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Harry's Gang: We kings and queens are facing supply realities

We live like royalty in America. We have stores full of food and trinkets. We work only 40 hours a week. Some people work even less and some of us choose to work more. Nearly everyone has indoor bathrooms and heated houses, and, when we turn on the faucet, day or night, water comes out. Clean, drinkable water. No one has to hike to the nearest well and bring a bucket of water home.

Our lights turn on when we flick a switch and our sewage flows away from our homes in enclosed pipes to a treatment facility, so it won’t pollute our water.

We live like kings.

So why are we so upset when, during a global pandemic that affected commerce at just about every level in just about every corner of the globe, we can’t get some of the stuff we used to be able to get easily? Our supply chain is fragile, it turns out — able to produce what we need (and want) when we need (and want) it during good times. But that balance can be seriously affected when there are glitches

across the board. Factories reduced production during the pandemic; retailers ordered less of some products and more of others, disrupting the normal flow; and consumers shifted their buying patterns. The pandemic didn’t just create a health emergency. It caused an economic one as well.

Computer chips are a good example of the problem. We have had an increased demand for products that rely on microchips. Things that never needed a computer chip before, like a credit card, for example, are now embedded with them. We use more and more computer chips every year, and there seems to be no end in sight.

Our cars rely on them.

But the computer manufacturers have been affected by the pandemic. Fewer workers, decreased demand at the beginning, and a sudden increase as the vaccine was rolled out has led to supply shortages. The fewer computer chips, the fewer products that rely on chips. Some items become hard to get, making them more valuable, and the prices increase. It was inevitable and predictable.

The inflation we’ve seen lately is a direct result of how the global pandemic has affected the economy. It should not surprise anyone that such a catastrophic event as the pandemic would jolt the economy. And Americans, who live like royalty, are irritated that some of the pleasures we’ve come to expect have been disrupted. The amount of complaining I hear about things like gas prices, groceries, and product shortages is massive. Apparently, royalty likes to complain a lot, too.

It seems to me that we have it all backwards. Not many people truly appreciate or are grateful for all that we have.

We enjoy hopping into a car and driving to the Miller Hill area in Duluth to do a little shopping. We enjoy deciding to skip making dinner and eat out at a restaurant. We pay little attention to a family that buys three kinds of peanut butter — chunky, smooth, extra creamy — to make everyone in the family happy. And we give little thought to taking a long hot shower at the end of the day.

Except last week, when our water heater started leaking. Fearing an expensive basement wall replacement, we quickly discovered the leak and turned off the water supply. Soon, the floor was dry and we were relieved.

Except we had no hot water. Oh, the inconvenience. You would have thought our house burned down and we were homeless. Imagine living in a house where you turn on the hot water faucet and nothing comes out. Only the cold water faucet worked. No dishwasher; no laundry machine; no hot showers or baths. The kids were devastated. It was suggested we stay in a hotel for a few days.

At this point, I thought it was wise to explain to the children how good we have it nowadays. I explained that, in Grandpa Tony’s youth, hot water came from the stove for the dishes, and they only turned on the hot water heater for showers and baths. We decided to try it. We turned the hot water back on for an hour Sunday night and everyone showered, we did a load of laundry, and washed the dishes — all in about an hour. The tank leaked a little, but it was easy to clean up.

That night, I dug out one of the old “Little House on the Prairie” books and read the part where the family takes their weekly bath on Saturday night so they’d be clean for church. The kids enjoyed the story. I hope they start to appreciate how good we have it. There really was no better way to learn the lesson of Thanksgiving than having such an event over the weekend.

Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News and an attorney in Esko who hosts the cable access talk show Harry’s Gang on CAT-7. His opinions are his own. Contact him at [email protected].

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