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"Salvation visits, and the heavens open in blissful chorus …"

Back in the earlier days of this Damned Pandemic, shoppers became familiar with terms like Fragile Supply Chain, a concept every bit as interesting as Capital Asset Pricing Model or Unsecured Credit Default Swap, stuff the average Jane or Joe never found reason to care about until the National Toilet Paper Stockpile turned up empty seemingly overnight. We had come to think of toilet paper as an almost God-given right, by which I mean it had become the ultimate free good, given gratis in public restrooms everywhere without ever a thought to where it might come from. It turned out that there was a whole industry behind its production and distribution, that fairies hadn't just left the stuff within eternally easy reach. Shortages were possible, and we had no idea how we might ration the stuff. Many had never fully appreciated that the lowly toilet roll might have been a tacit centerpoint of their professional compensation package, for the employee "lounge" had never once attempted to charge for or ration the stuff, though rumor had it that the executive floor stocked a fluffier quality than did the John off the loading dock. Anyway, us consumers were shocked when we found empty shelves dominating the old TP aisle. Shortages quickly spread to the paper towel shelves, too, and us formerly privileged many were rudely introduced to the sort of austerity that hit us square in the shorts. Ouch!

Some shifted to online shopping, prompting an armada of brand new Amazon vans with their weird smiley face logo to begin rushing family-sized containers of this freshly precious stuff to every corner of the country.
Finally a good reason to join Amazon Prime®! Some things just cannot wait, and demand free next day delivery. It's a far cry from the excitement once reserved for the arrival of The Wells Fargo Wagon when one awaits delivery of a load of ass wipe, a possible portrait of our times. Contrary to many commentators' predictions, though, civilization as we'd known it did not slow to a complete stop, though shopping became more complicated than anyone could remember it ever before being. The Muse and I came to carry two shopping lists, one which included stuff we could be fairly certain of finding on shelves and a second more permanent list which held stuff we'd have to be very fortunate to find anywhere. We'd fill our shopping cart with items from the first list, then visit the last known location of all the items on the second list, along the way, scanning shelves we usually never bothered to peruse with the mistaken notion that 'they' might have moved those items to different from usual locations just to mess with us. We caught ourselves Backlisting.

We usually left without finding in stock anything on that second list, adding a fresh item or two to that list as we exited, for the Fragile Supply Chains apparently affected more than just the output of the domestic paper industry. Curious things suffered from this fresh fragility: peanut butter, pasta, even the lowly bean. Various vegetables also failed to show, though we knew for certain they were still in season. For a time, the Krogers came to resemble that grocery we entered in the Northeastern section of The Czech Republic, where cabbages, onions, and beetroot dominated the stock. We were not particularly shocked, but we kept our Backlist close, sometimes visiting close to a half dozen different outlets trying in vain to satisfy our docket. Once pedestrian wants grew to become near desperate needs, and substitutions came to dominate. Different brand names came into our lives, each a little rebuke of our former arrogance. We'd even stooped to buying store brands of some once sacrosanct branded items, even though we knew the contents, in my mother's characterization, all came out of the same spigot.

Last weekend, after months of drought, we found an empty display box of pre-cut pop-up parchment paper on a usually empty shelf. We'd taken to using vast quantities of the stuff since the shutdown began, baking our own far superior granola and Muse-made homemade sourdough bread, each demanding separate sheets, and we'd run out forever ago. Sure, we could make do pulling from a common roll, but we'd grown accustomed to just lifting pre-cut sheets from a handy-sized box, but they'd been absent from shelves for months. Backlisting, we'd weekly stopped by that empty shelf, glumly meditating before the absent icon, then wandering away disappointed. But that empty display box suggested that their cranky supply chain might have started back up again. Yesterday, Backlisting, I stumbled upon a supply and swiped two for our larder, so relieved that I felt moved to bake a fresh batch of granola upon my return to The Villa. Discovering any item long included in our Backlisting seems like finding some truly holy grail. Karma resolves in that instant. Salvation visits, and the heavens open in blissful chorus as we exit the beleaguered establishment. Halle-freaking-lulia! Amen!

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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