Things are bad
when a litre of petrol costs more than a litre of Coke! Things must be bad when
the poor have to compete with the rich for scarce resources. You know things are
really bad when the International Association of Hitch Hikers puts out a press
This group is
not well known outside its constituents. The people who form the membership of
the IAHH are drawn from the lower socio-economic strata of our society and are
not usually in a position to put out press releases. This situation has changed
somewhat as the IAHH has now been joined in their fight against the rich by the
International Taxi Confederation. The ITC has lent its resources to the IAHH and
they have joined forces to stop what they say is a disturbing trend.
A well known
phenomenon associated with the wealthy is their aversion to spending their own
money. In what is seen by the global taxi industry and hitchhikers as a growing
movement, men and women in business suits and bling are taking to the streets
and putting out “the thumb”.
The “thumb” is
the internationally recognised symbol of poverty and hardship. It has also been
associated with the young and adventurous. However the hitchhiker’s movement
claims that the young and carefree are not prepared to slum it any longer,
preferring instead the luxury of the flight lounge and cheap overseas holidays.
Building on this decline in youthful exuberance, hitchhikers have taken back
“the thumb” and are prepared to fight to defend their claim to it.
costs spiralling a new movement has been created within the backrooms of the
boardrooms at the big end of town. The bean counters have finally convinced
their peers that having a corporate car is more that just a status symbol. They
successfully argued that if the executives wanted to be able to continue to
enjoy the trappings of wealth they would have to give something up. That thing,
they argued, was the car.
blowing out, the bean counters wailed. Profits are slumping and that means one
thing. We must cut costs. When one executive butted in and said that he was just
going to sack more workers, he was reminded that the company had already done
that and there was no one left to sack. After much discussion and funding of
academic research to give their claims some validity, there was, in the end,
almost unanimous support for giving back the keys to the company car.
funded by these canny business types found that the average driver was much less
willing to pick up someone who looked poor than someone with bling. Feeling very
self confident and even more self important, the business types even managed to
feel justified as they handed back the keys to the company Pajeros, Fairlanes,
V8 Supersports and their beloved Mercs, BMs and Jags.
And so it is we
come to competition on the highways and byways of the world. The wealthy
competing with the poor for seat space due to the petrol crisis. However, as
they say not everything works out for the best. As competition for the spare car
seat becomes even more intense as thousands of suits take to the roads, those in
the middle class realised that a new market was opening up. So, instead of
offering the ride as an act of mateship and solidarity, motorists have started
charging for a ride.
It was not long
before things got out of hand. As more and more company executives succumbed to
this new form of downshifting competition for rides increased. At the start
motorists were prepared to only charge for the ride. Drivers viewed this new
phenomenon as little more than a tea money generator but it was not long before
a new set of road rules emerged. Under these new rules drivers would not
disclose their fares until the hitchhiker was in the car seated and belted up.
The more entrepreneurial drivers began basing fares on a correlation of gross
income to distance travelled. Some just demanded that the bling laden business
type hand over the contents of their wallets or get out.
consequence of this rise of the hitchhiking business executive was a reduction
in available car space for the genuine poor and needy. They found that their
rides dried up in direct proportion to the number of executives in each car.
With public trust already on the wane genuine hitchhikers found that this new
competition was just too difficult to beat on their own.
collaboration with the International Taxi Confederation the International
Association of Hitch Hikers formed an alliance to fight the downturn in business
both faced. After all, taxi drivers were just as affected by the new trends in
business class travel, as it is now referred to. Business executives had long
argued that a separate taxi system was needed just for them. One in which they
could be sure the last passenger was not a hep riddled junky on the way home
from their latest bender. While the new business class travel opportunities
provide only about the same odds as the random taxi pick-up the cost benefit
ratio was much higher.
And so it is
that two sides of the street face off as increasing fuel costs sort at the
natural order of things. Those too poor to afford a vehicle or whose luck has
waned must now compete with those who luck, inheritance, mates or fate have
elevated to the upper strata of our society for the ability to travel freely
across town or across the nation. Taxi drivers, themselves often working for
little more that survival money, find they must compete with the family car for
the business dollar. Meanwhile, in the backrooms and boardrooms of the
multinational oil companies, the bean counters plan their retirements on
exclusive and secluded tropical islands.
As in all cases
the issue is one of resources and who has access to controlling the distribution
of them. As the campaign to drive the suits and their bling off the roads
becomes more obvious, we should spare a thought for the hitchhikers. They remind
us, as we speed past them in our air conditioned, climate controlled, hands-free
people movers that those who lug their earthly possessions around in stripy
plastic bags are not really that different to those who drape themselves in
them is an artificial barrier constructed over millennia. A barrier that is not
part of the natural order but one which is man made. Hitchhikers and suits both
share a common humanity. What they don’t share are resources. Not because they
cant but because one group doesn’t want to. Perhaps one day soon the men in
suits will have to descend into the jungle they helped cultivate and I suggest
this will really put to the test their faith in economic Darwinism. Perhaps they
will finally see their trickle down effect in action. Maybe then they may even
appreciate the offer of a swig from a refilled coke bottle.