I can’t believe there’s only 17 more days until Christmas.
2021 just started yesterday, or so it seems. A combination of semi-lockdowns and staying at home more and traveling less turned 2021 into the year of “semi-trance.” A year we kind of slept through. Here we are now at year’s end, and all that time between Jan 1, 2021, and Dec 31, 2021, is kind of a blur…
Carrie and I weren’t like those brave few souls who hopped on cruise ships as early re-adopters, braving maritime COVID-19 and the chance to be stuck in a ship at some remote port while quarantining. No flights overseas, sitting in metal tubes for 12 hours while wearing a sweaty mask. Nope, no long-distance travels.
Rather, for most Americans, 2021 was a year of turning inward. More local things. More small things. Small groups, time at home, time spent on fixing this and that, working hobbies, reading, and for many, binging on streaming services and too much alcohol.
Economists say Americans are sitting on record stashes of cash. Stimulus money. Raises. Those fortunate owning houses saw values skyrocket 15-25%! And refinancing at record low rates that feel like money compared to the 13% rates and up back in the late ’80s. Millions refinanced and further bloated disposable income. Those on Social Security saw the largest single increase in decades. 2021 was the year Americans got cash. That’s a nice change.
Yet most spent more time diddling around our homes and far less time blowing our increased cash on big trips, fancy meals, or expensive new cars… (as if you could even find one.) Indeed, it’s a remarkable driving through our own auto center with only used cars for sale. More cash chasing less stuff. What a strange time.
Many are waiting for the green light for “normalcy” to again return. My gut says we’ve got a way to go.
Some Americans retired early. A bunch quit their slave-wage jobs and are looking for something better. Some remain stuck at home with little kids. Whatever; America is short 10 million workers. Unemployment is 4.1% with 10 million job openings. Anyone who wants a job can have four! We’re short workers so some stuff is scarce and too much is pricier…
Supermarkets are short checkers. Restaurants are short staff, with slower service. Construction tracts convulse between go-go and no-go as supply chain mishaps with microwaves and air conditioners and wire and pipes stop jobs cold – and experienced construction workers remain scarce.
This is the Golden Age of job improvement if you’re up to learn a new skill. Hear this: There’s never been a better time to upgrade or get a new job. Remarkable!
If you really want to hit a home run, become a nurse. In short supply everywhere, nursing wages are way up, positions are wide open, and you literally get to save lives. Here’s a plug for College of the Canyons: They have perhaps the most efficient and affordable nursing program in So Cal. If you want a new career and can handle the blood – there’s your first phone call.
Yet, many feel 2021 is terrible! Inflation is a concern. Russia. (Always, Russia!) Omicron or whatever new Greek letter. Booster shots and side effect fears. Idiots shooting other Americans with perfectly legal but insane weapons of war.
But remember, every age we’ve seen has had equal or far, far worse challenges. Mostly, in 2021 Americans are suffering boredom, frustrated with spendable cash and nowhere to go and nothing left to knit, sew, fix, or buy.
Remember the Great Recession – those six terrible years from 2007 to 2012? No runaway house prices then! No inflation then! No boredom then! Nothing was worth anything, and you’ll remember every fourth house in your neighborhood up for sale or abandoned. No excess cash, then. A scary lot of us didn’t have anything – and even hope itself was scarce. No daily stock market highs, then. Instead, record lows. And not 200,000-500,000 new jobs created each month. We had 800,000 jobs lost in single months. Now THOSE were rough years…
Then, most were scarred witless for economic survival. Now, we’re scarred witless about a five-second vaccination.
Old man here again: When I was a kid at elementary school, they lined us up and shot us full of vaccines, and we were all happy bypassing all those miserable diseases. Who wanted to risk an iron lung? No one. But today we have anti-vaxxers: a plight and artifact of immensely privileged, coddled and self-centered Americans.
Some think 2021 is terrible year. That America isn’t great anymore. That we’ve come apart at the seams because the latest Star Wars Millennium Falcon Lego kit isn’t on the shelves. That gas is pricey (for the moment.) That Amazon delivered a Chinese gadget a day late…
My strong-as-an-ox Grandpa died from the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1912 at age 32, along with 55 million worldwide. Millions suffered through the Great Depression. Through World War II. Through Korea. Vietnam. Cuban Missile Crisis. Assassinations. Watts riots. Rodney King. AIDS. Two earthquakes. The Great Recession. And Donald Trump and all the incredible disruption his noises caused…
Conversely, 2021 is real slow poke. No earthquakes or stock market crashes. President Joe Biden says supply chains are regaining traction – but only Santa can guarantee you get every hoped-for gift. He’s right. You may not get that Millennium Falcon. Or those new $200 Nikes. Boo-hoo! Nikes aside, Americans are mostly just bored, watching TV and lazing their way out of shape in 2021.
If I had to pick any given year in my 65 very experienced years, 2021 would go down as a yawner but good. Especially compared to so many truly terrifying years past. Maybe we all needed a breather after 2020?
Hey, Devin Nunes just announced he’s retiring from Congress! There’s one despicable plague eradicated, and things are already looking up! 2021 ends on a high note!
Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.