Hurry Up and Wait

Cicada bug eyes

Office pranks, cicadas, and supply issues: what do they have in common?

It was indeed an enlightening time being an apprentice with the British national phone system back in the early ‘70’s. In those days the phone company was a branch of the General Post Office (GPO), but soon to become British Telecom (BT).

Apprenticeships were common back then, and at the GPO, Technicians in Training (yes, seriously) like yours truly were shuffled around the many departments to get a feel of who does what. One memorable day this gawky TiT, in poorly fitting baggy overalls, seconded to the heavy-duty pole-erecting gang, was sent off to the stores. Together with other items, I was instructed to pick up a weight as one of our requirements for the forthcoming day’s work. But not just any weight the foreman emphasized, it had to be a long weight.

And that is what I got, a long wait, only realizing the joke when the sniggering reached a level that triggered my suspicions.

Another long wait back then was at Easter each year preparing to launch for the yacht club’s first dinghy races of the year. Inevitably us young guns would be in for a boisterous baptism (it always blew like stink at Easter) in our precious little craft that had been lovingly refurbished and re-worked over the Winter. No one ever wanted to be first to launch off the slipway, so there we stood nervously, with sails flagging wildly and the cold, grey English Channel churning away in the background. “You go first.” “No, after you.” “I will if you will.” Etc.

cicada full bodyI suspect there will be similar discussions among the Brood Xers as they prepare to leave their underground burrows by the billions any day now. Brood X is the official name for the periodical cicadas that emerge from the ground in the Mid Atlantic region every 17 years, having survived all that time underground by sucking moisture from tree roots. They’re quite cute, 2” long, bug-eyed little things when they arrive in ones and twos, but they lose their cuteness when they appear in concentrations of 1.5 million or more per acre, as they do in some areas. There are 13-year cicadas too, mainly found in southern states, plus the “Dog Day” variety that appear every year, and they all have one thing in common – they are very LOUD!

Actually, deafening would be a better description. Cicada “songs” can reach 120 decibels, and the best description I found was that it is like an amplified tiny maraca shaken at high speed which then fades into a noise resembling an electric buzz. It’s only the males that make such a racket (go figure), and they sensibly go deaf themselves while causing such a racket, thereby preventing damage to their hearing. Selective male deafness … sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Their call is said to be among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds and is loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans should the cicada be at "close range".

And that’s from just one cute little cicada! When the cicada boys get together en masse and try to out-call each other it is a truly deafening cacophony. But let’s face it, if you or I had just emerged from being stuck underground for 17 years, we’d surely want to shout about it from the tree-tops, wouldn’t we? And one hates to imagine the state of their underground lair after 17 years of occupation. Leave a 17-year-old in his/her room for just a day and it will resemble a disaster area.

These stories have a parallel to our current inventory situation, where events beyond our control are now the new rules (grab a long weight!) and restocking orders are coming, just not very quickly (but sooner than 1-17 years!).

We’re asking our customers to have the patience of a Brood Xer right now. Coastal Climate Control has never had such a low level of inventory, and we are completely out of many items, with re-supply times being much longer than anticipated or desired. Due to the hangover from the Covid crunch, the suppliers that make the parts we sell haven’t been able to get the bits they need to make them, and the people that make the bits couldn’t get the stuff that the bits are made of.

Things are starting to ease up now, but the transportation network is so choked up that simply getting stuff from A to B is becoming a frustrating, time consuming, and expensive exercise. Coastal and its suppliers are doing all they can to get things back on track, but it’s like being in a back-up on a highway; the debris may get cleared away quickly, but it then takes a while for the traffic to clear and for things to get rolling again.

We at Coastal really appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding as we crawl slowly on, and as we edge ever closer to getting back up to speed again.

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