The Day the Dollar Died (Part XIX)
XIX. No Sharing Allowed
Filed under: The Day The Dollar Died Series
by John Galt
February 15, 2010
February 26, 2010 4:54 P.M. Mountain Time
Wendy was exasperated. After six hours of being put on hold on the telephone, when it worked, and yelling at clerks like herself at various levels of the bureaucratic tree, she thinks that all of the proper approvals have finally been received and was going to try to get some peace so she could sleep well tonight. She pressed the number on her phones and as soon as the ever friendly voice spoke on the other end of the phone Wendy piped up, “Ms. Steinburg, can I see you before I go? I have an update from the meeting we had this morning.” Candy sounded pleased on the phone and in her ever cheerful voice replied, “Of course Wendy, but let’s make it quick. I have a one hour drive and curfew time is approaching!” Wendy grabbed the file, all of her notes and swallowed the last of her warm Diet Pepsi and ran down the hallway, pausing for no chit-chat and knowing her mission was to clean her record up so she could go shopping without being harassed ever again. She knocked on the door and was pleased to see Candy open it for her saying, “Please Wendy, sit down and calm down. I know you’ve had a full day,” and with that she shut the door and locked it.
Wendy took a deep breath, sat down in the same chair she sat in hours earlier and exhaled. “Ma’am, I’ think I have this resolved,” Wendy spoke slowly so as to be quite clear in this conversation, “the Denver office of FEMA and HSA assures me that I will have an approval on my fax machine or email in the morning. The Colorado state department head said that they would put a security over ride on the request and approve the permit without question and a courier would shuttle it down in the morning with our daily mail. I do not know what else I can do and I hope this does not get me in trouble with my department heads. I’m scared.” Candy stepped out from behind her desk and sat down on the edge, less than a few feet from Wendy and tried to reassure her, “Ms. Listels, let me warn you and make you feel better at the same time. This morning I was about to issue a written warning to you for your actions if you did not cooperate with Frank. He’s an important man in the bureaucratic chain of command and our boss said that we have to cooperate with him at all cost to insure that we continue to receive proper funding or are not superseded by a Federal agency to replace us. You have done your state and your nation a great service. But I must warn you, you will be watched for weeks to come so do everything by the letter of the law and if you are not sure, please, don’t act, ask.”
As Candy put her hand on Wendy’s wrist and squeezed it so as to convey the seriousness of the situation, she winced and fell back into the chair to take in what has Candy just said. “Ms. Steinburg, if you don’t mind, I need to find out something,” Wendy began, “if it is a problem, I’ll go away. I just need to know why my Safeway where I guess I got into so much trouble was so well stocked. I talked to another employee here who lives in Fountain and they said their store shelves are stripped bare. I don’t get it?” Candy stood up, grabbed some gum and started chomping away as she settled into her chair, knowing full well the answer would disturb Wendy if she gave her the spin or the truth. “Ms. Listels,” Candy began, “for the record, the food and groceries are being distributed on what is known as a priority schedule or as-needed basis. Those communities which are deemed as unsafe for resupply or outside the safety zones are getting materials as escorts permit. Now off the record, and I swear you’ll never know what hit you if you repeat this, off the record, materials are being assigned based on population and location next to military depots. Thankfully for you the United States Air Force Academy is just outside of town plus a major university. Otherwise you would be like those rednecks in Pueblo who are getting ration limits only and MRE’s as we can get them there via truck. As far as we are concerned in this community we can not share our resources because the government says so. And with only one week into what appears to be a six month crisis according to the bureaucracy in Washington.”
Wendy was stunned. “You mean to tell me, that we have it better because of the soldiers and no other reason?” she asked in amazement. “Yes, Ms. Listels, that is the truth,” Candy began, ” and you have to know that they will keep the soldiers and bureaucrats happy first so to keep things running and secure. If you say a word about this outside this office I’ll pick up the phone though and you’ll be smashing rocks with the other malcontents. Just go along, get along and keep doing your job and you’ll get ahead young lady. The minute you cross a superior though, God help you. You won’t know what hit you.” Wendy’s eyes started to redden as she wanted to scream, yell, and vent but then her common sense, what little she had, grabbed a hold of her and she politely answered back, “Thank you Ms. Steinburg, you’ve solved the riddle for me.”
February 26, 2010 11:09 P.M. Central Time, in Southern Illinois
The darkness was getting to everyone but the road was slow going due to the horrid conditions in Wisconsin and around Rockford and that created a major delay in the convoy which was crawling sough on I-57. “Convoy exit at Marion in fifteen to thirty minutes. All units check in on channel thirty-one with convoy dispatch. This is security leader Bravo Victor One, over,” the C.B. blared out on channel thirty-four. As Mike tuned his radio down three notches to confirm receipt of the instructions he could not help but notice that he was passing through one of the interchanges of an old shortcut through the country in West Frankfort, IL. The town did not look the same though as the exit ramps was marked with plywood signs saying “FEDERALS NOT WELCOME” and “KILL ALL THE BANKERS” nailed over the green signs which marked the exits. He also noticed big rigs with flat tires blocking the exit ramp southbound and a sign spray painted on the back that said “NO EXIT HERE” which really bothered him as there were some good chow places in that small town.
“Unit one-zero-four confirming receipt of last message,” Mike uttered into the mike then immediately he switched channels to a local channel, twenty-seven, to see if anyone was talking about what was happening. “Did you see the size of that convoy?” the voice uttered out on the lower sideband channel twenty-seven, “there has to be over one hundred trucks and at least five Strykers and dozens of Humvees!” The excited voice on the radio either did not care they would be heard by the authorities or wanted them to be known that they were being watched. Mike gambled because he knew these types were not ready for any deviation from the rules, “Break locals, break, info needed,” Mike uttered on to the local channel. There was dead silence for what seemed like an hour as Mike and the convoy crawled south of town at forty miles per hour when a voice came back, “Convoy or is this another nut?” Mike knew he only had time for one question before the radio went nuts so he worded it carefully, “Do you folks have enough food or are you being rationed?” The radio went silent again and mike tuned up quickly to the convoy channel to see if any chatter had begun about the unauthorized contact but it was just business as usual with the Stryker team talking to the lead vehicles. As Mike tuned it back down to the local channel a voice came on the air yelling, “You bastards! We haven’t seen a truck in seven days and the governor is trying to starve us out. Who the heck cares? Is that one of you goons in the armor taking time to taunt us as the food passes us by again?”
Mike knew better than to respond. But he was considering what to do next. It would appear that the plans his local friend, Deputy Monckton, had warned him about years ago might just be coming true. Where food was routed to the major cities and the rural folks left to fend for themselves. The thought of forcing people out of the small towns to comply with the D.C. planners angered Mike and he reached into his center console to make sure the pistol was still there, ready to. As he closed the console he noticed he had the radio on the wrong channel and switched it back quickly. “Unit one-oh-four are you there? What the heck are you doing in there?” the voice blared out. Mike grabbed the handset and started to key down when a spotlight shined in his face from the passenger side of his vehicle. One of the Strykers had sped up and a spot light was beaming on Mike as he tried to reply, “Dangit, turn the spot light off, I’m here, I had the squelch up. I was waiting to see if that noise I had heard north of town was my wife calling on the cell phone. You boys need to calm down or cut back on the greenies.” The voice squawked back to him, “You need to keep that squelch down sir. We needed to advise you that our exit is up ahead. We will fuel, grab some grub and whatever else we need to press on for delivery in the morning. This is Unit one-one, out!”
The blare of Radio America on WOWO was getting old for Mike but at least the exit they were approaching would give him a chance to stretch out, fuel up and get ready for the wild day ahead. “This is WOWO with an announcement just released by the Governor of Iowa that the state of emergency for the state and citizens of Iowa would be discontinued effective at midnight Monday, March 1, 2010 with the approval of and assistance of the Federal Governor, Senator Tom Harkin appointed to help our great state with the transition. More news in the morning as it becomes available and we will update all of our Des Moines’ residents as more information becomes available. The President will also be making another historic announcement on Sunday night, February 28 at eight p.m. Eastern Time to address the nation’s concerns as there has been a lot of misinformation about the state of emergency and alleged problems some citizens have claimed to report. Now more of Radio America and the news you need for all the truckers and listeners in the upper Mid West! Congrats to all of the citizens of Iowa for being cooperative and not allowing the rabble to ruin our patriotic history!”
Mike wanted to shoot his radio or vomit but he was torn. In just over six hours he was supposed to deliver to a mystery distribution center in western Tennessee and there was no guarantee that a new convoy to get him home would be established. His Qualcomm unit had become an information only source with no outbound communications possible and the goons with the fifty calibers had insured that talking to locals would be a dangerous proposition. As the trucks slowed down and the brake lights lined up as far as the eye could see, Mike knew that he would be confronted by the operational leader from the Home Guard unit assigned to the convoy about his lax concerns on radio communications. The question was though, would he have the chutzpa to confront him face to face alone or would he bring lots of guys with guns to intimidate him or try to force him off of his truck? Mike thought about this for a second and decided to not take a chance and took the pistol out of his center console and slid it into the upper inside pocket of his coat. “Screw them,” he thought to himself, “if they make a play they are not taking my truck so I can not get home.”
As Mike waited for the rookie in front of him to learn how to back into a tight space, he just lost it and hit the air horn and grabbed the microphone and yelled into the radio, “Rookie, go back to driving for the circus or park the damned thing. Holy smokes I could have put five rigs into the hole by now. Get it in gear son!” The rookie replied back with a stream of obscenities and reminded Mike that this was for official convoy business only to which Mike replied, “Yeah, but at your pace even the Spam will spoil. Get a grip ROOK!” As the rookie finally parked his rig, Mike began to back in when the horrific and unmistakable sound of metal hitting metal was heard near the interstate. Mike turned the C.B. up and listened as he parked his truck, “Send Medivac to Marion, IL immediately. Stryker has lost control and rolled over on a Humvee due to the ice. Send medics here immediately. Exit 548, I-57, do not delay, multiple injuries. One dead. Over.” Mike shrugged his shoulder and thought to himself, “Hmmm, might be able to sneak a shower in while everyone watches the circus.”
With that bit of information Mike casually walked against the flow of curious onlookers into the truck stop and went straight to the front desk where an exhausted young lady cut him off before he said one word, “Convoy, right? What do you need? Fuel ticket, here. Shower ticket, here. Food ticket, here.” The young lady handed three red cards with the “HG CONVOY” lettering at the top and Mike proceeded to the lockers where only two other souls had ventured. “Ugh, you thought the same thing I did,” the voice on the other side of the room said. Mike replied, “Yup, I’ve seen wrecks before so why miss an opportunity to clean up since we may not get to for another week the way things are going. Did you hear WOWO tonight?” The other driver said he didn’t and Mike filled him in on the news. “Well, that doesn’t do me any good. I haven’t been home in a month and after we unload in Memphis I am tempted to run the Home Guard roadblocks and head for the Southern Zone.” Mike looked puzzled and just had to ask, “What the heck is this zone you are talking about? I’m from upper Minnesota and the news is pretty sparse up there as you could imagine.” The driver started spinning wild tales about thousands of locals rising up and attacking Federal installations in southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana, and western Mississippi. Mike grabbed his towel, slid into his shower shoes and his kit as he put the padlock on the locker door before he replied. “Son, I’ve been around this nation a dozen times plus, and for some reason I just can not believe that anyone is fighting against this idiocy. Either you’re a Fed trying to find someone to bust or a troublemaker but if you are telling the truth,” Mike paused, took a swig of bottled water then continued,” I pray you make it home okay. You have no idea what this situation entails and if your own people will view you as a friendly or the enemy now either way. So you had best have more than one plan other than pulling into your driveway and patting the hound dog on the head.” Mike cleaned up, got dressed and headed over to the diner where there were plenty of seats but little service. He wondered if the wreck on the interstate had everyone’s attention or if more stupidity was in store for the early morning as the fiasco that this convoy was turning into would begin to filter into every stop, every radio communications and every waking moment until this stupid load of canned meat was off of his truck.
Just when Mike thought everything would be resuming some sense of normalcy a waitress approached with a tray and set it down in front of him. “Here’s your coffee, two NutraSweet, one fruit bowl, one quarter cup of Eggbeater scramble, one piece of wheat toast, one strip of turkey bacon and one turkey sausage link, and one half cup of oatmeal. I hope you enjoy your meal sir,” she paused and grabbed the ticket off of the table, “And is there anything else we can get for you?” Mike looked at the table, the stunned driver across from him and back up at the waitress, “Uh, yes Ma’am, I didn’t order this crap. What kind of food is this?” She shook here head, “Old man, I knew you’d say that. It’s what your commander ordered for everyone. You can take it or go hungry, we don’t care because we don’t get tips from these government convoys anyways, just harassed.” Mike stared her down and said sternly, “Yup, I’m an old man. But I didn’t feed my chickens bullcrap before I lopped their heads off. Did the commander put you up to this or what?” Before Mike could get a reply the second in command walked in and started his routine after hearing the exchange, “Mr. Elmendorff, you can shut your yap now please and that goes for any other drivers. We will not have the morale of this convoy run down by malcontents! We have determined that due to rationing the government experts on nutrition formulas for daily caloric intake will be sufficient based on what we feed you. So you men can all accept the crappy situation we are in, thank the waitresses and enjoy your meals or starve and we’ll find a replacement driver and leave you behind when you are too weak to carry on.” Mike just started eating and then spoke up, “Pass the hot sauce please.” With a major dousing of Crystal sauce and black pepper the meal was edible. Yet Mike knew this feud with him and the commanders was not over. He wondered if something back home had caught their attention or if his service record made them nervous. Either way he knew he could never leave his gun behind because the soldiers of this new Home Guard were not the type he felt he could trust, and he sensed and heard the same from many other veterans in the convoy.
As they finished their meals, Mike and several other drivers went to the break area to watch some television and check the news according to the government this early morning, the second in command called out, “Mike Elmendorff, can I see you for a second please sir.” Mike looked at the other drivers, shrugged his shoulder and snapped out, “I guess I’m in trouble. Off to the Principal’s office I go.” The other drivers cracked up but Mike was not smiling and could feel the anger building inside of that short tempered brain of his. The second escorted Mike around the corner and said, “Sir, due to your military experience we are moving you up to second in the convoy behind the commander’s Humvee and the decoy truck. PFC Andrew will ride shotgun with you and help to protect your vehicle and your life. Just do everything he says and you will be fine.” Mike glanced at the twenty-two year old black man and almost rolled his eyes when he decided to ask, “So how much combat experience do you have son?” PFC Andrews replied, “None sir, and I hope to not get any.” Mike shook his head and asked another one, “Well, how much military experience do you have? Training or field time?” The PFC looked down at the floor, “I have ninety days Home Guard training in basic and two weeks training in urban warfare. This is my thirty-ninth day in the field. If you don’t mind my asking, how much experience do you have Mike?” Mike was taken aback by the casual attitude and sudden use of his first name by a complete stranger by someone in uniform, something he was never allowed to do when he was in the service. “Son,” Mike started to talk in a very slow, deliberate, almost controlled anger manner, “I was killing gooks in the Iron Triangle when your daddy was a wet dream. And I was knee deep in blood in Cambodia during the Mayaguez incident. So trust me, I’ve killed more folks and had more rounds fired at me than you’ve could ever practice with. The PFC was not impressed and simply replied, “Never heard of any of those places. I guess that was one of those police actions that didn’t matter that much to our teachers.”
Mike wanted to shove the PFC’s shotgun someplace where he thought it would do more good but he thought better of it and simply said, “Let’s go. It’s time to saddle up and this is going to be the longest four hour plus drive of my life, so let’s get it over with.”