The Catastrophic Boba Shortage of 2021

No, not that Boba.

I read the headline, then I read it again. Yep, it really does say that, I thought. It’s not just that it’s 3:00 am and I’m sitting on the toilet in the dark. I’m mostly awake and it’s right there: “Boba Shortage to Last Throughout Summer.”

There was nothing I could do in that moment but take slow, deep breaths and try to process the horrific news.

Wait a minute. What am I saying? I don’t even drink boba. In fact, it kind of grosses me out. All those little gelatinous orbs floating around in a drink make me think of eyeballs and I don’t even want to contemplate what it would be like to bite down on ā€“ ugh. “Excuse me, Waiter, there’s an eye in my soup.”

I’m not usually squeamish about these things; no, wait. Yes, I am. I’m very squeamish. I still do a side eye at baked goods with raisins in them. Don’t even get me started on foods inappropriately described as “gooey.” Can we just say “melty?” Similarly, boba really makes my tummy rumble, and not like I’m hungry.

This news headline, with its dire prediction of the coming Bobacolypse, gave me an odd sense of relief. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely weep for the rest of the population that loves their boba tea. If I saw one of those behemoth pickups driving down the freeway filled with boba and toilet paper, I would call 911 and pursue them until the fiend was captured. So no, I wasn’t relieved about the drastic boba shortage itself, but at the headline.

I was relieved because the fact that these are the stories making the news ticker means a short break from stories about mass shootings, police violence against black people, COVID-19, and ultra-conservative political groups. Maybe it’s only a tiny break, but it helps. The more headlines I see like “Do Squirrels Damage Power Lines More Than Weather?,” the easier it is to scroll past the doom.

You might be thinking (because I just did) why don’t you just stop reading the news? And you would be smart to think that. I do take occasional breaks from reading news, but the truth is that I am addicted to knowing what’s going on in the world. In some ways, even gloomy news can be comforting to me ā€“ and sometimes the more ridiculously doom-ridden, the better. I realize it’s weird, but hear me out. Take a headline like “Solar Wind Traveling 1,118,468 mph Due to Hit Earth Sunday.” That sounds dangerous, as if by Monday the entire Western hemisphere will be a gooey mess. I mean, melty mess. It also sounds very science fiction-ey, like it’s just ridiculous enough to be the premise of a Netflix series. Since I can’t do anything about it and I clearly can’t take it seriously, it doesn’t affect me emotionally. I can handle it. So I keep reading the news and mentally separate the hard stuff from the laughable stuff.

Here’s another headline to consider: “North Korea warns of ‘crisis beyond control’ in heated statements aimed at US and South Korea.” Okay, let’s quickly brainstorm here. What are we going to do about this? How can we make Kim Jong Un feel less attacked? We could get on a plane to North Korea, sit down with him and help him understand about the old saying “sticks and stones.” If I thought we would come back alive, much less even get there, it might be something to consider. It would be something to do, rather than just sit here and worry about it. So, I won’t worry about it.

But back to boba. We are clearly in a crisis here. And even though there’s probably nothing I can do about it, and it doesn’t affect me due to my revulsion at the very thought of consuming it, in the back of my mind I wonder. Maybe I can do something? Just because I’m not a boba drinker doesn’t mean I can’t help those who love their bubble tea. Maybe I can start cultivating cassava in my yard. And maybe I can gather my neighbors to do the same. Together, we could turn this planetary tapioca ball shortage around.

Still, maybe this will all just be okay. I’ll be okay. We’ll be okay. We will learn to live in a world without boba. I think it’s best summed up in the words of Denise Giraldo-Gordon of Brooklyn, NY:

“I didn’t miss it at all. I just needed to prepare mentally.”

We all do, Denise. We all do.

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