A man is never aware of his situation until he sees himself against others; an athlete is not at his best unless and until he competes with others of his class. These thoughts crossed my mind when I got caught up with the news last week, and the news was not coming from Guyana.
For a few months now everyone has been talking about rising oil prices and I can still recall the talk about oil reaching US$100 a barrel. Many of my colleagues sat and considered the options because like me, they all know that Guyana is not an oil-producing country and to compound the issue it is a poor country, although if one were to visit some of the watering holes one would not know this.
The news was coming from NBC, one of the better news services around, although to my mind some of the local reporters would do a better job when it comes to dealing with the news about events.
There were the analysts talking about Americans having to change their lifestyles because they were finding it difficult to drive and to travel, given the high prices of fuel. There was this woman who spoke of spending US$70 to fill her tank. That would translate into G$14,000, something that many Guyanese do not think is abnormal.
Given the abundance of the Sports Utility Vehicles that I see on the streets each day it surely is not a problem.
But this woman was talking about having to take out her bicycle. And she was not the only one. Others were talking about walking.
In the United States they really walk. Most people entering the big cities, where there is the difficulty of parking, would use public transportation which would deposit them somewhere six and ten blocks from their work place.
Whenever I think about this, especially as it regards the women, I smile. In Guyana, our fashion conscious women would don their fancy heels and walk. When they reach the office some of them would put on sandals to make their feet comfortable.
In the United States, the women walk the streets in their suits; they would don sneakers and sandals, the exact opposite of their Guyanese counterparts. The foreign women would then put on their heels in the office.
However, the issue is how people cope with the rising prices. The commentators began to talk of staycation instead of vacation, meaning that people are choosing to stay at home rather than travel on a vacation.
Indeed traveling is becoming almost unaffordable. Imagine airlines charging the traveler to check in his or her baggage. I could imagine going to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and the counter clerk telling me that I have to pay a certain sum to check in my baggage.
Then came the other news; airlines were charging for all manner of things, from late checking to queries to seat changes, anything to make money.
In Guyana, travel is a problem with many of the people who work in the city coming from locations outside Guyana. Minibuses are asking them to pay more and those who drive are finding that they have to pay a lot more for gasoline, much more than they paid one or two months ago.
What was surprising was that just days ago the international price for oil was US$125 per barrel. Within a week it had jumped by US$12 more. My big worry is what the power company will ask me to pay in the not too distant future. I am also worried about how much I would have to pay for water and how much more I would have to pay for food.
I pity those who have large families, especially growing children who tend to eat like an elephant.
The pay is not moving half as fast as the price of oil. If my employer could pay me US$12 in a week or a salary that rises commensurate with the rise in the price of oil then I would be the happiest man but that is not going to be because if he does that for me then he would have to do the same for everyone else.
But what does the future hold? Just the other day I heard the complaint about having to spend even more of the national earning on oil and this tells me that there is not going to be much of a pay rise or if there is, then the government would simply take back the money in taxes.
I also wonder at how people, especially poor people, are going to improve their lot. A few had high hopes of building their homes. I am sure that those hopes are going to go through the window because what little they had saved is going to end up in the pot.
Another thing that makes me realize just how poor we as a people are can be seen in the number of old cars we drive. Even those with new number plates are about six or seven years old. The older a car gets the more gasoline it consumes so we are seeking to live within our means but we are paying even more to do so.
I have an old car and I have come to the realization that I cannot drive as much as I used to. I just cannot afford it. So I sit and watch the news and shudder when I hear the analysts talk about oil reaching US$150 a barrel.
When people talk about jumbie story, this is jumbie story. I am scaring myself.
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