Monday, June 24, 2013

First World Standards

Here in the first world we've become accustomed to many services and products being generally available.  When they aren't, some people aren't sure how to act.  This was brought to light this weekend for me through a few instances.

First, we lost power again.  The last time this happened the neighbors came by to borrow lights.  This time we saw the storm rolling in and left home for a meeting we were attending anyway.  We just got to the meeting early and avoided getting soaked.  But we returned home to no power, and I wondered whether the neighbors had been by to borrow things again.

Earlier that day on of my neighbors came by to ask for assistance.  They've been there for a few years and I've always been friendly and helpful.  I've helped with the woman's car a couple times.  There is a guy who lives there as well, but it seems he's away from time to time.  I'm going to (probably falsely) assume he travels a bit for work, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a job.

But anyway, the two adults in their house are in their 30's, but don't seem to know a lot about fixing things.  Or own their own tools.  But whatever, I don't mind helping.  In this case their air conditioner wasn't working properly.  When I got there, it was obvious what was going on.  On the unit outside the fan was running but the compressor was not.  I pulled the covers off and inspected the wiring and it looked good.  I turned it on manually and the fan came on and some sparks shot out of the compressor.  I then told them it was time to consult a professional, it's not a job I could (or would be willing most likely) to do on my own for them.  But at least they narrowed it down so they could call a service person.

But what struck me is that neither of them had any idea about what to do other than call someone to fix it.  What if that person didn't exist?  Houses built in the last 60 years just don't work without climate control.  They aren't built to heat with fireplaces and ventilate in the summer.  So it's something that is needed.

I'm quite fond of my first world conveniences as well.  On Friday I ran a shooting day for a yearly gathering of a group I volunteer with.  It's 5 days of seminars, new friends, canoeing and a visit to the range for people who are so inclined.  After running about in the blazing sun all day I was so happy I got to go home for my shower and AC at the end of the day rather than camp with the rest of the attendees.  I love showers and being able to get clean whenever I choose.  I'd be quite upset to not have that.

Ponder a world where your neighbors couldn't get gas for their car.  Or electricity.  Or their ATM card stopped working.  Or the local grocery store stopped getting regular shipments.  How would they react?  It's a nice mental exercise to go through to prepare yourself for that.  In other countries people are more used to sporadically available services and products.  But in the US it could quite quickly turn to civil unrest.  Being prepared to weather a bit of that would place you at an advantage over people who are not.

Stay safe out there!

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