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Notable Eggo Shortages

August 30, 2019

 

Notable Eggo Shortages

 

     —Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggo

 

 

1898

 

The hurricane that tore Galveston

Off the map is better known,

But a storm two years prior

Made mincemeat of Puerto Rico,

Swamped with twenty-eight

Days of rain. Small egg production

From family farms and smuggling

Routes—rum roads that ante-dated

The charge up San Juan Hill—were decimated.

Factory owners scrambled to make

New egg networks viable to meet

Consumer demand, rising vigorously

Since the introduction of L’eggo

To the nation’s vocabulary.  By then

The government had commandeered

Much of the poultry industry

To feed its forces readying for war.

Only a diversion of troops en route

To Cuba prevented food riots

In several east coast cities.

 

 

 

 

1936

 

The factory workers had had enough. Their pay was pennies. Hours on their feet with few scheduled breaks—barely time enough to pee when they got any relief. They sweated severely in their germ-free suits. It was scorching hot on the baking floors. In the cooling rooms their waffle gloves were paper thin—no insulation—several men were hospitalized with frostbite. Discipline was strict. No talking, even during lunch. Spies were everywhere. The three men who conceived of the strike met surprisingly in the open, in the diner across the street. Their code: the number of  chews  before  they  swallowed  their  donuts.  Despite

the goons, there were networks, ways of getting the word out, the date set.

 

When the shift changed, no one moved. The managers worked in offices next door. The gates were shut, overseers shoved out open windows. The plant was theirs. When the police charged the workers pelted them with frozen discs that hit their targets with surprising accuracy. Cops were stunned, but no one was hurt. During the stalemate that followed, the workers maintained discipline among themselves—even formed their own government that became a model for aspiring countries years later. The most important rule: no one abuses the product. While they hated management, they loved the waffles. Once during the weekly talent show, some palooka danced a hula wearing nothing but waffles strung together as a bikini. He was seized, tried, and summarily convicted by the workers’ court and expelled from the factory, tossed down the shoot where the burnt waffles go. The workers cheered then. They cheered even louder when the strike ended forty-three days later.

 

The country cheered too, sick of their diet of Meusli.

 

 

 

 

1983

 

The source of the illness was a mystery:

The waffle, the syrup, possibly overripe

Fruit? Maybe it was simply the flu.

But one patient became a dozen,

A dozen became scores. The symptoms

All the same: stomach distress, fever.

Some were wracked with convulsions.

When a child died people panicked.

The recall encompassed over thirty states.

Factories were shut down, cleaned and inspected,

Then re-cleaned & re-inspected.

Then the extortion notes came.

They demanded ransom and public statements

Admitting to crimes both preposterous

& utterly humiliating. The sample poisons

The criminals sent to prove they were

The agents of the illness, the agents

Of the apocalypse they hoped to rain

Down on the country, proved their intent.

Just as mysteriously, the illnesses stopped.

No one can say for certain if the ransom

Was paid or statements were said,

Since no one ever said.

 

 

 

 

 

2021

 

After years in a state of anxiety,

with trade wars resulting in ground wars

& domestic rivalries churning into violence,

the nation’s sense of trust was shredded wheat.

Anything would be accepted as a sign of hope.

That an Eggo was the medium is no surprise,

their slogan—a cry of independence—

had unofficially replaced ne me treader pas!

as the nation’s motto. So the savior's face first

appeared on a buttermilk waffle

on a day worker’s breakfast table,

a story easy enough to dismiss

had not a retiree found a similar image

singed into his buckwheat waffle

by a second-hand panini press—something that

never happened to his white or wheat toast.

When church officials confirmed the events,

the run on Eggos overwhelmed the company.

What first seemed a miracle—a spike in sales in the

middle of a recession—became a curse:

demand outstripped production; small riots

erupted at Wegman's stores on both coasts.

Sensing a crisis to exploit, venture capitalists moved in.

Production ramped up as waffle plants ran

three shifts, but the promised infrastructure

never panned out, only debt. The first thing

the new Board sold off was the lucrative egg

distribution system, developed in the wake

of the crisis of 1898. The next thing to go:

stakes in wheat production to foreign investors

planning the next drought. Bit by bit

the truck fleets, the cardboard plants,

even spare tires were sold to the highest

& often the lowest bidder. Aging factories

were sold for scrap. The unions, which years before

traded power for stock options, were useless.

No number of free blessed prayer towels

could save the company. By then, the savior’s face

was appearing everywhere—in pizzas, energy bars,

sun burns, the peeled back lids of cat food cans—

anywhere the citizens' fevered imaginations

could put it. The only thing left to sell

was the company's name, which a collective

of artisanal bakers, backed with cannabis money,

snagged at a fire sale price.

That we still have Eggos at all

might be the miracle of this story.

 

 

 

 

Roger W. Hecht teaches literature and creative writing at SUNY, Oneonta. His first poetry collection, Talking Pictures, was published by Cervena Barva Press. His work has recently appeared in Bracken, Gone Lawn, A-Minor, Diaphanous, and Sheila-Na-Gig. He lives in Ithaca, NY.

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