Report from the OP, 5/12/2021

I’ve been fighting a weather induced migraine most of the day, but that turns out to be a good thing, after a fashion, because along with the observations, I get to report some good news.

First and foremost, the sheep have lost their minds. After last weekend’s cyberattack on Colonial Pipelines, a fair portion of the population of the East Coast panicked, and this time it wasn’t over toilet paper. By late afternoon today (5/12/2021), there are news reports that 25% of North Carolina gas stations are out of gas, with the number reaching 70% in the large metros. The good news is that the pipeline is back in operation as of late this afternoon, and with a little luck, we’ll be back to abnormal in a few days.

Allow me to give you my personal story of the Great Gas Crisis of 2021. I saw the original story of the attack on Saturday. Knowing my truck was nearly full and our tow vehicle was at 3/4, I queried Mrs. Freeholder on her Jeep. “About half a tank.” *sigh* I’ve instituted a revision in the rule of “half is empty” given the current situation, with the new rule being “3/4 is empty.” Unfortunately. Mrs. Freeholder suffers from an advanced case of normalcy bias, and no amount of therapy seems to change it. The only thing that works is when she has her hand slammed in the car door, metaphorically speaking. As with so many people, when the pain of doing something is less than the pain of doing nothing, she’ll do something.

In this case it was extracting herself from the recliner to go fuel up. She was ticked at me then (because I should have done it), with gas at $2.55/gallon. She has become progressively less ticked as gas has increased to $3/gallon (a 17.7% increase as of yesterday) and the lines at the stations are blocking the roads. I hope this resets her default on when to refill her vehicle.

Me, after a couple of days of driving, I’m down to 3/4 in my pickup. The truck is parked and has nowhere to go before Sunday evening at the earliest. We are taking the mobile command post out for a local excursion, and that will suck up a good bit of fuel in the tow vehicle, but I’m letting it run down anyway. The fuel pump, at the young age of 24 years, is showing early signs of failure. It’s an in-tank design, and you have to drop the tank to get at it. I’m not asking anyone to drop a 42 gallon tank when it’s full. At 1/4 it’s still going to be a bear. But I’m running it down to 1/4 anyway, and then Son-in-law gets to take it to work with him and address the problem.

Grocery stores are starting to look a tiny bit more strained. On my last trip, peanut butter was very short, with several holes on the shelf. Price inflation is rampant. The last time I bought eggs they were 69¢/dozen. Yesterday they were $1.01, a 46.4% increase. Meat is starting to go up, which means next week is a trip to the local meat wholesaler. Some items I bought, such as ice cream, were still the same. Milk was up a few cents. Cheese is more expensive.

I’m also seeing another sort of inflation. I’ve heard it called “shrinkflation”. Shrinkflation is when the size or amount of the product is decreased, but but the price stays the same. The most egregious example I’ve experienced is a bag of the cat food we prefer going from 14 to 11 pounds at the same $39 price. That works out to a 27.2% increase.

Housing prices continue to go up, signaling a serious imbalance in the market. New house starts are visibly drying up. A new subdivision recently started in a neighboring little burg is now sitting quietly. The roads and utilities are in, but no one is starting a house without a buyer already in hand, and no wonder. I went to the local Lowes and got a serious case of sticker shock. Thankfully all I needed was a couple of bags of cement mix, which I believe are up about 100-ish% over this time last year. Home buyers are snapping up existing homes as fast as they come on the market, but the price of those is closing in on the per square foot cost of new construction. Pretty soon this merry-go-round is going to come to a screeching halt as prices finally move beyond what even the most desperate will pay.

All this said, I still see a lot of people moving along like nothing is happening. Heck, we can be lumped in with them to some extent-we’re still going and doing and buying. I’m trying to make the buying bias toward things that will benefit us in the long term, but Herself will not be denied her weekend trips and afternoons at the finger nail factory.

So. we are all staggering along toward whatever it is the future has in store for us. Let’s hope what we’ve done, individually and collectively, will be enough to see us through.

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