Until recently, I knew very little about the supply chain.
Truth be told, I still don’t know much, other than it’s something about getting goods and services from one place to another, and there currently exists a big problem with it.
Last Sunday night, there was a segment about the global supply chain on “60 Minutes,” in which the reporter covering the story talked to representatives from shipping, trucking and storage. Here is what I took away from it: the folks in each of those areas blame the other ones for the problems.
Apparently, there are storage facilities full to the brim with items – such as what you might have ordered for someone for Christmas – that are just sitting there because there are not enough truckers to load them and transport them.
That is only a small part of the story, and is probably as far as I should go trying to explain something about which I know very little. After all, the original name for this column was “What I Know,” and I still try to stay true to that.
But if you have been to a grocery store lately and have not been able to find something as common as the herb rosemary or a bag of Fritos (my personal examples), or if you have ordered something from a manufacturer -- or Amazon for that matter -- that is “on back order,” with no hope of receiving it anytime soon, you are probably a victim of the stopped-up supply chain.
And with Christmas scarcely a month away, this could not have happened at a worse time.
I have no awareness of the popular gift items this year, but I’m old enough to remember the years of Cabbage Patch dolls and Beanie Babies. I wonder if their 2021 equivalents will be readily available for Santa by Christmas Eve.
The labor shortage adds to the problem, as indicated by my previous reference to the lack of workers to transport goods from point A to point B.
And that affects more than just merchandise.
When I went to the testing center on Wilson Pike Circle in Brentwood last week to have the emissions test performed on my pickup truck, I was surprised to see there was no line. I quickly learned the reason when I saw the sign on the door stating the center was closed due to a staffing shortage. Since then, I’ve heard the line at the center in Cool Springs is ridiculously long any time of day.
(As an aside, could I just wait until January when, as I understand it, we will no longer have to have emissions tests for cars registered in Williamson County? This is my extra vehicle that I don’t drive more than a few times per month, so I am thinking I could wait it out with expired tags until the first of the year).
And all of this, as you might have guessed, is fallout from our favorite subject for nearly two years – the pandemic.
The economy came to a standstill in March of 2020 when everything shut down and everyone went home. Then it came roaring back, and we now live with the unintended consequences.
But if necessity is indeed the mother of invention, imaginative minds can find a workaround.
In the most recent issue of Garden & Gun magazine, a writer explained how she only gives to her family members gifts that have intrinsic value and help them to “evolve as people.” This might include putting a big bow on a family heirloom or compiling a book of favorite recipes.
Although she admits her teenage children don’t always love having her as a mom at Christmas, she is confident they will one day see the light. Her own leanings were influenced by an older family member who began to pass down her possessions as gifts rather than itemizing them in her will.
Nashville resident Margaret Renkl, an opinion contributor for The New York Times and my new favorite writer who I am convinced needs to meet me, is encouraging folks to revive an old tradition – shopping locally.
“If you’re hoping to find something unexpected and delightful, you’ll need to go to the little local shops that have survived in the age of online shopping by being quirky and brave, and by knowing their customers well enough to say, ‘I think you would love this,’“ she writes in a recent column.
As an example, she refers to Parnassus Books, the Green Hills bookstore owned by Nashville author Ann Patchett and her business partner Karen Hayes.
In her piece, Renkl also describes a time when she and her husband would set aside one day in December to do Christmas shopping for their children. Again, Margaret and I are undoubtedly kindred spirits, as I wrote something here two years ago describing a similar tradition with my wife when our children were young.
We will celebrate Thanksgiving later this week. Despite the headache with the supply chain, I suspect most of us will still have an abundance, and will have made necessary adjustments for rosemary, Fritos or whatever.
And if the supply chain gets in the way of our Christmas shopping, I have no doubt we will be creative.
Remember, as a cheesy grocery store commercial puts it, it’s not just about what’s on the table. It’s who’s around it.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].