Saturday, March 31, 2012

Petrol, panic and pasties

A possible strike by petrol tanker drivers gave us all the jitters this week. Although the union has to give a week's notice, and is currently in talks and therefore not likely even to set a strike date for some time, some rash comments by Government ministers about topping up sparked an instant rush for the pumps. Many stations ran dry on Thursday and today, out of the four stations between my home and Ickenham, three had no fuel.
I played my own part in this. Having read about the potential strike earlier in the week I went out on Wednesday to fill up, thinking I would be well ahead of the game. I found that the nearest petrol station to me had no fuel but the next one had supplies and I filled up my tank. So I could afford to be smug about the much longer queues reported the next two days.
It is irrational for all to us to try to fill our tanks at once because there is not enough capacity or enough pumps to make it possible. But it is perfectly rational for an individual to fill up if there is a chance to do so. Those of us who have lived through petrol shortages before know how frustrating it is once the queues start to form. Like the famous "Prisoners Dilemma" used in game theory, we know that we are making second-best decisions but are trapped by our inability to communicate and co-ordinate our actions with others.
Anyway this has little to do with commuting because I don't drive into London to go to work. And what about the pasties, you ask, that I mentioned in the headline [yes, what about the pasties?: Ed]. Well, nothing really. They also featured in the news this week, in a ludicrous follow-up to the Budget where some detailed adjustments about the VAT rules relating to hot take-away food were announced and suddenly Ministers were scrambling to establish their credentials as ordinary blokes by boasting about their pasty intake.  A sort of pastry-based panic, if you like and another form of irrationality driven by the desire to dominate news stories.
And in other news, the frogs have at last arrived in our pond but they are few in number and have produced much less frogspawn than in previous years. Well that wraps up tonight's programme and I'm off to get a pasty from my local petrol station. [Get me one too please: Ed]

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