Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Me and Dudley Try to Commiserate

I have a friend; we’ll call him Dudley. He’s old oil money, not big time, but he inherited quite a few producing wells several years ago and with light sweet crude topping $120/barrel, he’s not hurting.

I think he’s benefiting from this oil crisis.

We were talking the other day over plates of fried eggs, bacon and toast. “Melissa has been after me to get rid of that little old Toyota truck I’ve been driving since Methuselah was on the earth. ‘You’re gonna get killed when some big old Dodge Ram hits you on the road. You need to get you a big one, too.’ That’s all she says, all the time.”

“Put that fork down, Dudley,” I said, trying to spear a piece of egg. “You’re going to hurt one of us.”

“So anyway I’m gonna get a big Ford,” he said, setting down his fork and picking up his butter knife and a packet of grape jelly.

I put my fork down and counted to ten. “I think they ought to outlaw all full-sized trucks and SUVs,” I said in my most reasonable voice.

Dudley didn’t even blink. He finished spreading the jelly on his triangle of toast – he can really paint that stuff on there - and looked at me out of the corner of his eye.

“Are you a communist or something, Emmitt?” he said. He bit into the toast, not taking his eyes off of me.

“No, Dudley,” I said, “I’m as American as you, but this is ridiculous. Everybody’s scared of getting smashed by SUVs and big trucks, so they go out and get SUVs or big trucks, and it’s getting bigger and bigger every year, and the gas prices keep going up… There’s no end in sight!”

Dudley shook his head. “People don’t like to be smushed, Emmitt. That’s the American way.”

“But what about the people that can’t afford to buy bigger and bigger SUVs and trucks, Dudley? What about them?”

“Come on, Emmitt. You know good and well that they go out and get big old cars! I was downtown yesterday and I saw this fella in a 1976 Caddy that was as big as a boat. And those things are heavy, heavier than that Ford I’m looking to get.”

I sat there and steamed.

Dudley,” I said, “I’m not mad at you…” I paused for just a second. “Well, maybe I’m a little mad at you, but that’s not the point. I’m not hostile towards you…” I hesitated again.

Dudley paused from putting together a bacon and egg sandwich with his toast, casting an apprising eye over at me.

“You’re feeling a little hostile, aren’t you?” he said.

I rolled my eyes. “Well, yes, maybe a little. But your attitude is so typical of rich people. You’re totally clueless about the consequences of your knee-jerk spending. The economy’s in a death-spiral!”

“I hear you, Emmitt.” He got up from the table and shook my hand. “I’ll see you later, hear? I’ve gotta run over to Home Depot and pick out the flagstone flooring for that new wing of the house we’re adding on next month.”

“You have a good one, you hear?”

Friday, May 2, 2008

Supply and Demand Still Exists: Found on Vacation in the Virgin Islands

Contrary to public opinion, the Law of Supply and Demand (SnD) is still alive and well and vacationing in the Virgin Islands. Some say she’s been down there for twelve months while others put it at only a few weeks.

Noticeably absent is SnD’s longtime partner, Markets.

Though the exact timeline for SnD’s departure from Markets is unclear, sources say that trouble has been brewing for some time.

“Okay,” said one insider, requesting that his identity be kept secret, “let’s just look at the effect it’s having on the children. They’re always the ones to act out, dear things. They bear the brunt.” The insider paused to wipe at his eyes, then blew his nose and cleaned his glasses. “They bear the brunt.”

“Would one child in particular be a good illustration of this?” I wondered.

“Oil,” he said without hesitation. “Oil is really acting out at this time. Oh, I know, she’s always been an unruly child, but as long as SnD was in the home, she at least knew she had guidelines. That’s all changed now that Markets had taken up with that skank, Scarcity.”


“Yes, Scarcity. Markets think that there won’t be enough Oil, that it’s somehow become under-supplied overnight, and so Markets seeks to keep her under his thumb, and not just for right now, but far into the future, when Markets believes that Oil will be so much harder to find.”

I chewed on my bottom lip, considering. “Isn’t that just good parenting?”

“A child needs her mother. What are you, some kind of Nazi?” He glared at me. “No,” he continued, “it’s not good parenting to shack up with an entirely different model. It’s still the same Supply and Demand this year that it was last year, but Markets is reading the papers, listening to the paparazzi, and now his attitude has changed. He thinks Scarcity is the way to go, so Supply and Demand packed up her stuff and went to the beach. I don’t blame her.”

“Is this all Oil’s fault?” I said.

“It’s complicated. Are you some sort of a Philistine? I don’t know that you can even blame the entire thing on Markets, though he certainly behaved abominably.” He threw up his hands and rolled his eyes.

“Well look at Copper, for instance,” he said, shaking out a pack of cigarillos and hanging one from the corner of his mouth. “Copper’s been saying he was going to grow for years now, and Markets would hold steady, not put big restrictions out there or buy up Copper’s futures ahead of time, confident that his son would come through with the extra production, and there would be plenty for all.”

“I suppose it didn’t happen?” I said.

“No it didn’t happen. And Markets got burned, in some cases pretty badly. He claimed Supply and Demand had betrayed him. He took out a page in the Journal and claimed that Supply and Demand just wasn’t working for Markets anymore.”

“And so Scarcity was the new model?”

“That’s the way he saw it,” said the insider as he lit up and took a drag. He blew smoke in my direction.

“So why even deal with models?” I said. “Who cares about models? We just want things to be right and cost what they should.” I stopped at this point, embarrassed by my outburst.

“Oh for heaven’s sake!” he said, throwing down his cigarillo and grinding it beneath the heel of his patent leather boot. “Where do they get you people?”