Our workloads are tailored to the times we live in. None of us can balance a 21st century job and a 19th century lifestyle.
|Hard drive and bubble wrap, 6X8, oil on canvasboard, Carol L. Douglas, $435 framed or $348 unframed, shipping included.|
I first glimpsed our new economic reality a year ago, when I damaged my laptop. I picked out a new Lenovo ThinkPad, and waited. And waited. After months of temporary delays, they announced that it was never, in fact, going to be available.
That scenario has played out, with variations, over and over. Even the simplest tasks are drawn out almost beyond endurance. I was in a fender-bender on October 18; the repair is tentatively promised for Christmas week. I ordered garage doors in mid-summer. They came last week, minus their openers.
|Toilet paper and hiking boats, 6X8, oil on canvasboard, Carol L. Douglas, $435 framed or $348 unframed, shipping included.|
Last summer I looked at dishwashers and was told that I couldn’t get the model I wanted. Ever. But my local big box store is reliable. We ordered a new dishwasher and stove. On Monday, the dishwasher arrived. The delivery guys ripped out the old one, installed the new one, and decided that it was defective. They left us with a kitchen swimming in water and a storage cubby where a dishwasher is supposed to be.
That evening, our old stove self-immolated, with our best bean pot bubbling inside. Our kitchen has been reduced to a coffee bar. The irony, of course, is that we’ve been trying to remodel it for a year; we haven’t found a contractor.
|Monkey toy and candy, 6X8, oil on canvasboard, Carol L. Douglas, $435 framed or $348 unframed, shipping included.|
“Be grateful that you have towels, indoor heat, indoor running water, and a washing machine,” a friend chided. She’s echoing those who have characterized our supply chain issues as ‘high class’ or ‘first-world’ problems.
With first world problems, of course, come first-world responsibilities. Automation didn’t free us to create leisure time. It freed us to increase productivity, creating the most robust economy in world history.
|Blonde Santa, 6X8, oil on canvasboard, Carol L. Douglas, $435 framed or $348 unframed, shipping included.|
Women have always worked outside the home; they were, for the most part, servants. In 1939 there were as many domestic servants as employees of the railroads, coal mines, and automobile industry combined. It was not until World War II that the work life of women was modernized.
My own grandmother was one of these working women. During the Great Depression, she took a job that required she live in; my father was farmed out to her sisters.
|Dish of butter, 6X8, oil on canvasboard, Carol L. Douglas. Please don’t mention to my refrigerator that its mates have both died, lest it get ideas. $435 framed or $348 unframed, shipping included.|
Most servants were employed by middle class households. Before the ‘labor-saving devices’ of the 20th century, it was impossible to run a middle-class home on one person’s labors alone. Automation first eliminated the need for domestic servants, and ultimately freed all women to pursue careers.
People say we’re suffering a ‘labor shortage.’ My local Hannaford can’t hire people to stock its shelves, for example. But the population hasn’t changed significantly in the 20 months since COVID struck. Our economy is a vast and finely-tuned apparatus and we’ve somehow thrown a wrench into it.
I don’t normally shop on Black Friday, but I’ll be going out today. I want to see how we cope with shortages of everything. Will there be sales in an economy that can’t stock necessities? Will people be able to check out their purchases in stores without employees? Will my goddaughter find a tree skirt that looks good on her? It’s hard to say.