OPINION — Well, the Russians have done it again. Which is really no surprise to those of us who grew up during the Cold War. Not that war was actually cold, but it was called the Cold War because all the good names for war had already been taken. And the Cold War wasn’t actually war. It was basically The U.S. and Russia having a big staring contest, to see which country would blink first and fire a bunch of nuclear ICBMs at the other country. So a generation of children grew up with bomb drills, where everyone in schools would crawl under their desks for a while, because of the well-known fact that a school desk is adequate protection against nuclear attack. I’m still vague on how that works.
But this time it wasn’t the Russian gubmint, as far as you know. It was a Russian cyber-criminal gang called DarkSide. So evidently Darth Vader was Russian, too. I’m thinking Steven Spielberg should’ve mentioned that at some point.
DarkSide managed to hack into the computer system that controls the Colonial Pipeline, which starts in Houston and carries petroleum products through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, every Carolina, Virginia, and a few small, insignificant states, ending up in New Jersey. The conduit supplies fuel to pretty much the entire East Coast, and DarkSide managed to shut it down, causing fuel shortages for cajuns, rednecks, Southerners, yuppies, jaw clenchers, high-noses, and several other subspecies of Americans. It was, as Jeff Foxworthy would say, pandelarium.
If it makes you feel any better, DarkSide issued a statement saying they didn’t mean to create problems for society. Really. As if shutting down the fuel supply to twenty percent of the nation wasn’t going to cause chaos. All they wanted, really, was some money. OK, a lot of money. I’ve heard Colonial Pipeline paid them $5 million to unhack the company computers, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. If I were them I’d’ve asked for a lot more than that. I see no point in taking millions of people hostage without getting enough money to buy my own island.
So the fuel is flowing again, and things are starting to get back to normal along the East Coast, or what passes for normal over there. Once people are able to pull up to the pumps and fill up again, the whole thing will become just a bad memory, that week when Jennifer wasn’t able to take David and Josh to soccer practice, and Roger had to carpool to work with Frank and Jimmy. But the memory won’t last, as horrible as the week was. It will be forgotten in a few months, at best.
Which is why it will happen again. That’s how these things work. Colonial, and other pipeline companies, will hire some computer experts to install more security systems on their computers, and announce that everything is fine now, and those bad people can’t hack our stuff anymore. Nothing to see here, folks, move along. And all the Jennifers will go back to their lives and forget about it, until some other nefarious bunch hacks something else, maybe an electrical grid or the supply line that carries grits to Georgia or sunscreen to Florida, and the whole scenario will play out again. Because it’s happened before.
Twice during the 1970s there were gas shortages all over the country, and people lined up for blocks waiting to fill up their cars. Those events weren’t caused by computer hackers, though. OPEC, the group of Middle Eastern countries where most of our oil comes from, was flexing its economic biceps, showing us how powerful it was. Which caused America to concentrate on becoming ‘energy efficient’ so this kind of thing wouldn’t happen again. Until it happened again, of course.
We started drilling for more oil, and no one made a fuss about it, because most of them had had to wait in those long gas lines. But over time that memory faded, and oil companies became the Bad Guys again, which is where we are now. It seems a lot of people don’t like oil companies until they can’t get oil products anymore. Funny how that works.
And the shortages of last week brought out the animal in some folks, too. People were buying as many gas cans as they could get their hands on, hoarding fuel just in case, so others couldn’t get any. When the gas cans were all gone they started using ice chests, milk jugs, and whatever they could find that would hold gas. Brian Kemp, the governor of Georgia, actually issued at statement on FOX News, with a straight face, telling people not to try to put gasoline in plastic bags. Because people were doing that. A guy in Florida blew up his Hummer when he had a wreck with four five-gallon gas cans in the back. It was pandelarium.
But now we’re back to normal, so we’re good. The stations have fuel again, Timmy’s at soccer practice, and Roger is back at work, stapling things and making calls. We can all go back to hating the people who provide fuel so we can live our regular, American lives. No need to worry about gas anymore.
Until the next time . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and minister who aired up his bicycle tires last week. Write to him at [email protected]