2474: First Time Since Early 2020

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 14:55, 9 June 2024 by GreatWyrmGold (talk | contribs) (Explanation)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search
First Time Since Early 2020
Gotten the Ferris wheel operator's attention
Title text: Gotten the Ferris wheel operator's attention


This is yet another comic part of the series of comics on the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comic is a chart that orders things based on the level of alarm that would occur if it were revealed that someone had not done a given thing since early 2020. Many of the items, but not all, are linked to new constraints due to the pandemic.

The title text serves as another chart point, though it isn't given where it is on the chart.

Been to a birthday party

Going to a birthday party was a normal task before the pandemic, and it's normal to say you haven't gone to one since early 2020.

Eaten at a restaurant

Eating at a restaurant was also common before governments instated lockdowns, but during the lockdowns many restaurants had to limit their service to delivery and take-out.

Seen my family

Seeing your family was fairly common before the governments instated lockdowns. However, there were emergency visits during the lockdown period.

Been on a plane

Governments around the world cancelled commercial flights during the pandemic. However, businessmen like Bill Gates used private jets during the pandemic.

Gone to a movie

Many cinema halls around the world closed due to the pandemic. Several movies were instead released directly to TV via OTT platforms.

Gone to a store

Although some stores were closed during the lockdown period, others were open for essential commodities. Therefore, going to a store for the first time since early 2020 is little strange.

Installed software updates

Regularly installing software updates is recommended, mainly for security reasons. However, many people don't follow these recommendations (mostly by fear of software inconsistency or instability), although a delay of more than one year is quite long. Mentioning software updates is weird, because it is not directly related to the COVID pandemic. On the contrary, since many people spent much more time at home and worked at home, it was all the more important to keep software up to date, especially due to zero-day exploits.

Eaten a vegetable

Since vegetables are essential to a healthy diet, not eating a single vegetable in a whole year is not recommended.[citation needed] Anxiety due to the pandemic and disruption of social relations may have caused people to consume more junk food than usual.

Opened the fridge

This is quite weird, since most people use their refrigerators to store fresh food. Maybe some people became anorexic because of anxiety due to the pandemic or stopped consuming fresh food and relied more on junk food. Moreover, most food products will alter or rot if stored in a fridge for more than one year, and become dangerous to eat.[citation needed]

Paid taxes

Although some people, depending on where they live and their income, may not pay taxes in an immediately obvious way, there are some taxes, such as VAT in many countries and sales tax in the United States or Canada, which almost everyone would pay in the natural course of everyday life, though may not be 'obvious' in the paying, or even be extracted at source (withheld from payroll) in the simpler cases. (Randall lives in Massachusetts, which does not have a VAT, but does have a 6.25% sales tax.) It is therefore strange that someone could have gone a year without paying any taxes, implying they made almost no monetary transactions in the period, nor are made (directly) responsible for any residential or property-owning taxations that might otherwise be payable to one or other layer of government.

If the statement refers specifically to filing income taxes (which is often the case when people refer to "taxes", because the paperwork and large sums of money transferred at once makes the income tax highly noticeable and memorable), it might describe someone who filed a tax return for 2019 early in 2020 and then waited until later in 2021 to file a return for 2020.

Washed my hands

One of the main pieces of advice during the pandemic was to wash one's hands, frequently. Even in normal circumstances, washing hands is a good idea to remain hygienic,[citation needed] and not do so for a year would be disgusting to most people, and a good way of catching diseases.

Like paying taxes, it is very common to wash one's hands inadvertently as part of another activity, so someone who actually has not washed their hands since early 2020 likely also never bathed or showered.

Seen another person

Despite the restrictions, most people will have seen another person during the pandemic, virtually or otherwise.

Seen a ghost

The fact that the speaker apparently has seen a ghost, both now and presumably before early 2020 (else they would simply say it was the 'first time' they saw a ghost) is unusual.[citation needed]

In addition, it is possible that someone who tells you that they haven't seen a ghost recently is implying that you are a ghost they currently see. If true, this would be quite alarming to most people.

Served as a decoy

Similar to the previous point, this is not a normal activity, so the specificity is unusual.

Sighted land

Most people live on land,[citation needed] so sighting land should not be unusual, even during a pandemic. The fact that someone has gone over a year without sighting land suggests they have been lost at sea for the duration. There are several reported cases of ships' crews refused permission to disembark, due to local restrictions and/or because their scheduled relief were unable to embark, but the unluckily held-on persons forced to remain beyond their originally planned obligations should never have been left permanently beyond any tantalizingly unreachable view of the shore.

Taken more literally, it could simply mean that the person remained indoors and did not look outside, or that the person was temporarily blind.

Checked the news

If someone has not checked the news since early 2020, they will likely be in for a shock upon checking. Noting that this could possibly (if increasingly absurdly) still apply to someone like Ponytail (as portrayed in strip 2396: Wonder Woman 1984).

Checked on the customers in the escape room

The implication is that the customers in question have been trapped in the escape room since early 2020. Most escape rooms are not equipped to support a person for that length of time, so unless the customers actually escaped, they would likely not have survived.[citation needed]

Contracted a novel bat virus

As a 'novel bat virus' is what kicked off the whole pandemic, contracting another one may send the whole world into a new pandemic, which is certainly alarming.[citation needed]

Gotten the Ferris wheel operator's attention (title text)

It seems that the speaker has been stuck in a Ferris wheel for a year. It is unclear how they may have survived, unless the speaker is a certain xkcd character.

Alternately, it would be perfectly normal that the speaker has not been at an amusement park with a working Ferris wheel since early 2020 - but it would be unusual to focus on interacting with the operator versus enjoying the attraction.

Several science fiction stories include wheel-like prisons where people stay for years, but generally they are underground and horizontal rather than in the air and vertical like Ferris wheels are.


"This is actually the first time I've _____ since early 2020."
[Below is a long vertical arrow with the words "normal" and "alarming" at the top and the bottom of the arrow respectively. To the right side of the arrow is a list of text, with each item starting with a triangle.]
◀ been to a birthday party
◀ eaten at a restaurant
◀ seen my family
◀ been on a plane
◀ gone to a movie
◀ gone to a store
◀ installed software updates
◀ eaten a vegetable
◀ opened the fridge
◀ paid taxes
◀ washed my hands
◀ seen another person
◀ seen a ghost
◀ served as a decoy
◀ sighted land
◀ checked the news
◀ checked on the customers in the escape room
◀ contracted a novel bat virus


On July 6, 2021, four weeks after the release of this comic, an emergency patch update was released for Windows 7. Since support for Windows 7 had otherwise ended in mid-January 2020, this means that people whose computers ran Windows 7 could have installed software updates for the first time since early 2020.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


It's kind of alarming to me that "Seen my family" is apparently more normal than "Gone to a movie". Really that whole section is out of order. From most normal to most alarming it should go "Gone to a movie", "Been on a plane", "Eaten at a restaurant", "Seen my family". 02:50, 10 June 2021 (UTC)

Not to mention that "checked the news" is farther towards "alarming" than things like "sighted land", "washed my hands", and "opened the fridge", and is only higher than "checked on the customers in the escape room" and "contracted a novel bat virus". Some people just have too much to do, are able to get all the information critically important to their personal lives from people they communicate with personally, live off the grid, and/or are completely fed up with the rampant sensationalism and outrage culture in the media. 03:32, 10 June 2021 (UTC)
Not to mention how alarming "contracted a novel bat virus" is. While contracting COVID-19 is bad, it's nowhere near as bad as, say, letting people starve in the escape room, subsisting off of MRE's ("ate a vegetable") and being stuck in the ocean ("sighted land") 04:14, 10 June 2021 (UTC)
I think the joke is that he's contracting a different virus, implying the possibility that he could be patient zero for two different pandemics. At this point, COVID-19 isn't novel anymore. 06:26, 10 June 2021 (UTC)
So if you'd been locked up for a year, the first thing you'd do after being freed would be to go to a movie or take a plane, not to see your family? Sad! 12:31, 10 June 2021 (UTC)
Have *you* met my family? 13:12, 10 June 2021 (UTC)
Don't forget that many people don't live anywhere near a family member (indeed, many have no living family at all). (Also this chart is how normal vs alarming cessation of an activity is, so if one activity is significantly less common than another, cessation may be listed as less normal than cessation of a significantly more common activity.)
ProphetZarquon (talk) 20:23, 10 June 2021 (UTC)

Several issues here, but I want to discuss before I make any edit, because I don't know what other regions experienced: ProphetZarquon (talk) 20:23, 10 June 2021 (UTC)

1) Explanation gives an unrealistic depiction of CoViD '19 response in the US (& worldwide?): "Governments around the world cancelled commercial flights" Not all governments! Flights continued across the US even with empty planes, throughout the entire pandemic; the US government never cancelled any flights for CoViD. National border crossings were sometimes restricted, but anecdotally I know of multiple people who were allowed to travel, both inter-state (visiting multiple locations) & internationally, at peak "lockdown". Travel within the US was effectively unrestricted with only a handful of local exceptions, & international travel was restricted mostly by bans on travelers from one specific country to another. Most citizens within the US (& around the world?) were restricted only by advisory recommendations, not mandates, much less any actual "lockdown". Many commercial flights were eventually cancelled due to lack of ticket sales, but commercial flights never actually stopped completely even among some of the hardest hit countries. Heck, during the worst of it, airlines in the US & EU were flying planes with crew but no passengers, round the clock, just to keep gate priority. Many epidemiologists expected lockdowns which never came; National governments probably should have halted flights by mandate (& actually defined "essential" a lot less broadly), if containment were desired, but that's not what happened. Could we alter this explanation's phrasing to make it clearer that "air travel was extremely suppressed by travel advisories & restrictions" as opposed to "cancelled by government" which is not at all accurate? ProphetZarquon (talk) 20:23, 10 June 2021 (UTC)

2) "Cinema halls around the world are closed due to the pandemic." Were closed! There are cinemas open again all across the US, & Wuhan China reopened their cinemas many months ago. ProphetZarquon (talk) 20:28, 10 June 2021 (UTC)

3) "Installed Software Updates" 'explanation' seems to include contrary statements from differing contributors. The comic does not explicitly mention CoViD; the chart lists activities for which a prolonged cessation is less or more alarming, in ascending order. Many people rarely ate at restaurants, or never paid taxes, before CoViD '19: Citing how common or uncommon activities such as "updates" were & are, before & after the emergence of CoViD '19, seems a better explanation than contradicting sentences questioning how it relates to the comic (discussion of which belongs here, not in the explanation). ProphetZarquon (talk) 20:23, 10 June 2021 (UTC)

4) "Opened The Fridge" explanation presumes that Randall is the one who hasn't opened the fridge. Certainly Randall is the one rating this as relatively normal but somewhat alarming; however we have no grounds to presume that Randall himself has not opened his fridge: He most certainly has "checked the news", "sighted land", "seen another person", & probably "paid taxes", since early 2020. Better to only explain why someone may not have opened their fridge: Some people never use their kitchens. Supermarkets are a public place with many shared surfaces & generally limited airflow, therefore at-risk or concerned persons may have reason to avoid supermarkets during a pandemic, resulting in reliance on food delivery (lack of leftovers could suggest pets or teenage children). Living creature inside (isn't this the subject of an XKCD comic?)? ProphetZarquon (talk) 20:23, 10 June 2021 (UTC)