Is the global economic crisis leading to a severe shortage of snickerdoodles? My latest column in the Star…

One subject I wish that I had studied more closely in school is economics. What seemed like such an abstract field in my youth now appears to provide the secret decoder ring essential to deciphering the world.

My formal training in economics mirrored Father Guido Sarducci’s “Five Minute University” — which reduced college subjects to whatever graduates were likely to remember five years after graduating. All I recall of the entire economics curriculum is: “supply and demand.” Later, I learned from Russell Crowe — playing a dishy but deranged mathematician in “A Beautiful Mind” — that world-changing economic theory could be based upon the number of women a guy could pick up in a bar.

But for a crash-course in supply and demand, I encourage you to visit the coffee counter at Dean & DeLuca, where I am currently waging a one-woman campaign to educate the staff on the serious economic implications of their inability to provide as many snickerdoodle cookies as the public, specifically I, might wish to consume.

I often swing by D&D as I traverse the valley in my epic, eternal search for the elusive snickerdoodle, like some philosophical but low-blood-sugared combination of Kung Fu and Cookie Monster. I stride through the tourist-filled shop with the smug confidence of a Napa Valley local and former NYC D&D devotee who has seen everything — specifically their complete cookie collection — before. Making a beeline for the coffee counter, I scan the baked goods selection in guarded anticipation, spotting large peanut butter and oatmeal raisin cookies piled high.

“Do you have any snickerdoodles today?” I inquire, seeing none on display. “No,” they reply, “they are all gone.” Noting my disappointment, they add, forcefully: “You have to get here earlier,” clarifying — should there be any doubt — that my failure to obtain a snickerdoodle was due entirely to my own lack of character. What they don’t understand, aside from the time-demands posed by my multiple careers, is that I begin each day with a firm resolve to avoid snacking and sweets. It is only by late afternoon — when the pressure of construction-related traffic delays, dropped cell phone conversations and landline robocalls have driven me to the emotional breaking point — that I reach for a restorative cookie.

“Why don’t you bake more?” I once asked, realizing the folly of the question as soon as it left my lips. These cookies are likely not baked on the premises, and certainly not in quantities specified by local managers. They are probably imported from some distant NAFTA or Eurozone-partner and distributed by computer according to a demographic formula calculated by postal code. A global economic trade imbalance caused by Ben Bernanke and Ayn Rand has led to embargoes of Brazilian sugar, Sri Lankan cinnamon and Asian flour — creating a severe worldwide shortage of snickerdoodles.

“Why don’t you bake them yourself?” I hear you asking, hopefully realizing the folly of your question as soon as it left your lips. Yes, why don’t I have my chef do it, or my maid, or my movie star boyfriend, for that matter? The better question is: In an America where the customer is always right, where supply is supposed to be carefully calibrated to satisfy demand, and where elite gourmet food chains exist for the sole purpose of catering to a consumer’s urgent, illogical desire for a $4 tomato, a $40 slice of cheese or a $400 pound of cat-anus coffee — in that great country — why can’t Dean & DeLuca keep snickerdoodles in stock?

One doesn’t need a degree in economics to understand the implications of my writing this column. Having planted the seed in your beautiful but impressionable minds — for why would you still be reading a newspaper if you were not, to some degree, impressionable — you will now crave snickerdoodles, dream about snickerdoodles, and stop the owner of Dean & DeLuca in the street to demand snickerdoodles.

He will write a memo, which will be forwarded to corporate headquarters, where the VP of Baked Goods will elicit the assistance of the U.S. Department of Commerce to ease restrictions on sugars and spices (including cream of tartar — a dash of which distinguishes the true snickerdoodle). Guidelines will be promulgated to individual stores mandating that snickerdoodles be stocked at all times; failure to do so will lead to reprimands, loss of promotions and bonuses paid entirely in the form of those peanut butter and oatmeal raisin cookies that have been sitting around, untouched, all day. Snickerdoodles will become as ubiquitous at Dean & DeLuca as snazzy square napkins and crisp white handle bags.

But when that day comes, will I still want that snickerdoodle? Will you? Only an economist knows for sure.


Among the skills in my portfolio of which I have always been most proud — right up there with my expertise in hooking up stereo equipment, an extensive knowledge of show-tune lyrics and the ability to bring dead houseplants back to life — is my aptitude as a parallel parker.

My parking prowess was not born in me but was achieved through years of diligent study and practice, particularly during the San Francisco garage-less years. I spent a significant portion of my late 20s circling my Pacific Heights apartment in hopes of shoehorning my beat-up Honda Civic between two gleaming Bimmers. Even under the pressure of heavy traffic, I could reverse right into the tightest of spots — and in those days, cars were low and long and it was hard to see the front end of a black 280Z or RX7 in the dark.

Today drivers sit up high in SUVs, so there’s no excuse for bumping the car behind you (unless it’s a Mini-Cooper, in which case they’re asking for it). But these SUVs also have big tires, and there’s the rub. For you see, I, too, have an SUV, with bald tires that were recently replaced with some all-seasons type with thick, chunky treads that have totally changed the vehicle’s handling. As a result, I can no longer park with my customary aplomb.

You’d think that I could adapt to these new tires in no time. But after a few bumps and scrapes, and more than a few embarrassing public incidents driving my rear tire up onto the curb, I have to admit that I’ve totally lost my parking mojo. Unfortunately, daily affirmations, personal parking pep talks and reflection upon past parking triumphs won’t restore my confidence — the minute you think about it, you’ve already failed. Gliding into a tight parking place needs to come as naturally as breathing or laughing or slithering into a beloved pair of skinny-jeans.

It’s amazing how just one little failure can undermine levels of self-confidence that took years to build. In an instant, one loses the ability to accomplish tasks previously performed effortlessly — like cracking an egg, flipping a pancake or throwing a basketball through a hoop (OK, that last one I wouldn’t really know; I’ve tried to perform it only once, in or around 1987, when the ball swooshed through the hoop, and having nowhere to go but down, I quietly retired from sports). My male friends tell emotional tales of certain “this never happens to them” incidents of poor performance, prompting endless soul-searching, trips to the doctor for little blue pills and desperate late-night online purchases of medical devices which are undoubtedly fully covered by Obamacare.

Perhaps due to some related disturbance in the parking continuum, my parking Karma seems to be on the fritz as well. I’ve always abided by the “everyone will assume the good parking spots are already taken” rule, frequently snagging a spot right in front. Now I am reduced to squeezing into a space labeled “compact” and crawling out the passenger door. Clearly these big ol’ tires have sent me careening dangerously off-balance, like a girl who spent her life in spiky Jimmy Choos suddenly having to navigate the world in a pair of Dr. Martens. I probably suffer from a post-traumatic parking-related stress disorder that can only be cured by one of those luxury cars that parks for you; I wonder if this is covered by Obamacare?

Oh why did I ever replace my tires? And what made me decide to buy this off-road vehicle anyway? The full extent of my off-roading consists of traversing the unpaved overflow parking lot at Nordstrom during the holiday shopping season. Where was I planning to use the dashboard compass, why did I purchase an under-carriage brush protection package, and precisely what was I planning to tie to this roof rack — some moose I bagged during a hunting trip to the Adirondacks?

Maybe I’m just not good at shopping for cars. Come to think of it, perhaps I was never a skilled parker at all. Maybe I was just lucky, and one day I finally ran through my allotment of favorable parking opportunities. It’s even possible that I am parking-challenged, and that my faith in my own ability to park was just raw hubris — like that of those tone-deaf contestants on “American Idol” who think they can sing, or uncharismatic political candidates who think they can be President.

I’m afraid we’ll never know, because a talent for brutally honest, accurate self-assessment has never been one of the core skills in my wheelhouse.