Friday, July 16, 2021

Something's Off

I expected changes after the lengthy lockdown. Irritability, jagged social skills and raggedy presentation. I expected depression and neurosis. We've been through stuff, and I didn't expect it to pop back the same.

But above/beyond all that predictable stuff, people seem different in ways that are hard to pin down and which don't seem tied to our recent trauma. It's eerie. If this were a sci-fi film, I'd suspect we'd been replaced by Earth 227N, a similar parallel world.

I often identify societal trends early and can come up with some sort of shaky hypothesis to account for them. But I have nothing insightful to say about this, no framing about what's different. Zip. Yet it's different in a tectonic way.

I don't think it's me; I wasn't much traumatized by Covid. So I'm still me, but the world's not exactly the world.

I'm offering the following anecdote not as an example (I can't give you any single's just a spidey sense), but as a surreal vignette about post-COVID big biz.

I went to Bed Bath & Beyond yesterday, and it was weirdly strewn with empty space - very Soviet - and just a couple of forlorn sales people. I asked one if they carry folding tables, and he looked at me with oddly penetrating intensity, tremulously replying "We only have one kind."

I said that might be ok. He wagged his head ruefully and asked how big I needed. I gestured with my arms. He nodded knowingly. Yep. Nope. Our one table's not that big. I'm REALLY SORRY (deep eye contact) I can't help you.

I walked out through the dense silence feeling like my oncologist had given me 2 months to live, passing an old woman clawing among the many drab unmarked cardboard boxes occupying prime floor real estate as if her grandson had been sealed in one of them. Even the light had a weird dystopic glint.

I'm sure there are easy biz explanations for a lot of that. But the personal stuff was totally Earth 227N.
As a topper, BB&B used to carry these weird chairs that were essentially a big fluffy pillow on spindly legs. Cheap, lightweight, portable and oh so comfortable. I was delighted to see them back, and flopped into one, and found it fiendishly not-comfortable. Not actively uncomfortable, just the absolute zero point on the comfort thermometer. The disappointment rattled me, so I got up quickly, and I heard a crashing sound. I spun my head around, trying to figure out if I'd broken anything, but the Antithesis-of-Comfort Chair looked fine, as did the Stonehenge of grey unmarked boxes being desperately scraped at by anguished grandma. The store manager glanced over at me and winced, ala "Jesus Christ; now this." I got out fast.

I want to note that I'm not emerging from a cave. I've been shopping pretty freely during all but the very height of the pandemic (with mask, etc), and all retail near me has been maskless and back to normal for weeks. There's some new X Factor appearing, and I'm not even close to putting my finger on it.


Anonymous said...

Supply chains all screwed up in loads of things. Substitutions not as good as originals. Been waiting 6 months for an Aeroccino 4 milk frother and my son’s had a Tesla on order for 8 months with no info at all as to when he might get it. Something is most definitely off.

Jim Leff said...

It wouldn’t surprise me if there were a hot cyberwar going on, kept quiet by gov to avoid panic.

I keep hearing about mysterious supply chain fiascos, with very little public disclosure. Hope electric grid holds up thru august…..

Unknown said...

Re: Supply chain issues. I saw a piece on my local news about long wait times for newly ordered furniture and cars, to name just two. It comes down to a massive shortage of, (drumroll please)...foam. Foam is used for couches, chairs, car seats, those big #1 fingers seen at sporting events, pet toys, insulation, etc.

Foam is made from a couple of chemicals derived from petroleum. There aren't a lot of plants manufacturing these chemicals, and the majority of the production is in Texas and Louisiana. These plants got hit hard with the big freeze this past winter, requiring them to close down to repair damaged equipment. And they just haven't gotten back up to pre-winter production levels.

As they wait for the required chemicals to arrive, the companies that actually make foam are now getting terribly backlogged with outstanding orders for their product.

Jim Leff said...

Yep. And in the car industry, there’s some certain chip whose shortage is holding up all sorts of larger processes. There’s a lot of fragility in highly interdependent supply chains.

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