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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Apocalypse by Lemmings

I have always known we are on the verge of anarchy and chaos. Just go to a grocery store in N.C.(or most other southern states) when the first snowflake is forecast. Bread is treated like true manna from heaven and milk is like liquid gold. People will fight to the death over a half-gallon. Don't even get me started on toilet paper - you would think it was made with $10 bills..("isn't Jackson snuggly soft today?") Chicken Little would be proud. Friday, with Hurricane Ike pounding the coast of Texas/Louisiana; someone, somewhere said - "gas will be going up!?!" The rallying cry started - "Gas will be going up $1 at noon" - "Gas will be $10 by Saturday" - "Aliens are probing our *SS" (sorry, I lost it a minute - that one is ALWAYS out there). I was told by many people Friday morning that they heard from someone that heard from someone that ate a bagel next to the CEO of Exxon that gas was going to go up $5 by dinner-time that very day! People were leaving work to get their tanks topped off. I asked one if they were out of gas and they said no they had almost a full tank, but they didn't want to take a chance. I had a little less than a half a tank, so I decided to not worry about it. I had brought my lunch with me, but needed a drink. So, I rode to the Sheetz gas station up the street to buy my customary Tub-O-Soda (you know the drinks that need a porter to get to the car - but that is another blog). When I got near I saw cars EVERYWHERE! It was after the magic hour of 12 noon, and gas was the same price as that morning, and as the day before; but people were in line to buy it. LOOONG lines! Work trucks, cars, boats (on trailers), SUVs, etc were all lined up like we were getting the hurricane. I parked across the street (didn't want to put my life in peril and make someone think I was cutting as I headed for a parking space) and went in. I got my garbage can of soda and when I got to the counter I was met by a guy with a name tag that identified him as a "Manager" (my shoes were older than him, but that is also another blog). I said something about them being busy and he said "You wouldn't believe it". I asked if they were told that morning that they were to raise prices that day. He said no, but the office had called a number of times wondering why they were pumping so much gas. (if you do not know Sheetz, they are based in Pennsylvania, and evidently the histeria did not get that far north that fast). They had told him to raise the price by ten cents (which they did while I was there) just to see if they could slow things down a bit. He told me at the rate they were going, they would be out of regular gas by the late afternoon and could not get a delivery until the next day (as they had just filled up the day before). He said "People are crazy! I don't understand it." He said they raise their prices when they get a wholesale increase, and none was announced. As I went back to the office, I saw two other gas stations (again with prices the same as earlier) with lines into the street. It was amazing. When I got back to the office, there was still that buzz in the air about prices being "at $5 in Charlotte" or "gas is at $4.89 on the north side of town". The people that had not fallen in with the earlier histeria, all went to fill up. I told them that the prices I saw were all the same except for Sheetz which had gone up a dime, and told them my story. As I was being watched with eyes wide with fear and desperation, I knew that the only words of my story that were heard were - "Sheetz" and "up". The gnashing of teeth was tremendous. As I left that day, I passed stations with lines still into the streets. I saw prices had gone up, most by ten or twenty cents, but a few to $4.00 or more (we started the day at about $3.55). The fear and panic was palpable. I turned on the radio and heard some guy with the N.C. independant gas retailers saying there was no problem with supply and prices were not going through the roof. When he finished, the announcer guy could only say "The lines are long, and some stations are already out of gas!". You could smell the fear through the airwaves. Lemmings are lucky, they go wild and get mass hysteria once - then it's over the edge and into the water. We have snowstorms to look forward to.