When the Supply Chain Backs Up...


Supply Shortages

Over the past two years, we have seen our economy shut down. Some of us became home-schoolers or remote workers. We have seen firsthand as our customers and suppliers have struggled to obtain materials. We also experienced challenges that my grandparents lived through and often spoke of: supply shortages. I never gave supply shortages much thought prior to COVID-19. I had only heard about war rations on things like tires and sugar. That is until I experienced it firsthand in 2020 while trying to buy three-gallon jugs of water for formula. I thought a certain retail institution was going to call security and have me removed from the store for such an outrageous attempt.

If COVID-19 has taught me anything, it's that the uncommon can become common in a very short time. The words "new normal" take on an open-ended, unclear definition - sort of like “infinity” or “a google.”

supply-bodyHitting Home

When I think of supply chain issues, I initially think of the challenges that I've had in obtaining consumer products. I think of the online forums that exploded overnight as direct-to-consumer marketing made a comeback. I think of how we divided and labeled our nation’s workforce into the classes of “essential” and “non-essential” and coincidentally how the “essential” workers became national heroes. I also think of a particularly random item that my family needed during desperate times, the toilet plunger.

This may be shocking news to you, but the demand for the plunger increased during COVID-19. Think about it. More Americans than ever before were using their own toilet. That is a surefire recipe for disaster. Not only was there a surge in Internet use during the pandemic, but also a surge in plunger use. I would rob you of a good laugh if I didn't share the following story.

Shortly after the holidays in 2021, we started having plumbing issues at our house. We never could prove the cause, but my one-year-old peering deep into the toilet saying "Car? Car? Car?" was a pretty good indicator. I went to grab the plunger but noticed that Old Trusty was missing. I asked my husband about it, and he instantly became very quiet. Reluctantly, he told me that he took it to the farm for a "project." He was kind enough to ask if I wanted it back. and I was quick to decline. That plunger had been in my life longer than he had. To say that we had history was an understatement. The curse of the farm wife begins with owning nice things, and those nice things end their life by being relocated to demise on the farm. Yes, my plunger was a nice thing, and you will understand if you ever find yourself without one. So, I set off to town to buy a new plunger. Only, there weren't any. No good ones anyway. There were these flimsy pieces of junk that were called a plunger, but nothing that remotely resembled my favorite old plunger. As it turned out, our plumbing issue required more than a plunger. We had to call in the big guns and recruit the help of a commercial snake and a pressurized air tank, neither of which would come recommended by a licensed plumber, which my husband is not. However, I wanted to be prepared for the next time I needed a plunger, so I went to my friend Amazon (don't tell Bill Keller) and ordered one. Actually I ordered a 4-pack. Why would anyone need a 4-pack? Unsure, but four made complete sense to me at a time when I couldn't even buy one.

Finding the Silver Lining

Fast forward a year. We have moved. While unpacking, I unsurfaced a box that I assumed was the decor. As it turned out, it was four brand new shiny black plungers with wooden handles. It was Christmas in January for my kids. As soon as I attached the handle, my kids confiscated the plungers and took off with them to play. That was two weeks ago. and I'm still disappointed in myself . . . I mean Santa . . . for spending so much on Christmas presents. They have played with plungers almost exclusively since. They have become pretty creative in developing games and uses for plungers. Some include plunger sword wars, pogo plunger, plunger low jump, plunger ring toss, plunger crutches, plunger golf, and my personal favorite, redneck cricket (we don't get out much). In fact, we have accepted the challenge of coming up with 99 unusual uses for the plunger and have been documenting such endeavors on social media.

My kids are six and two years old. They are farm kids who love a long list of things including mud puddles, any animal that breathes, rock/stick hunting, and most recently, plungers. Had our economy not experienced supply chain shortages, I would have robbed my children of the creativity and pure delight that a plunger can bring. Who knew? I guess you can say that this is what happens when the supply chain backs up.



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