I'm about to discuss something about which I know absolutely nothing but nevertheless have opinions. That seems to be all the rage these days.
A few days ago, someone passed along a story from NPR about another national shortage. What now? Ice scrapers? Hammond organ replacement pedals? Those rubber things you put on the end of door stoppers that always turn brittle after 10 years and fall off?
What are they called, anyway: stopper hats?
That would make sense. And we can help make it happen. If we all went to the hardware store and asked where they kept the stopper hats, and the clerk was confused, and we explained what we meant, he'd probably think we knew what we were talking about.
The hardware store clerks can't know everything. Granted, it seems like they do, sometimes. You go to the store and say, "I need some stuff to put on this thing I'm doing, but it has to go in the thing, too, and then you clamp it."
"Sure," says the clerk. "Phillips or pan-head screw? I'd suggest the pan, and also this (picks up a container with a name like Fitztite or Dozwel) because you can sand it, then you'll want to prime it before you bury it."
I've had that conversation so many times, and felt so stupid every time, that I'm now determined to make stopper hats an official term. But that could go poorly, I suppose.
Clerk: "I'm not sure I know what that means, sir."
Me: "Do you speak French? Une chapeau d'arrêt."
Clerk: "Oh, right, and it's Un, not Une. Chapeau is masculine."
Me: "Yes, an attribute Marlene Dietrich worked to great advantage!"
Clerk: "OK, here's the aisle where your stuff is. Have to ask, though, if you don't mind: Are we standing here in this fictitious hardware store having an imaginary conversation because you don't know if you have enough to say about your main topic and you're just padding out the column?"
Me: "We'll see. If this makes it in the paper, you're spot on."
Anyway, what's the new shortage? According to the article passed along by someone who's been reading my shortage rants — and I should note that I'm 5 feet 4, so all these columns technically are shortage rants — the latest thing we lack is ... canning lids.
Jars you can reuse. But the lids need to have special sealant gunk that preserves the preserves. Otherwise, you get botulism. Apparently people are canning more this year, because they're at home and they gardened more. And they want to put something away in case Western Civilization collapses.
Right about now, the Canning-American Community is rolling their eyes: You don't put something away. You put it up. And then you put it down, in the cellar. That's what Grandma did, anyway; I remember rows and rows of glass jars full of stuff from the garden, standing by in briny slumber until there was an urgent need for radishes in February.
As a modern lazy male, I cannot imagine why you would spend all that time canning something when you can just go to the store and buy some. And yes, this can be said about any pastime. Why spend hours on a jigsaw puzzle when you could buy a poster? Why raise a cow in the shed when you can just pick up milk at the store? Why darn your socks when you can buy some gosh-darn new ones?
It's the experience, I understand. The tradition. The economy. Fine.
But why is it called canning? If I ask someone for a can of soda, and he gives me a glass bottle, I'd be tempted to ask for a glass of soda to see if he gives me an aluminum container. Call it glassing, just for accuracy's sake.
Anyway. You might have heard that NPR story, and perhaps you think this is so 2020. More shortages. Everything's crimped. But let's review. There is a shortage of coins — well, I got a handful of change the other day. There's a soda can shortage — well, the store shelves are once again packed with soft drinks. There's a paper bag shortage — well, the checkout lanes are stocked, as well.
I checked Amazon to see what sort of cutthroat black-market gouging plagued the lid sector of the economy, and I found an abundance of lids for sale. Endless lids. Free shipping if you order lids. In other words, sometime between the NPR story and today, the world rebalanced and the lid shortage became less acute.
Lesson: By the time you read about a shortage, it's probably over. I'd like to say there'll be a shortage of shortage stories, but it's still 2020.