Every time I go to Target, the pasta shelf is empty. Possible reasons:

1. Fuel costs. Diesel is expensive, which means trucks try to coast downhill for long periods. As soon as they outfit their rigs with mainsails, we'll see a return to plentiful pasta, providing that a stiff Nor'easter doesn't drive them back over the North Dakota border. It'll be an inspiring sight to see on the highway. The swabbies capering up the rigging, the driver bellowing out commands: Trim the jibs, good buddy! Ten four!

2. They can't find enough people to stock the shelves. There's a worker shortage, and people won't take a job packing pasta on the shelves if they can get a work-from-home job where they have Zoom meetings about why there's no pasta on the shelves.

(On a side note: Once upon a time at Target, you'd hear the PA system say that assistance was needed in Aisle 14, ending with: "Who is responding?" It always had a vaguely unsettling tone, both irritated and despondent. In another sense, it's an almost philosophical question, a plea to the great silence we sometimes feel in our moments of trial and stress, as if you know your prayers went straight to voice mail.

(I don't hear that anymore. The recorded voice doesn't ask who is responding because the answer is no one, they're down to 12 people, and four of those are helping people figure out how to code in bananas at the self-checkout. The code is 4011. Everyone should know that by now.)

3. Hoarding. We hear of impending food shortages, and, of course, inflation means the pasta will cost more next week, so we pick up an extra box or two. You know what they did with hoarders in World War II? They rounded 'em up, took them to edge of town and shot them. Of course, they used those plastic guns that shot the little sticks with rubber suction cups on the end, and they'd stick to people's foreheads. You couldn't take them off for a day so everyone knew you were a hoarder. Folks would hiss at you as you walked home: "Unicorn!"

(Kidding, but I know this is going to end up in some seventh-grader's term paper in 50 years when they google how the 2020s were going.)

I know I've picked up an extra box now and then. Nothing like slightly empty shelves to make you pitch in, leaving them entirely empty.

Here's the thing, though. They were out of all the varieties: spaghetti, rotini, radiatores, fusilli, spunilli, vagalone, brachioli and tortalawsuiti. (Yes, I'm just making them up now ).

Except for thin spaghetti. It's still there. Why? Because no one likes thin spaghetti. I will die on this hill.

"That's silly," you say. "First of all, no one's going to kill you over that, and second, why are you on a hill? Who goes to the top of a hill and dares someone to kill them over thin spaghetti?"

Figure of speech, sorry. Point is, thin spaghetti sounds like an insult. "Did you see that attempt at a field goal? Man, that was some thin spaghetti." But some people actually like angel hair, which is also thin spaghetti, because sometimes you don't want a plate of pasta with hearty sauce and delicious seasoned meatballs. You want some angel hair tossed in extra virgin olive oil, with some shrimp and dried green flakes — parsley, house paint, doesn't matter — to make it look nice. But it doesn't have the same satisfying diameter as normal spaghetti.

Nor is the name appetizing. Imagine the pre-dinner conversation:

"What kind of pasta are we having?"


"So it's really really thin?"

"No, it's the hair of angels, so it's thicker. More luxurious than human hair, I'd think. I don't know how they'd get a comb through that stuff. Well, an ordinary comb. They probably have special combs. Or they don't need to comb it; it just waves around dramatically. Point is, it's thinner than the usual spaghetti."

"So normal spaghetti is Demon Hair?"

"I don't think there's a law of opposite nomenclature when it comes to these things."

"Hold on," you say. "What you think is Hair of Angels is really vermicelli, the pasta appetizingly named after 'little worms.'" Perhaps. I still think it would be unsold. My point is that spaghetti as we know it, or SAWKI, is the baseline for our preferences, and the shelves prove it.

I also noted that the peanut butter was completely gone, and a sign said there was a problem in the manufacturing chain, so "supplies would be constrained." Constrained. That makes it sound like they have pallets of stuff in the backroom, but it's tied up because it's been lunging and snapping at people.

All I know is that I'd like for it to go back to normal, when I can go to the store and see 14 varieties of pasta I have no intention of buying, and pick up my usual box of SAWKI. Someday, perhaps. When the trade winds are strong, and the semis are making good time again.