Credit: Peter Kuper,

Last June, when I wrote the Mid-Term for my fictional UCSB course “How Santa Barbara Is Handling the Pandemic,” some people said, “Mid-Term? You think this pandemic is half-over? It’s WAY PAST being half-over!” Obviously, we were all wrong: no one knows how long this pandemic will last.

I realize that everyone has suffered during this crisis. There’s nothing funny about any of it. But I believe that humor can help us get through difficult times. And it is in that spirit, and with respect to the feelings of all who have endured so much, that I now offer my Final Exam on the pandemic. I just hope that it is indeed a Final, and that we’ll all be able to laugh together again soon.

1. Since the only things we have left to stream and watch are World Wide Wrestling Highlights 1970-1973, My Little Pony cartoons, and a three-hour documentary entitled Tulips, this year’s online and drive-in Santa Barbara International Film Festival should be a virtual success.
a) False, because, even though I agree that the SBIFF should be successful, I still have The Ghost and Mr. Chicken starring Don Knotts to stream and watch.
b) True, and it is fitting that the irreverent and unpredictable Bill Murray should be honored by the SBIFF with their highest honor, the Maltin Modern Master Award, which sounds like it is an award given for “Best Alliteration in a Motion Picture” but it actually honors someone for “Enriching culture in a significant matter.” You know, like in Caddyshack.

2. At times during the pandemic Santa Barbara has been inexplicably described as being in a dangerous Purple region because
a) Governor Newsom has been holding his California map upside down and thought we were San Francisco.
b) Barbarians wear purple. Kind of like the Vikings. In Minnesota.
c) Purple is a royal color and Harry and Meghan live here.

3. People in charge of improving the State Street experience chose lime green as the color for the bicycle lane because
a) When you think “Santa Barbara style you immediately think “lime green.”
b) Sherman-Williams was out of all other colors.
c) Carpinteria’s Avocado Festival was canceled, and they gave us all their paint.

4. Social distancing
a) Proves that COVID-19 can jump 5 feet 11 1/2 inches, but not 6 feet.
b) Should be mandated during every Thanksgiving for some families (you know who you are).
c) Is the sequel to The Social Network and stars Bill Murray.
d) Is the polite way of describing the “Stay away from me!” attitude which has become so common during this pandemic that it has made “Crossing the street in order to avoid someone” an accepted practice of proper social etiquette.

5. The four-tiered color-coded system for determining how widespread the virus is in each California county was created because “Purple,” “Red,” “Orange,” and “Yellow” are so much easier to understand and provide better descriptions of how widespread the virus is, rather than using the colors’ respective meanings of “Widespread,” “Substantial,” “Moderate,” and “Minimal.”
a) Obviously False. This plan is called “The Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” but there’s no Blue in this plan at all. And where’s Green? I miss Green. Especially Lime Green. I can’t find a can of it anywhere. It’s like someone bought it all up.
b) Obviously True. EVERYONE knows that “Orange” means “Moderate”… Wait – NO THEY DON’T! To most people, Orange means “the new Black”! And this code says that “Yellow” means “Minimal” — but “Minimal” describes “Normal”, as in: “Hey, everything’s open again — so the kids can go back to school, and we can all go out to eat.” So, why, exactly, are we calling “Normal” “Yellow”?

6. The Governor of California but not the Mayor of Santa Barbara is facing a recall election because
a) No one has been able to find Cathy Murillo to serve her the papers.
b) We don’t recall things in Santa Barbara. We’re a Senior Citizen Cohort. We can barely remember what we had for breakfast.
c) Cathy Murillo knows Roger Durling who knows Bill Murray who is totally against anything being recalled because of a Groundhog Day experience he had as a young man.

7. Turning State Street into a Pedestrian Mall occurred because
a) The Build-A-Platform-in-the-Street Lobby is very strong in Santa Barbara.
b) It’s part of the QAnon conspiracy theory that the Deep State Street is trying to take away our Right to Drive.
c) It makes perfect sense that, in front of every restaurant, Santa Barbara streets should be lined with buildings made of temporary walls, roofs and floors where people can eat because people cannot eat inside the restaurants which are made of permanent walls, roofs and floors.

8. Imagine that in February 2020, a woman fell off a cruise ship off our coast and swam to Santa Cruz Island where she wandered without personal or technical contact with anyone for a year. She was finally found and brought to Santa Barbara in March of this year: what would surprise or shock her the most?
a) That the pandemic had halted all cruises and that her cruise line refused to refund her money since Santa Barbara was her last stop anyway.
b) That after 2 1/2 million deaths from COVID worldwide, people still actually argue about the safety of wearing masks on State Street.
c) That “getting vaccinated” was the second hottest topic on the Central Coast. The most popular topic was, of course, how hard it is to get a rescue dog.

9. Which of these phases happened to our businesses during the pandemic?
a) Restaurants and bars were closed.
b) Restaurants but not bars were allowed to re-open.
c) Bars became restaurants in order to re-open.
d) Restaurants became bars.
e) Bars turned into cafés.
f) Restaurants turned into cafés.
g) Everything turned into cafés.

10. According to reporting in the Independent and other news sources, over 400 Santa Barbara city hourly employees were fired in March of 2020 because of budget constraints due to the pandemic. It’s well known that Santa Barbara’s administrators are among the best paid in the country. How many of these highly salaried city administrators took a pay cut or lost their jobs in March of 2020?
a) Probably less than 400.
b) Probably less than 100.
c) Probably less than 1.


It was quite logical that Santa Barbara wineries and breweries could be open during the pandemic ONLY if they served food because
a) No idea.
b) See a.


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