Sunday, October 01, 2006

Amos the oil reserve Savant

I live in a basement suite with my wife. It is a pretty plain place, all the appliances are thirty years old. Half of them still work, that is, when the power is turned on. The other half we just use for storage. That way the mice don’t get into our things. And everything is brown, I don’t know why. The curtains are dark brown, the walls are light brown, the table and chairs are medium brown. There is a red candle in the middle of the table, so I guess not everything is brown. Above the table is the only window in the place. I like the light it lest in, but there isn’t anything to see.

Our bed reminds me of a submarine, not that I’ve ever seen a submarine, but what I imagine a submarine bed would look like. It’s an alcove with a curtain. The bed just fit in with enough room for stuff to fall down behind it. Across from the bed is the toilet. At first I thought having the toilet next to the bed was pretty gross. Excuse my crudeness, but it comes in handy when my legs fall asleep – I like to read when I’m doing my business, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?

Around the corner from the bathroom is my prize possession. A bookshelf filled with the immortality of the now dead; ideas that have survived years, even hundreds of years of ridicule and misinterpretation. But like most great ideas, what matters isn’t when it was written, but what was written. They help me understand the bigger picture of what I am going through, what it means to be human in a post-capitalist, post-oil world. Actually, it doesn’t even matter, being human is still the same thing as it was in the pre-capitalist, pre-oil world.

These ideas and thinking about what they mean transport me from the drab brown suite. I can get lost thinking about what they all mean for hours. That’s why it is handy that the bed is so close to the toilet. Maybe our brains and our bladders are connected, because when my bladder starts flowing, so do the ideas.

Around the corner from the bookshelf is the door. There isn’t much to say about the door. It has three diamond shaped windows, and you guessed it, the door is brown. The interesting thing is what is on the other side of the door. Life is on the other side of that door, well that and a half-flight of stairs up to 32nd street. It used to be a really nice neighborhood with trees, and children laughing, all the fun stuff. Now it’s too urban for my taste – not my budget – it is concrete and chain-link fence.

“Hey, who the hell are you?” said a guy about 25, with his pants halfway to his knees sporting some pretty painful looking tattoos.

“I ain’t doin nothin, just going to get some food” I replied

“Did I ask where you were going? I asked WHO ARE YOU?”

“I just live downstairs, that’s all”

“Well have you seen Amos, that idiot that lives upstairs”

“No, and he isn’t an idiot. He has brain damage”

“I don’t care what he’s got, and he’s going to get a hell of a lot more if he doesn’t stop coming around my Dad’s store. He scares off the customers with all his drooling.”

That was it, he just walked off. Man, Amos sure is good at making people hate him. In the last six months there must have been about eight people that have been hanging around our place waiting to beat the shit out of him. I try to explain that there are some things that he just doesn’t know that he is doing.

One time when we were out together he just wigged out and slapped this woman right across the face. She returned the favor and he started crying on the floor like a little child. That made the woman feel so bad that she knelt down to say it was ok, but when she did he punched her right in the face and started laughing. I tried to explain to the lady but she ran out the door.

The next day the cops came for Amos. That time they only kept him in jail for three days. Something must have happened to him, because it took him a month to get back to normal after that.

For the most part he just sits at his desk in his place and pours over geological maps, for hours at a time. The doctors say he is a savant who is really good at finding oil reserves. It’s a gift that would have made him rich thirty years ago, but now there are only a few companies that still drill for the stuff. For a while people were frenzied about finding more and more oil. But then the reserves peaked. It just got more and more expensive to extract less and less oil. For a long time it was blamed on inflation, and international wars. There was even a period when it was blamed on executive excess. But through it all, the oil supply just got more and more expensive to extract. And they were using up fresh water to do it. So for every litre of oil that was extracted, four litres of water had to be pumped down the well. After awhile everyone, including the government, kind of gave up and accepted that it was time to downsize the lifestyle and accept their debt.

It’s kind of funny really, everyone kept saying that we had better let the companies have their way so they will stay and they can guarantee employment. Sure there were dissenters, but everyone was having the time of their life. Now we have a continual water shortage.

What is more fun than decorating a house to match the seasons? And keeping up with the latest fashions, or just trying not to be left behind? I like to call it mall fever, my wife calls it fashion fever, which has alliteration, so I know it is better, but I won’t tell her that.

Life was good, and it was increasingly good, and the rate of increase was increasing. But then things peaked, and so did government spending on social programs like hiring social workers. Which is what I went to school for. I had my job for two months before I got laid off. Unfortunately, my wife and I missed out on the good times, and we got what was left. It is like coming to a party at seven am. All that is left is the mess and you are stuck with clean-up duty.

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