Early bird gets the gas

YESTERDAY MORNING, still partially in pajamas, and still dark outside at just before 7 a.m., I headed out the gate in the Honda, hunting gasoline.

thFor those who don’t know, our new president has severely reduced gasoline supplies to much of the nation in an impossible-to-comprehend tactic to end pipeline theft.

I passed one Pemex station, which was dark. Farther, I passed another Pemex station, which was also dark. I continued and hung a right on the ring road. There in the distance, on the right side, I saw a parked car with blinkers flashing. Bingo!

I knew there was a gas station there, but people waiting does not mean the station is open, and I couldn’t even see how long the line was just yet. Sometimes, they’re half-a-mile long or more.

I drew closer. I was the fifth customer in line, and the station was open for business! It was a G500 station, one of the new brands that have entered Mexico over the past few years. The wait was no more than five minutes because all the pumps were working.

The previous fill-up was done Dec. 31 when I got wind of a gasoline shortage in the state capital. I immediately leaped into the Honda, found a station and filled ‘er up. It was definitely full because I watched the pump turn off automatically. Three times.

On sitting in the car, I was surprised to see the tank read 3/4ths full.  The gauge was malfunctioning. What a time to do so! It remained on 3/4ths for the next two weeks, not budging a centimeter.

By Sunday, I was getting edgy about the remaining gas. If the motor stops, so does the power steering and power brakes. You don’t want that to happen all at once while barreling down the highway.

But the Goddess loves me. When I filled up yesterday morning, the gas gauge corrected itself and moved to the full position.

What really surprised me was that I drove for two weeks and had used only one-fourth of the tank. I was sure I was in the bottom fourth, not the top.

So I’m good for another month or more. The Goddess willing, the new president will have turned on the gas taps again to full.

What’s next? He’ll turn off our water?

Later yesterday, the two of us drove the 50 kilometers to the state capital for shopping at Costco and Walmart. We were severely low on high-end vitttles. But now we’ve restocked and can resume normal life.

And I still have way over three-fourths of a tank of gas.

The AMLO sandwich

sandwich
What might have been and what perhaps still will be.

THE POPULIST president Mexico elected last year got off to a rip-roaring start in December, his first month in office. He wasted no time in causing chaos. He’s known by his initials, AMLO.

Here’s what he did, if you can believe it. Mexico has a longstanding and, apparently increasing, problem with gasoline theft by organized gangs. Their favored modus operandi is to tap into a pipeline, preferably in the boonies, and siphon it into tanker trucks.

Mexico is a major oil producer and has lots of refineries.

AMLO’s solution to this problem is to stop sending gasoline via pipelines and to transport it instead in Pemex tanker trucks, often accompanied by armed patrols. The fly in this ointment is that you cannot send anywhere nearly as much gasoline by tanker trucks as you can by pipeline.

This has resulted in severe gasoline shortages in parts of the country. Alas, one of the heaviest hit parts is right here on my mountaintop.

Most of our gas stations are closed all day. The ones that occasionally have gasoline have lines up to a half-mile long. I drove by one yesterday afternoon just up the highway from the Hacienda.

Here is an apt analogy to AMLO’s solution to the pipeline thefts: Say you want to halt bank robberies. The obvious remedy is to remove money from banks, right? Unfortunately, while bank robbers won’t have access to money in the banks, neither will customers.

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The AMLO sandwich?

Until this situation gets resolved, we’re not wasting gasoline on our habitual weekly drives to the nearby capital city to high-brow shop at Costco and Superama.

We’re sticking close to home. The Honda still has nearly three-quarters of a tank of petrol because I filled up Dec. 31 and have driven little since.

Costco is where I’ve purchased hydroponic lettuce for our nightly salads for years. I used the final lettuce Thursday night. Since no supermarket where I live stocks hydroponic lettuce, I planned to switch to egg sandwiches.

I was planning on calling them AMLO sandwiches.  It would have been a painful transition in spite of the fact that I like egg sandwiches. We are critters of habit.

But yesterday I decided to check the lettuce in our mountaintop supermarket. No hydroponic, of course. The store’s nod to highbrow is some sort of Italian greenery, so I bought four questionable bunches, brought them home and disinfected them.

No need to disinfect Costco’s hydroponic lettuce. It’s fast and easy.

We have bagels for only three mornings more, and the croissants are all gone. We’re just six weeks into AMLO’s six-year term.

This could get mighty ugly.

We are the bourgeoisie, so I guess we had it coming.

* * * *

(Here’s a Washington Post story on our gasoline crisis.)

 

Music men

band

OUR MOUNTAINTOP is a magnet for tourists, especially during the Christmas holidays, Easter Week and the Day of the Dead. Most of the tourists are Mexicans.

But in all the years I’ve lived here, I don’t recall our having the hordes that we have right now.

We live on the outskirts of town, and every day we face a long line of creeping traffic heading downtown. Luckily, there is an alternative route, but I’m not going to advertise it.

A twist to this year’s Christmas season is a gasoline crisis. Lots of gas stations are out of fuel, and those that have some often have long lines of cars. A number of Mexican states are affected, and nobody seems to know why.

Rumors abound.

Our “Energy Reform” starts Sunday, the first day of 2017. Gradually, the Pemex monopoly will fall as foreign gas stations are phased in around the nation.

In theory this will lower prices, but on Sunday prices will increase from 15 to 20 percent, so people are angry.

But Mexicans are usually angry about something or other. Along with the Energy Reform, we’re getting a reform of the legal system, and reform of the educational system.

That latter has the teachers, a gang of union leftists, foaming at the mouth, which tickles me no end.

Mexico is changing.

The last gas crisis, earlier this year, only lasted about a week. The current one has gone on more than two weeks. Nobody seems to know how long it will last. I fill the Honda tank every time I pass an open station with no line.

Mexico is ever entertaining and challenging. If it’s not severed heads rolling down cantina floors or teachers apoplectic at having to take competency tests, it’s something else.

One way to stay mellow is to sit at a sidewalk table on the main plaza with a hot café americano negro, reading my Kindle and sometimes seeing street musicians.

I tipped those old boys in the photo.

And life goes on.

Trains running again

THE VAGABOND sound of passing trains has returned.

We live just one block from the rail line, so it’s long been a part of our daily lives. But the sound vanished for more than a week till the day before yesterday.

Rail traffic had stopped due to a blockade just up the highway, “teachers” unhappy with a reform of the educational system recently implemented in Mexico.

The unhappy “teachers” had set up an encampment, blocking the rails with rocks and logs.

The economic loss was reportedly vast.

“Teachers” down in Oaxaca and Chiapas have been blocking highways now for weeks, causing economic and other forms of chaos. These are “teacher” unions.

The educational reform, like the energy reform, is something new in Mexico, something good. The energy reform is opening the energy sector to foreign competition. We will have options for gas stations like in the United States.

For decades, there has been just one gas station in Mexico, the government’s omnipresent Pemex.

Left-wingers, of whom we have many in Mexico due to the high percentage of ignoramuses, oppose the energy reform because they oppose choice and the free market.

Plus plenty of xenophobia.

And no group is more left-wing than “teachers” who have a number of unions. They also have their “teacher colleges” where “teachers” are made. These schools are communist indoctrination centers that sport murals of Ché Guevara.

No joke.

“Teachers” in Mexico are the most disruptive element in the nation, constantly causing problems.

What has their Red panties in a twist about the educational reform? A number of things, but my favorites are that they will have to take exams to show competence.

Oh, my goodness! Imagine that.

starAnd they will lose the right to hand their jobs over to a friend or relative when they retire.

The “teachers” are so numerous and have so much support among the lamebrain population that the government is afraid to take action against the protesters. Its tactic often is wait-and-see. This has worked in the past.

And example of this wait-and-see took place a few years ago in Mexico City when electric service was taken from the hands of a union and handed over to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) that runs service outside the capital.

The union went berserk and set up blockades outside the CFE high-rise downtown. After a few months, they wearied and went home. Electric service in Mexico City is run now by CFE, and it’s immeasurably better than before.

Even an old lefty like Franklin D. Roosevelt said unions have no place in the public sector. A union fussing with its private-sector employer is one thing. Interrupting services like police, firemen, education, electricity, etc., is quite different.

It should be illegal.

In the meantime, trains are passing the Hacienda, but how this education reform ends up is yet to be seen. Will we modernize, or we will continue swimming in seas of corruption?

Will the government buckle?

The energy reform is being phased in with more success, and we’re already seeing gas stations in some areas that do not fly the once ubiquitous green colors of Pemex.

There is also a legal reform that will lead to open courts. Left-wingers haven’t tried to block that yet.

They’ve been too busy blocking highways and railroads.

These “progressives.”

* * * *

(And meanwhile.)