Hallelujia hallelulia allelulia
Praise God, my new iMac has just been delivered. Not a loaner from Apple, but my own hardware. It shall be covered with Wacky Packs stickers by day’s end; this, I vow.
I do have a fine relationship with my FedEx driver (thanks to the fact that loaner hardware flows into my house like nicotine into a supermodel) and his twice or thrice-weekly deliveries are nice, if necessarily brief, interactions.
Today, he handed over the 30-pound package, collected my signature, and then said, without any preamble, “You know, they’re saying gas will be six bucks a gallon by the end of summer? Can you believe that?”
“When gas gets that high, Society starts to break down,” I replied, shaking my head. “Even if it’s just a little bit.”
“It means nobody goes out to dinner any more, so restaurants close,” he continued. “People stay home instead of shopping. They don’t go out to visit friends as often. Dealerships can’t sell cars. The cost of everything goes up. People lose their jobs. People file for bankruptcy. The economy takes a giant hit…”
I nodded. There are scenarios that sound merely alarmist until they actually happen…cf the levees in New Orleans being overrun and floodwaters damned-near wiping out the entire city.
“At six bucks a gallon, civilization starts to break down,” I repeated. “The Government will step in if it breaks $4.50.”
(Just like they stepped in when Katrina became a Cat 5 and curved in towards the city with the inevitability of a bowling ball finding the pocket. Yeah, good point.)
My driver continued to talk about the cost of gas, predicting a trend towards European-style gas consumption: people stop buying trucks and even sedans, and start buying minicars and scooters and other vehicles that look as though they belong on top of a child’s birthday cake instead of an American road. In some circles, this development would be discussed approvingly. My FedEx guy couldn’t believe what was happening to his country.
It’s natural that a truck driver would be among the first to become so alarmed about the rising price of gas. He’s among the first trades to feel the heat.
But this was a significant event. Lyndon Johnson had more information about the status of the Vietnam War and the American public than any other man in the world. Even so, he didn’t truly believe that the cause had been completely lost until he turned on the CBS news on night and saw that Walter Cronkite had turned against him. Numbers are numbers and can be interpreted any which way. But when something happens to clearly demonstrate how deeply an event or crisis has penetrated, it’s tangible and resists your attempts to flip it over and look at the cleaner side of the issue.
Today, a FedEx guy who has other houses to deliver to took the time to talk to me for five minutes about how desperate the cost of fuel was becoming. Today was the day I officially started to worry.