July 12th, 2024

Good Friday this year vastly different from 2020

By Lethbridge Herald on March 28, 2024.

Al Beeber – managing editor

Four years ago this month, COVID-19 restrictions were in full swing as the world shut down to try to reduce the spread of this new and deadly invisible enemy.

With business activity reduced to those deemed essential, commerce came to a sudden and grinding halt. And that impacted we in the media as well.

The once bustling downtown was deserted in March of 2020, I remember. One morning, I stood in the middle intersection by the post office with camera in hand and there wasn’t a single vehicle on the street or pedestrian on the sidewalk. 

Walking to 3 Avenue and throughout the downtown it was the same scene – the city’s core was an absolute ghost town.

With advertising revenues drying up and newspaper page numbers shrinking, there were no pages for me to lay out, the work barely being enough to do for our managing editor at the time, Randy Jensen, along with desker Cam Yoos and comment page editor Dave Sulz.

Sports activity was non-existent, as well with all leagues being shut down because of the pandemic.

People were getting laid off globally from jobs in all walks of life because of the impact of COVID. While watching the Netflix series “Tiger King” one night, I began dwelling on the possibilities of layoffs here at the Herald. I imagined a ton of scenarios, none of which had me losing my job because in my mind, I was too versatile and valuable.

Surprise! Just a few days before Easter, I saw an email that directed me to read immediately. Sure enough, it was a letter informing me that I’d been temporarily laid off because of the impact of the pandemic.

After my initial shock, I understood why I was chosen to take unplanned time off. It would be the first time in my career I’d been off work aside from the months in 2002 when I was away after having four herniated discs removed from my neck, the surgery done by the amazing Dr. Rick Hu at Foothills Hospital in Calgary which is still giving me lasting relief to this day.

Ironically, Good Friday would be my last day in the office for what turned out to be a whopping six months, which were the longest and most worrisome six months of my life.

All I’d known since I was 16 was work – it was what I did. So to find myself in the unfamiliar world of unemployment and applying for CERB, not having any idea how long my departure would be, was terrifying.

The only bright spot was that thanks to my dad’s estate I had the financial ability to pay off my mortgage which I swiftly did. As executor of that estate, I learned that I could disperse some of the money so provided myself and my now deceased brother a small sum which was enough to cover the bills.  

Because I didn’t want to be on the financial hook for any debts my dad might owe, whether they be taxes or something else, I used prudence to make sure there was a substantial amount left until the estate was finally given clearance by the Canada Revenue Agency.

With the mortgage debt off my shoulders, I still had fears – what would I do if I never was hired back? I’d had no career outside of journalism and nearing 61 years of age, I wondered what my employment prospects would be.

It was a terrifying and depressing situation. And I struggled mightily with it. Napping, baking bread and walking the dogs every day just wasn’t emotionally or mentally gratifying, the insecurity which absolutely gnawed at me.

Four years later, I’m in wonderment at how quickly and how much things have changed. As I write this I’m now into my second and last year as managing editor – a position I would never have dreamed of being in four years ago on Good Friday as I said goodbye to my colleagues here for what I thought could have been the last time.

Not only am I editor now I still have the dream job of journalism in my mind of covering  politics, especially municipal. As much fun as entertainment and auto writing were here and sports was back in Ontario, the political beat has been the most rewarding and interesting of my life. And by far the most fun.

I look forward walking into City Hall and catching up with the many people I’ve gotten to know in the past few years – including my friends at other media outlets who I’ve held up at media scrums more than once because of my penchant to gab with council or staff or anyone who just happens to be nearby. 

And unlike the Good Friday of 2020, I’m actually looking forward to this year’s. While a quick trip to Shelby to buy MegaMillions tickets is off the agenda after one ticket in New Jersey won the more than $1 billion jackpot on Tuesday, I have other plans to fill the day after spending a couple of hours here early. 

And who knows, if nobody won the growing PowerBall jackpot last night, Shelby still might be in my sights. While gambling on Good Friday may seem sacrilegious, my luck, which is either non-existent or bad, couldn’t get worse – especially after the 2020 not-so-good Easter Friday. So we’ll see what happens. 

At the worst I’ll have the chance to hang out longer at the puppy park with Izzy, Ben and all of their friends like Cassie, Ara, Charlie, Stryder, Maggie, Annie, Tika, Winnie, Bella, Stella and their two-legged chauffeurs.

Happy Easter!

NOTE OF CONDOLENCE: Fifteen years ago on Wednesday, the Bassett family and the southern Alberta horse racing fraternity lost a person who was near and dear to them – and me – when Doug Bassett unexpectedly died in Calgary.

It’s hard to believe 15 years have gone by so quickly and Doug isn’t still with us crew of 1959 as we become bonafide senior citizens this year, which is hard to believe because it seems like yesterday we were all bombing Main in Raymond or hitting Lethbridge to do the route between the two A and W’s for hours on end.

Doug was my neighbour and feedlot co-worker growing up and a friend to everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him. And to this day, he’s still missed.

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