She who must be obeyed’ was angry yesterday. Seriously cross! Almost incoherent with irritation.
Why? It’s all about fuel.
Let me elaborate.
There is a group of people in Portugal who belong to an organisation called Sindicato Nacional de Motoristas de Matérias Perigosas (SNMP). This translates as ‘the national organisation for drivers of dangerous substances’.
These are the chaps who drive the fuel tankers, of course. They have a grievance which is to do with their professional recognition and the rights of their workers.
As a result, they have gone on strike.
The result is that there is a national fuel shortage, with airports running out and flights being cancelled, from Faro to Oporto.
Petrol stations are running out, as panic-buying takes place.
This is what has raised the ire of ‘she who must be obeyed’.
It seems that she went out yesterday to put some gasoleo, diesel, in her jeep. She motored to our local town, Tábua, and did a little shopping first.
As she arrived in the lengthy queue for fuel, she noticed a good number of carrinhas (the pick-up trucks with the wooden back, which are ubiquitous across Portugal) sporting an additional feature.
They all had one of those large plastic cubes in the flat-bed of the truck.
You know the ones I’m talking about, of course. It’s a metre cubed, hard plastic shell, often encased in metal grill to protect it. They are very common on building sites and are used for water, typically.
These cubes were empty, however, and were being filled up as a sort of insurance policy by farmers, against the likelihood of running out of fuel.
One carrinha even had two of these large cubes to be filled. Each one holds one thousand litres, and that’s about 12 normal fuel tanks. That’s about three months’ worth.
She was very cross and claimed that it was a selfish act and was, in effect, creating the very shortage which resulted.
She pointed out that if people simply took what they needed, then there would be enough for all.
She is probably right, but human nature doesn’t work that way, does it?
People are not necessarily selfish by nature, but they do wish to ‘look out for number one’.
I can remember a friend, many years ago, deliberately setting out to create a shortage.
He went around a big supermarket with his wife, in Tesco, I think.
They each had a trolley and filled them with sugar packets. Completely full.
As they went around, they tried to look a little furtive, and told everyone they met, in hushed tones, that they had heard that a sugar shortage was coming and so they were hoarding sugar.
Worryingly, many people began to copy them and soon there were trolleys full of sugar bags.
The store had a big problem very quickly and news spread fast. Before you could say ‘sucrose’, there was a shortage.
And it was totally man-made. It was artificially created by panic-buying.
This is exacerbating the difficulty in mainland Portugal.
Of course, there is going to be a shortage of fuel. The delivery is much reduced.
Nevertheless, it needn’t produce a huge problem. If only people could exercise a little restraint, a little unselfishness, but maybe I’m expecting too much.
Mike Gaunt is a former assistant headmaster at St Christopher’s School, Bahrain – firstname.lastname@example.org