NOTE: This is part two of the story. Part One is here:
I keep looking at my poor old car and wondering what to do about it. I'm still making car payments and insurance payments on a lump of dead metal. Not one person has called about it. No surprise there, I guess. I keep watching the TV news, and it just keeps getting worse. Domestic manufacturing--what there was of it--is slowly shutting down for lack of fuel. The people being laid off are losing their cars and homes since they can't keep making the payments. There's rumor of work out in the country, but who wants to be farm labor? What's cotton picking pay, anyway?
Scary stuff today: Lay offs at work. I dodged the bullet, but some of my friends are history. What will they do? Move out of town and work on a farm? HA! They wouldn't know which end of a horse to milk. No offers on the car, but someone did try to buy my bike today as I rode in to work. I think they really wanted me to stop so they could steal it. Very disturbing. I'm keeping the pepper spray close at hand from now on.
A good day off! A friend came over last night and fixed the broken fuel line in the car. (A free dinner works wonders.) I scrounged a gallon of gas from a neighbor's lawn mower can this morning (and made them take money for it). Drove the car out to the dealer and sold it back to them. Got enough to cover the outstanding car loan and a cab ride home, plus a little extra. (My New Bicycle Fund?) I was lucky. I'm starting to see abandoned cars all over town. The city can't tow them all--where would they put them? I am now officially Car Free--for the first time since my 16th birthday. It feels odd, but I think it feels good. So far.
With all it took to sell the car yesterday, I'm doing my grocery shopping today. And I see now where the new employment opportunities lie: Armed security. They actually had them in the grocery store! (Apparently there had been some unpleasantness.) They still had food, but I have to tell you: there were some blank spots on those shelves. The produce was mighty skimpy, as was the meat selection, and there was almost no milk. What am I going to put on my cereal in the morning? May have to switch to toast. Oh, the sacrifices we make. The good news: Between the bicycling, walking, and this new (forced) diet, I am now officially in shape! Still, armed guards in the grocery store?
It's been over a month now since it all hit the fan, I'm starting to see some benefits to all of my hard work and sacrifice: Fewer people are managing to make it in to work at their regular times--or at all. I'm one of the lucky ones, which means I get to stay. Even my boss has been asking about my bicycling. Instant Expert, that's me! (And to think I almost sold the thing to make room. Whew. Lucky me.) I am seeing more bikes out on the road these days--and in the office, too. I'm such a trendy trend setter!
I no longer wonder where those stupid oil tankers are. They can sink for all I care (and take the Saudis down with them). I'm not going to see any of that oil, nor do I need it. The price of gas keeps going up--on beyond Zebra, so to speak. Who can afford to fill up their gas tank? The lines are still long at the gas station, and more people are going armed. (!!!) I've got my pepper spray, but I have yet to really use it. Got a call from my parents in Florida last night. They're laughing about the whole thing. Apparently they just drive their electric golf cart everywhere they need to go. Now why didn't I think of that? Oh, yeah: I don't have an electric golf cart. Very funny, Mom.
The car dealers are just barely hanging on--selling only the smallest cars they have and giving just about zip for any larger trade-in. The real money makers right now are real estate agents--putting people in houses closer to work! (Whooda thunk it?) It's like a giant shell game all over town, with everyone trying to move closer to work. I'm ok where I am--I've got my daily pedal down to about thirty minutes. Not bad, for a newbie. Now if I could just figure out the best way to ride out to a movie theater.
The President was on TV last night--FINALLY--to tell everyone what we already knew: That this oil crisis isn't going away. (The oil will, the crisis won't.) He was about as reassuring as he could be, but didn't really offer any great tips for surviving. (Like, hey--RIDE A BIKE!) I guess that would have been a blow to the auto industry. What's left of it, anyway. Maybe he would have done more if this had been an election year? (But what, exactly?)
I had to treat myself to a night out tonight. Went out to dinner and a movie. The bicycle lights worked well, but the ushers at the theater had to look through my backpack to make sure I wasn't smuggling in a bunch of food. Yeah, right. Like I'm going to pass up that over-priced stale movie theater popcorn. The late-night pedal home was surprisingly relaxing. The moon helped. (Well, that and a lot less cars on the roads these days.) Even the folks at the theater seemed friendlier--I guess they appreciated my business. With the money I'm saving not having a car, this might be a more regular event!
Day off day already? I got my grocery shopping done early and just went for a bike ride. No reason, no destination. Ended up on the far side of town, and that was not a good thing. Looks like some neighborhoods have suffered more than others. (Or was this side of town always that bad?) Saw some burned out stores that never made the evening news. Note to self: Ride someplace else next time. A quiet evening at home is in order, I think. What's on TV? I'll watch anything but the news.
Ok, bad news, good news: Bad news, I got a flat. But good news: I don't have to go to work today, so I have all day to fix it. I got out the patch kit I bought at the bike shop awhile back, and skinned a knuckle getting that front wheel off. Must have cut the tire on my adventure yesterday. (We'll have no more of that.) Managed to make a real mess on the kitchen table, but the tire held air--on the second try. Note to self: Buy a better pump. That ankle-biter of a foot pump has to go!
So now it's the electricity? The latest casualty in this on-going oil thing is our electrical power. Between the actual oil-fired power plants and not having the diesel fuel to dig out the coal, we're now being told to expect "rolling blackouts". I was going ask what that was--until one hit at work today and trashed my computer. How about a little warning, there, Spanky? If this keeps up, we've been told to expect to have to work "flexible hours"--depending on when we'll have power at work. And now there's no guarantee I'll have power when I get home, either. How joyous.
So here's a clue, just in case you were wondering: When the power goes out (without warning, I might add) IT TAKES THE TRAFFIC LIGHTS WITH IT!!! Man, it's a good thing I can ride my bike on the sidewalk! My ride in to work today became an odd dance with disaster: pedal up to an intersection, wait for an accident to snarl traffic, then pedal around the accident and off to the next intersection/accident. Lather, rinse, repeat. Here's hoping the power goes back on out there before I head back for home!
Be careful what you wish for. I had power all the way home--all the traffic lights worked--but no power at home! So how do you cook with no power? Bar-B-Que! It worked out pretty good, but took longer, of course. I'd better buy some more charcoal, just in case. Maybe start a little woodpile? Why not? I'm starting to be crafty about this. What do you suppose will go bad next? And how will I get around it?
What did I just say? No power for the traffic lights this morning--and then it started to rain! Hahahahaha!!! And I STILL made it in to work before anyone else! One of my co-workers was involved in a traffic accident this morning (what with no traffic lights and all), so the boss had to head off to the hospital. Hope they're both ok. I'm starting to see more bums and beggars out there--a new breed of "Nouveau Poor" as a result of this oil crisis costing people their jobs. My luck is holding out so far, but there's a lot of scary people out there these days.
That less power thing is getting serious. Now we're supposed to cut our electrical use IN HALF? Yipe! How am I going to do that? I've started by turning off all the lights and stuff that I could--even unplugging the computer when it's off. Is that good for it? We're running low lights at the office now. Nice, but dangerous. Lower lights in the work place might make for a higher divorce rate at home. Well, not for me, but for some. Funny how electricity and oil are so closely tied. Never thought of that before.
I bought a bunch of lower-wattage bulbs for around the house. Part of that "lower your electrical use" thing. Will this really help? Only if everyone else does the same thing. Tough to test them when the power's out, though. Went for a walk this afternoon, just to give the bike a rest. Lunch in the park wasn't so bad, now that there's so much less traffic around the park! Power was back on when I got home. Whoopie.
Big Adventure Day! Phoned up a friend I hadn't seen in over a month, and we decided to pedal out to meet each other half way. (They live about 30 miles away.) It took me about an hour and a half to ride over to the restaurant where we meet. They took a bit longer--or maybe they left home later. It was good to see them, but odd that a meeting that was so normal not long ago is now such a big deal now. We compared notes--everything's about the same all over. Life has changed, no doubt about it.
BAD ride in to work today. Some guy lunged out at me downtown, waving his arms and yelling. Was he drunk? Crazy? Or just trying to steal my bike? I hosed him down with the pepper spray and pedaled like mad--never looked back. I was frantic by the time I got to work, but at least we had power. Maybe we need to bike pool? Note to self: Buy more pepper spray. A lot more. Now.
The first of the last of the oil tankers from the Middle East are starting to arrive in North America. Since those will most likely be the very last--EVER--it is not cause for celebration. Some are only about half full. (Or half empty, your call.) We're on our own now, but so is everyone else. I've stopped looking at the price of gas--it doesn't matter anymore. At least the power is going off less--and I'm seeing a lot more bicyclists out there on the roads these days. (Hard to believe that I'm one, too!)
I tried something different this evening: I did a bit of mid-week grocery shopping. Swung by the store on the way home from work. That seem to work ok, and I didn't need to carry so much at once. Produce, meat, and dairy is still kind of iffy, so I'm learning to adapt. Also having to buy more raw food and less processed stuff--so I'm actually having to learn to COOK! One big plus: With all of this walking and bicycling, I can eat just about anything. Diets? We don't need no stinking diets!
Sat in the dark and watched TV. Big special show on how the Amish have managed for years without oil or electricity. (Sure glad they let those TV crews in!) I picked up a few good tips, but I'll keep my multi-colored wardrobe for now. And after watching that show, I'm thankful I don't have to deal with horses. (Bicycles are so much cleaner.) Went for a late-night walk just to relax. Mighty quiet out there. And dark.
Several people at work are talking about bailing and heading south. They don't want to have to face winter here. Never thought about that. Can I ride my bike year around here? That might be tough. I need to make some choices. Should I move closer to work? Get a job closer to my house? Or bail and go south? Mom says I could come to Florida, but what would I do there? If everybody goes south, will I stand a better chance of making it here? Or will "here" close down completely? Ugh.
Tough day off. Just wandered around and looked at how many local businesses were closed. Fewer cars, fewer people, and a lot less money being spent anywhere. Even some restaurants are closing for the lack of both food and customers. We've started down a slippery slope. Is there any way back? My job's good for now, so I'd better make sure I keep it. I guess, if worse comes to worse, I could always pedal my bicycle to Florida. HA! How long would THAT take??
Publicly, most folks are putting on a happy face and a determined act. Elected officials see this mess as a "great opportunity". Yeah, right. Are you riding a bicycle to work, buddy? I didn't think so. (The President has it made--he lives right over the Oval Office!) How many people are out of work now? Too many, that's for sure. What are they going to do? Unemployment can't cover everyone if everyone's out of work. Farms are hiring, but how will the migrant workers get around? It's the heat of summer here right now, but I can already see it's going to be a long, hard winter. I wonder if Mom really does have any room down there? I'm going to need a better bike.
Looks like a bunch of people did bail over the weekend. No need for lay offs when people just run screaming into the night. I wonder where they went? I'll keep plugging away here, but I can see that I may want to have a Plan B ready--just in case. We still have work--and can still do our job, so I'll hang on here for now. What would I do in Florida? What does anyone do in Florida? Right now, keeping my job is Job One. Keeping informed is Job Two. "Let's make Plan B" is Job Three. You never know.
Sounds like Venezuela just went down the tubes over the weekend. A huge work stoppage/revolution shut down what was left of their oil industry. We got most of our imported oil from them. With the fall of Saudi Arabia, you can make that "almost all" of our imported oil. But not no more. We are truly on our own. The auto industry is scrambling to find anything Americans might want to buy, while people like me are just happy to see a gallon of milk in the grocery store. I bought some maps last night. Can I get to Florida without having to go through the mountains?
Ok, work has now become a means to an end. I'll slug it out at work and bank as much money as I can. Spend nothing. Well, spend enough for a better bike, maybe. Work through the winter--if I can make it through the winter here--and try for Florida next Spring. I'm buying heavy winter camping gear now, in case the power keeps going off in the dead of winter. Not looking forward to that. How many people will die from the lack of oil? It's going to be brutal. I think I'll go out and soak up some rays while I can. Sure hope Fall holds off a bit--and takes Winter with it.
It's been almost two months since I read that first article about the Saudis and their problems. My life has changed totally in the last 60 days, and little of it for the good. (But I'm in great shape, Mom!) Although I still have work while so many don't, I'm still planning on saving my money, and maybe heading south next year. This last oil crunch isn't going away. This is it--our future with not much: not much oil, not much gas, not much food, not much power.
The Dim Ages.
Welcome to my world.
Copyright 2004, 2010, Edwin "Chip" Haynes
NEXT WEEK: A new story. In the meantime, check out Chip's upcoming third book here www.peakofthedevil.com