It was embarrassing to be from Nashville this weekend. Yes Vanderbilt won, the Titans won, and the weather was amazing. All that good news aside, I was a little ashamed and concerned for our community over the last week.
Before hurricane Ike hit the gulf we were advised to fill up our tanks with gas. Fair enough, since Ike was heading right into the refinery capitol of our country and our government is too bone headed to green light the building of refineries in other parts of the U.S., but I digress.
After Ike hit we were told there could be price spikes and a slow down of the delivery in fuel. Again, not a big surprise. We can conserve and have patience, can’t we? Well, that didn’t seem to happen. What did happen? Panic.
Early last week I noticed an extremely huge line of cars waiting to get gas at Costco in Cool Springs. Apparently a report had come out on one of our fine news stations that there would be a shortage of gas for the next few days. Costco was the only place I noticed this at first. I didn’t see it at any other gas stations in town and thought the line at Costco was just to save a buck or two, which was silly considering the line.
From there it went downhill fast. People started freaking out and it turned into a full panic buying situation. Stations quickly started running out of gas as a result which fueled the panic even more. Lines were 20 to 30 to 40 vehicles deep in some places. Around corners and down the street cars lined up in desperate need of gas. That mentality has now extended the shortage a few more days than it should have. No other markets were in this situation. It was pure panic and the media helped to drive it.
What is wrong with people? It is the same panic buying mentality that compels the masses to Kroger to purchase all the milk and bread when the weather forecast calls for a couple inches of snow.
Yes, we were in a pinch in middle Tennessee when it came to gas supply, but it did not need to turn into the problem it became. If only those people who had less than a quarter or maybe half tank would have been the only customers who fueled up, then we would have been okay. But so many were over buying – topping off their over half full tank, filling up gas containers for their boats and to hoard for their cars – it spun everything out of control. Instead of conserving over the weekend and maybe car pooling or staying home for a day or two, people had to ensure their lifestyles were uninterrupted and that they would not be required to make a sacrifice or two.
I heard first hand stories about a fight breaking out between two men at a station and another about a lady trying to cut in line to get gas as two men stood in front of her car to stop her. She inched forward and eventually hit one of the men and they both proceeded to slam their fists into her hood. I’ve read there was no shortage of other similar stories around town.
My big question is, what would have happened if we were in a real crisis? What would the results be if we really needed to roll up our sleeves and “suffer” for a good amount of time? Would we as a community be able to do it? Would we be willing to give up our cushy lives and expected routines for the good of everyone?
Remember how we all sat in awe three years ago watching mass chaos and lawlessness unfold in New Orleans during Katrina? Horrified and critical we were of the mass looting and the violence breaking out. Shocked at how quickly our wonderful orderly American society can break down in panic. Not to remotely compare our gas crunch filled week to the devastation of Katrina, but Nashville has no room to be aghast at these type of behaviors. Nor should we be shocked at other “less developed” nations with inner-country turmoil.
We are truly only steps away apparently. Fist fights in gas station lines, hitting people with your car, verbally assaulting gas station managers, cutting in lines, hoarding.
What also bothers me is that I first noticed the freak-outs in Franklin and Brentwood. Two of the most affluent areas in Nashville. It makes me afraid we are too spoiled and will not be able to cope if a real shortage or crisis hits us. Would our city rally together or will it be every man and woman for themselves?
How quickly our civilized society can fall to such low un-neighborly ways. This past week has proved to be a grand social experiment and test for our city. We failed miserably.
For any future crisis we find ourselves in, all I can say is to be prepared, have a plan, buck up to the sacrifice we may have to make, and don’t panic. Also, our state and local government needs to be more on top of things as they were pretty much silent from what I could tell.