It’s 7:54 AM on a Saturday. I’m in line for gasoline at a Mapco corner store, and I’ve been here for about an hour. I was lucky, I’m seventh in line. And the lines go out of sight in both directions.

Yesterday morning, as the news sources are reporting, a rumor got started that Nashville would run out of gas by the end of the day. As the local talk radio channels got hold of the story, the rumor became self-fulfilling. By seven o’clock, people had made runs on all the stores, filling up their tanks whether needed or not.  By nine o’clock, all stores but Wal-Mart were either empty and trying to eke out the occasional Diet Coke and malt liquor sale, or completely dark and locked down.  One had only to drive about five minutes before coming across a car on the side of the road, driver on the phone asking for a lift or an extra half-gallon to get home.  Even CNN had picked up the story about panicky Nashville buying out all its gas, and Governor Bredesen assuring everyone that the pipeline wasn’t dry.

This morning, I needed to go to work to support an inventory move from one of our warehouses in Memphis.  Turns out I had forgotten just how low I had let the Saturn get.  After driving to Wal-Mart at just before seven and seeing the huge line, I decided to go on back home and support remotely.  I didn’t take my usual shortcut home, in some vain hope that the local mart might have run across a couple of spare gallons.  The wry look still on my face, I rounded the last corner to the intersection – woods on one corner, apartment complexes on two, and the Mapco mart on the opposite.  And, behold, parked in the front, eclipsing all but the green canopy over the previously barren pumps was the silver bullet-can salvation of Central Tennessee.  I could hardly believe it; I even strained to see the Hazmat placards on the side just to make sure – 1203; yep, that’s gas.  I barely came to a halt before I proceeded through the four-way stop at the intersection.  I wheeled into the lot, and took my place in the rapidly-forming line.  I was eighth.  Michael Phelps?  Yeah, now I know what it’s like.

The hesitant young man whom I’ve chatted with before, and the cute little blonde who are today’s attendants are out speaking with the driver of the truck.  All seem to be completely incredulous that the last twenty-four hours have transpired the way they have.  Even I am weirded out by it.  I remember the images on the TV from 1979, but I don’t remember us ever sitting in a line of more than three or so waiting for gas.  But here I am, in the Twenty-First Century, in the United States of America, hoping I can fill my car up.  The young man who is the attendant begins going down the line from car to car.  My heart begins to sink, as I fear it cannot be good news.  One car in front of me starts up and begins to pull away.  He nears my car and I hear him tell the driver in front of me that it will be an hour before we begin to pump.  An hour?  It’s not even 7:15, and it’s Saturday.  I’m not even up, normally.  I’ve got time.  And, I’ve now got one less car in front of me.  I think of how my house is only about a mile in “that” direction, when I realize this may be our only chance for a while, so I ring up my certainly-sleeping wife.  “Mmm… hllo?” at the other end confirms my suspicion.  I tell her that it probably isn’t critical, but there’s a truck at Mapco, I’m seventh in line, and there are two cars behind me. “I’ll be right there.” So at least two of our cars will soon be full.  I can hold off on filling the Jeep.

Again, it’s 7:15.  I’m hardly awake at this time even on a work day, so I roll up the window, knowing the car isn’t going to move for another hour or so, and walk over to the store to get an energy drink and some Krispy Kremes which the store carries.  I am also forced by nature to buy some turkey jerky as well; couldn’t be helped.  I get back to the car and am listening to the radio (hopefully it’s obvious that my car is not idling during all this – I don’t think I’m that stupid), and Carmen calls me to tell me she’s in line behind me.  I have a couple more donut holes, then take the rest back to her.  As I’m walking back to my car, I got to talking to some folks in line.  Both were from the apartment complex across the street.  They had awakened, and came out to walk the dog and take out the trash.  One lady (the trash-taker) didn’t even go back in her apartment; she got in her car, drove across the street to get in line, and called her husband who was still asleep about two hundred yards away to get his truck and join us.

The pumping began in only thirty or so minutes – I still don’t know why it takes a while for the gas to be available after it comes off the truck; perhaps Wikipedia can come to my intellectual rescue yet again – and in no time I was moving.  As I got closer, everyone was being very polite and friendly.  The young man, while I was in the store, had said that last night at Wal-Mart there were three fights, and the police had to stay well into the night to keep everything orderly.  Thankfully, no stress like that today.

So will this shortage last through today?  Through the weekend?  The week?  CNN reported that neither Memphis nor Chattanooga (three and two hours away, respectively) were reporting outages.  No one really seems to know why we’re out of gas, other than we panicked and bought it all.  The story locally was that all our gas has been diverted to Texas to help with hurricane recovery.  But just Nashville?  Not any of our surrounding cities?  I find that reason to be implausible, at best.

At least it didn’t snow, and force us to buy up all the milk and bread before the fields went barren and the cows went dry.  But it’s only September;  winter awaits Music City.

Sent from my iPod

(EDIT:

Gas Day in the Hood