Yes, things could definitely be worse: the filibuster is still in place. The Chief Insurrectionist remains unindicted. And the wildfires and hurricanes!
But there has been some summer relief around here. The fires and hurricanes have missed us so far. Delta has too, tho it’s still prowling the neighborhood. And we’re (almost all) out of Afghanistan.
Yet we have paid some pandemic dues. Maybe one of the biggest hits is the member of the household remaining in a COVID-induced coma, which has now lasted almost nine months.
No, it’s not me, or the Fair Wendy, and not our cat.
It’s our washer. (Washer-dryer, actually; a cool compact combo.)
The thing served faithfully for eight years, including the first three seasons of the pandemic. But then around last Christmas, it came down with a fever, which soon became general & paralytic.
The appliance guys came and did major surgery. It wasn’t as bad as it looked, they said. Recovery was sure, they said. But to beat the bug definitively, and before stitching it back together, they said they needed a part. Maybe it was in the truck.
No dice. On a shelf back at the main office?
No. It wasn’t. Don’t worry, they said, we’ll check our suppliers.
Nada. The internet? Etsy? eBay? We suggested. They gave us a look that said, “Amateurs!” Though the net too came up negatory.
They refused to give up. “The company says their factory will have it in a couple days. We’ll call as soon as it arrives.”
They left the guts of the thing, the part that looks like a small barrel full of holes, extracted, wrapped in its wires in our storage room. The rest of the remains, stayed in the laundry closet.
They called. In April. Or was it May? The message: no news.
And the poor thing remains as I write, post-January 6 (and Jan. 20), post-Bernie in mittens, post-vaccination, post-mask (and retro-mask), post -Afghanstan, post-Ida and (we hope, soon) post-Delta. It’s still comatose on the cusp of Labor Day, as I mull over the next trip to the laundromat, which, I keep repeating, is only a mile away, and just six bucks or so a load.
But how is this a COVID coma? Isn’t that merely a blogger’s conceit?
Not entirely. You see, the factory which maybe already made the key part, which I gather is not as big as a cell phone, and not really electronic — the factory is in China.
And the problem it appears, is not in making it, but in getting it from there to here. Because the path from there to here leads, as so many do today, right into, and bogs down in, the pandemic.
Remember that huge container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal back in March? The “Ever Given”? It was a viral highlight of an ongoing, less picturesque maritime traffic jam which affects tens of millions of people, products they want, and the ships trying to get them there.
How bad is it? This clip from Bloomberg, which pays attention, is revealing:
“The pandemic has thrown shipping into upheaval over the past year and a half, with China becoming a major choke point. Yantian port in Shenzhen was closed in May because of a Covid outbreak, creating congestion for the entire eastern coast, which in turn caused ripple effects across the global supply chain. Earlier this month, shipping also had to be redirected away from Ningbo, the world’s third-busiest container port, after one employee tested positive for Covid.
Typhoons and extreme weather have made matters worse. In July . . .Typhoon In-Fa, [closed] Shanghai and other nearby ports for about four days. Delays could reach an all-time high in the weeks ahead if the trend persists, said Glenn Koepke, a senior vice president at FourKites Inc., a supply-chain information provider.”
As a result, on the receiving end, the traffic jam is almost unimaginable:
The number of ships waiting to enter the biggest U.S. gateway for trade with Asia reached the highest since the pandemic began, exacerbating delays for companies trying to replenish inventories during one of the busiest times of the year for seaborne freight. Forty-four container carriers were anchored and awaiting a berth space outside the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, as of late Friday, topping the record of 40 initially set in early February, according to officials who monitor marine traffic in San Pedro Bay. The average wait rose to 7.6 days, from 6.2 in mid-August, according to L.A. port data.
Vessels are lining up because imports are pouring into the world’s largest economy just as inland transportation — like trucking and railroads — contends with its own bottlenecks of shipping containers that aren’t being moved fast enough into distribution centers and warehouses.
Adding to the traffic jam is the fact that the newer entries in these crawling lineups have more than doubled in size since 2005, and can now carry twice as many containers per vessel, further straining port facilities.
So. I’m trying to be hopeful here, even a bit upbeat: surely my washer gadget is in one of those ships; let’s visualize it in one near the front of the line. It couldn’t be stuck on a truck that’s still bottled up in Shanghai or Ningbo, someplace where post-typhoon cleanup is still underway, right?
Well, maybe. Meantime, off to the laundromat, and repeat after me:
It could be worse: at least I don’t have to do laundry while breathing through a ventilator.
UPDATE: And fortunately, I don’t need a tractor, or truck wheels:
“Unfinished Tractors, Pickup Trucks Pile Up as Components Run Short” [Wall Street Journal]
. “Manufacturers are stacking up unfinished goods on factory floors and parking incomplete vehicles in airport parking lots while waiting for missing parts, made scarce by supply-chain problems. Shortages of mechanical parts, commodity materials and electronic components containing semiconductor chips have been disrupting manufacturing across multiple industries for months. Companies determined to keep factories open are trying to work around shortages by producing what they can, at the same time rising customer demand has cleaned out store shelves, dealer showrooms and distribution centers. As a result, manufacturers are amassing big inventories of unsold or incomplete products such as truck wheels and farm tractors. Companies that are used to filling orders quickly now have bulging backlogs of orders, waiting for scarce parts or green lights from customers willing to take deliveries. Executives expect the shortages and delivery bottlenecks, exacerbated by overwhelmed transportation networks and a lack of workers, to stretch into the fall.”