always wanted to go as a kid but everyone said was bad for you _certainly experienced a glow up in March.

Never before in human history has the drive-thru been so essential and popular a concept. With social distancing mandates keeping us apart, drive-thrus are busier than ever, from those that serve fast food to pop-up drive-thrus for coronavirus testing.

Churches have gotten in on the drive-thru trend, too. Some have held drive-thru Holy Communion and on Sunday, several congregations gathered at a drive-in movie theater in Cumberland County, Pa., for a church service in their cars (giving a whole new meaning to Jesus take the wheel).

THE 'CORONAVIRUS CHALLENGE'

This is one of those things-like washing your hands-that nobody should have to tell you at any time, pandemic or not: Do not lick toilets.

Several wannabe influencers tried to start a dangerous and disgusting social media trend this month: The Coronavirus Challenge, in which they challenged people to film themselves licking public objects-namely, toilet seats-in the face of the coronavirus.

New Jersey native and Instagram model Ava Louise allegedly started the bizarre trend by filming herself licking a toilet on an airplane.

Another influencer who did the challenge-and whose Twitter account has since been suspended-claimed he contracted the coronavirus just days after he become intimate with a public toilet.

No, just no, humanity. We can't stress how important it is to practice safe social distancing with people-and with public toilets.

EYE OF THE 'TIGER KING'

On March 20, Netflix dropped the documentary series "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness," which quickly became the most popular show on television, during a time when everybody is watching is TV.

The fact that people are saying this show-which is about big cat breeders, polygamy, a murder-for-hire plot and everything in between-is the craziest thing they've ever seen while we're living through a pandemic that has people licking toilets and hoarding toilet paper tells you just about all you need to know about this true-life tale.

In a way, "Tiger King" offers us some comfort during an uncomfortable time. It's escapist, for sure, but it also serves as a reminder that humanity was a strange species, long before the coronavirus upended our lives.

___

(c)2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.inquirer.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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