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Tom Clyde: Nothing works anymore

There was a time, not all that long ago, when things made sense and stuff worked. Stores had inventory. Toilet paper was readily available in a ridiculous assortment of brands and packaging. Four rolls to 24 rolls in multiple brands, the zenith of American prowess. The president of Kimberly-Clark paper company is paid nearly $4.5 million, and he can’t seem to figure out how to repackage the industrial line of TP for consumer sales in the grocery store. I’d be happy to not solve that problem for less than half of that.

I tried to get a flu shot. The doctor recommended the plutonium-based dosage for older people, but he couldn’t give it to me. My insurance would only cover flu shots given in a pharmacy, even if it costs more. So I went to the pharmacy, and they are sold out of the high-octane version, and don’t know if or when they will get more. I told him I would settle for the standard version. They had that, but they had just installed a new computer system at the pharmacy. It can’t connect to Medicare. While connecting to the biggest health insurance system in the country seems like a fairly basic requirement for pharmacy software, they were waiting for tech support. So no flu shot.

Driving home, a very large truck was coming at me from the other direction. It was a strange set up, and when it passed, I realized it was a tow truck dragging a fire engine. There’s a new forest fire burning up the canyon a few miles from my house. It’s right against the road, and with easy access, they have pumper trucks set up with hose lines running up the mountainside, and water tenders bringing water to the pumper. They also had a helicopter dipping water out of the river, which is a pretty neat trick since the river is, for all practical purposes, dry as a bone. I’ve got dripping faucets that produce more water. It’s not a comforting sight to see the fire truck on the hook of the tow truck. It didn’t appear to be fire damage. At least the fire seems to be under control, and aside from everything reeking of burnt toast, there doesn’t appear to be any danger.

After months of thinking we had the plague under control, it’s looking like we don’t. So barely opened schools are closing again. The White House is a hive of infection. El Presidente’s steroid-induced tweets caused multi-billion-dollar swings in the stock market over the stimulus legislation. Movie theaters started re-opening and are now re-closing. Even if they are open, the studios aren’t willing to show their big blockbuster movies in nearly empty theaters, so there aren’t a lot of movies to see anyway.

What I hadn’t anticipated as the new normal is a country where stuff just quits working.”

Home Depot was stuffing the place full of Christmas trees the other day. It’s difficult to buy nuts and bolts in the sizes I wanted, but there’s no shortage of plastic Christmas trees in October. So those factories in China are grinding out some stuff, just not half-inch lag screws. Or bicycles, bike parts or bike accessories.

I was beginning to get used to the idea that the “new normal” would mean wearing a mask at the grocery store, not eating out once it’s too cold to sit outside, and a few adjustments like that. The work-from-home thing seems like a trend that was coming anyway, and it mostly works. Loading fewer skiers on the lifts and weird lift lines — all things we can adjust to. What I hadn’t anticipated as the new normal is a country where stuff just quits working. We’re becoming Argentina. Stores are open without inventory; doctors’ offices encourage us to get flu shots that they can’t administer. It looked like they had school figured out, but that isn’t working, either. The whole child care world has fallen apart, so unless schools are functioning, parents can’t go back to work. So the new normal is mostly floundering.

Which brings us to the Hideout annexation. The developer was in front of the Hideout Planning Commission (which is kind of an ironic concept). He explained that the proposed development is going to spare thousands of people in Salt Lake from commuting in bumper-to-bumper traffic from South Jordan on traffic-choked I-15. Instead, they can commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic from Hideout, on what will become an equally traffic-choked I-80. Because if there’s anything we need, it’s more traffic in Parleys Canyon on a snowy morning.

The developer on the Mayflower project talks about it like it is an essential development that will save Wasatch County from the economic abyss. There are counties in Utah that could really benefit from a development of that size, and need the employment it will generate. But Wasatch County is not exactly economically depressed. It’s among the fastest-growing counties in the country. Wasatch needs economic stimulus like the California wildfires need napalm.

Yet, somehow, in the weirdness of 2020, it almost makes sense.

Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.


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