Archive for April 23rd, 2010

Lines, shortages, rationing and those wonderful things the Chavez revolution has given us

April 23, 2010

Tomorrow I go on a very special trip, I will likely post, but don’t necessarily count on it, if I relax too much you may not read much from me. It will be nice to get away, life is getting rough down here and I am not talking about politics, I am talking about the daily details, the grind.

While everyone talks about shortages, there are some undesirable effects that sometimes you don’t realize. This week, I went to the supermarket to get my usual lunch, some fruit that I eat at my desk. This is efficient and it’s a simple task, I go to a market with a tiny parking lot, so that there are never lines at noon.

Except this week, on two different days I had the bad luck that items of which there is a shortage were available, if albeit very briefly. The first day there was milk and the cell phone shortage network was quite active, there were maybe twenty people ahead of me and I managed to get in the shortest line. Mind you, the milk was not even liquid, it was bags of awful tasting (to me) powdered milk, but clearly people were desperate, the lady behind me asked me if I was buying some, I said no, so she asked if I could buy two bags for her (Limit two bags per customer). I did, it was a complicated transaction, I paid for my stuff, then I paid for the two bags of powdered milk with her money and gave her the change and, of course, the bags. The pear I had for lunch was delicious, but it certainly took too much effort to get it.

Just my luck, the next day the market had soft margarine, another item of which there is a shortage, lines were shorter, maybe only ten people. I decided to participate in the hoarding, I know we run out of margarine regularly, as I was leaving I realized this was not the “light” stuff my wife usually buys but it was the “good” brand she likes, I hope its ok, she hasn’t said anything so far.

Then, I get a call from my sister’s boyfriend, my sister is trapped in the elevator in the building where I work. It’s the same effect, there is a shortage of spare parts, little maintenance, elevators even in the best buildings and malls of the country mostly don’t work. People get trapped, this time one of my (seven) sisters. Hey! We are Catholic!

I get back to the building where my office is and see some guys working on the elevators of the building and I tell them my sister is trapped. They look at them, only three of the six work, but that is what is expected. The three “good”” ones are working, so what gives?

Shoot, by the time I get in touch with her, I realize my sister is trapped in the parking lot elevator, not in the building. But she is out! Relief overall, she was in the only one of the two elevators to the parking lot that work, so when I left the office I had to walk down. Take a positive approach: Great exercize!

This morning, I got up at the usual time, read the news, then time for a shower. Plenty of time before rationing kicks in, twenty minutes to spare. Soap up, shampoo in, water pressure dies, I have suds all over the place as I try to catch every single drop that comes my way. I even kneel on the floor as the pressure dies! In the end, I dry mostly soap off and off to work, sticky, but smelling good.

I try to make a fuss when I go down asking why the water was shut off twenty minutes early, the lady (wife of the superintendent) smiles, laughing: “Oh! I made a mistake, I though we had changed the hours, but I have just been told I was wrong.”  What can I tell her? She was not even at the meeting when the time to stop rationing in the morning was not changed. She was just confused. No point arguing or getting mad.

So, hopefully, by the time I come back in ten days, a year and a decade older, things will have improved, my Electric Bill will come without a penalty, thanks to my efforts and the water rationing will be gone.

That is my hope, but somehow it is just wishful thinking. Things tend to get worse, not better.

At least I got some of those foreign exchange bonds at a 50% discount to the parallel swap rate, so hell, I should thank the revolution for at least one of their stupidities…