These days, we have probably seen more “shortages” of the staples needed for daily life than ever before. Things like food, water, toilet paper, sugar, gasoline, and so many other things that most people use every day, are suddenly missing from our shelves or stations. Today’s “shortages” are mostly caused by forced blocking of shipping channels, and other political maneuvering…at least these days. There are as many reasons for most shortages as there are shortages, in reality, but some shortages have been stranger over the years than others. Sometimes, it’s even for our own good or if it is “perceived” to be for our own good.
Things have been pulled off the shelves because of recalls, like vegetables that may have Salmonella, and even if the source was confined to one small area of one plant, as was the case with baby formula. The government shut down all the plants, causing a serous baby formula shortage. No one wants to buy unsafe formula, but that was really never the case, and they knew it. Excedrin was pulled off the shelves because it “might” have an ingredient that was unsafe, and then weeks later, it was back, in exactly the same formulation.
The closing of a business is one of the biggest reasons for items to suddenly be missing from the shelves. Twinkies is a prime example. When Hostess Brands Inc, the maker of Twinkies and other cherished American treats, announced bankruptcy and closure in 2012, consumers made a mad rush to their local supermarkets to get their hands on the cream-filled pastries before they were gone for good. It is that act that prompted the myth that Twinkies have an unlimited shelf life. The snacks were back on the shelves by summer, when Hostess and all of its brand holdings, including Twinkies, were purchased out of bankruptcy by the private equity firms Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos and Company in 2013.
One of the funniest shortages, though not funny at the time or in the repeat of it in recent times, was the 1973 toilet paper shortage. It happened as the result of a joke by Johnny Carson. He said, “You know, we’ve got all sorts of shortages these days. But have you heard the latest? I’m not kidding. I saw it in the papers. There’s an acute shortage of toilet paper.” The remarks that were meant as a joke, caused people to rush to the stores and buyout all the toilet paper. To make matters worse, some stores began rationing. Finally, Carson took to the airwaves to apologize, saying, “I don’t want to be remembered as the man who created a false toilet paper scare. I just picked up the item from the paper and enlarged it somewhat…there is no shortage.”
There are so many ways a shortage can get started. Some are real events, while others are manufactured. While some are not exactly detrimental, as was the case with Twinkies, some can cause serious harm and even death…even many deaths. Some shortages cannot be helped, but those that can, in all prudence, should be avoided at all costs.
April Fools’ Day has been around for a long time. In 1700 English pranksters popularized the tradition of playing practical jokes on each other. Some people say that it actually started in 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as mandated by the Council of Trent in 1563. At that point, people who didn’t get on board with the change, and continued to celebrate the new year during the last week of March through April 1, were laughed at and made fun of, as being gullible.
When I was a kid, my sisters and I took great pleasure trying to fool each other. We tried everything from saying they had a spider in their hair to switching the salt and sugar in the containers. Most of the time they were not fooled, but every once in a while, we were rewarded with a completely shocked sister, or even one who screamed. Historians mentioned things like dressing up in disguises or even that the weather got involved in the whole thing, by the unpredictability of the changing season. I think most of us have been fooled by that one, because we dress warmly in the morning and find ourselves too hot later on, or vise versa. Of course, the weather never sticks to just one day.
During the 18th century, April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain. In Scotland the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands. Gowk is a word for cukoo bird, which is the symbol of a fool. The second day was Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them. I’m beginning to think my sisters and I weren’t very inventive.
These days people have really ramped up the process by using newspapers, radio, TV stations, and web sites to report outrageous fictional claims to fool their audiences. According to History.com, “In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour. In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.”
People are gullible, and some people have a mind that can easily come up with outrageous things. If you are the former type of person, today is going to be a day filled with pranks, because gullible people are well known to those who play on that gullibility. And if you are that prankster, today is your day. Happy April Fools’ Day!! Let the pranking begin, and the gullible people beware!!
When I was a kid in grade school, our class in 3rd or 4th grade decided to have a tasting party. The idea was to bring a home-cooked recipe from the family home to share with the class. When my mom suggested that I bring her cornbread, I knew that was what I wanted to bring. When my teacher found out that I was bringing cornbread, she was a little bit apprehensive. She just didn’t think the other students would like it, and she thought I would be disappointed. Nevertheless, cornbread was what I was bringing, whether she liked it or not.
All the students were excited for the day of the tasting party to arrive. We were all planning what we would bring and trying to figure out what the others were bringing. Some people told, but most of us kept it a secret. Finally the big day arrived and all the food was brought in and placed on a table. At the appointed time, the party began. Our teacher said that we had to try a little bit of everything and then could go back for seconds of the things we liked. I have to wonder if she was worried that no one would try some of the things, if she set no requirement. Kids are picky eaters.
The party went well. She cut my cornbread into small pieces…I’m sure she was thinking it would be rejected if the pieces were bigger. She needn’t have bothered. After their first helping, every student asked for more cornbread until there was none left. She was stunned, and asked me what my mother’s secret was. Well, it was simple. If you have ever eaten cornbread, you know that it is often dry and tasteless. My mom was always one to add a little sweet to things…even before all the manufacturers started doing it to things that normally wouldn’t have sugar in them. So Mom’s secret was a little sugar. Her cornbread wasn’t super sweet, like cake, but it had a hint of sweetness, and that brought out the corn flavor too. Then, when you add butter to it…oh my gosh!! It had a melt in your mouth flavor that was unsurpassed. I think my teacher learned a lesson that day too. Never assume that something won’t taste good, until you have tried it. You may be very surprised.
I have never forgotten that special day, when my food for the tasting party became the hit of the day. Everyone kept telling me how good that cornbread was. I have to agree with them. Nobody makes cornbread like my mom. To this day, when cornbread is served, I always have some, but I am always disappointed at the taste. It never…ever stands up to the standard my mom set for it so many years ago. I suppose that is why I never have seconds either. My teacher knew that cornbread wasn’t her favorite thing…probably for the same reason most people don’t eat a lot of it, but then she had more than one helping of mine too, that day. It’s really hard to resist that melt in your mouth flavor, and it has spoiled me concerning cornbread that doesn’t have it. I’m just not very interested.
We had a chance to spend some time on the mountain at my boss, Jim’s cabin this last weekend. It was just so peaceful to sit and watch the hummingbirds. I look back on the time we spent there, and it occurs to me that there wasn’t a lot of talking, just bird, and squirrel, watching. I suppose that could have looked, to someone outside the situation, like we were ignoring our hosts, but everyone’s eyes were transfixed on the flurry of activity at the hummingbird feeders.
The birds vied for the best feeding spot, hungrily feasting on the sugar water dinner they were so generously provided. Jim and Julie were telling us of the massive amounts of sugar they go through just to keep their little charges satisfied. Now I call them charges, but if you ask me it sounds like they are the ones in charge, and Jim and Julie are at their beck and call. And the squirrels are so smart. They didn’t take the peanuts that had fed down through the feeder, they lifted the lid to make their own choice
It was so relaxing. The birds kept us entertained with their antics. They didn’t mind having us quite close to them, in fact the only thing that seemed to make them fly off very much was when another bird flew in to feed. As far as we were concerned, the must have thought we were similar to a tree, because while they didn’t try to land on us, they buzzed right by us so closely sometimes that it made us duck. Several times I wasn’t sure how they missed me. It was great fun.
There were so many of them, that you never ran out of tiny birds to watch. The area was alive with them. Hummingbirds are so unique. I don’t know of another bird quite like them. I could be wrong, of course. I’m not an expert, but I have never heard of any similar. Maybe that is why they hold us spellbound like they do. I find myself able to sit for a long time just watching them, and in my busy life, that is such a rarity that I am…well, grateful. My life is so busy that sometimes I don’t take enough time for myself…to slow down and regroup. There is just something about watching the hummingbirds vie for position that is interesting and yet relaxing at the same time. It was a day that I so enjoyed and I am so thankful for and definitely a day I look forward to experiencing again. Thanks Jim and Julie