Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 3: Mojo Meeting House

         Florida mornings are quite confusing. If you can manage to fall asleep in the dead heat, you've undoubtedly shed excess clothing, and stayed still in the bugs just long enough to slip away into unconsciousness. However, a most startling shiver is what you're greeted with just before sunrise. Having sweated all night, once the temperature does drop your body loses heat quite quickly. It takes a good while in a hot shower to shake the shock of it off. Only after a core temperature reset can I begin wondering where to take the day.

          The first thing I needed turned out to be everything I needed: coffee. I stepped into MOJO'S coffee shop on a corner just before the bridge to Perdido Key's tall beachfront hotels. Although I didn't know it at the time, I would be here in the same seat for the next 8 hours. Shortly after I sat down, I realized I was sitting in on a revolving network of concerned individuals, the first of whom I met was named Darla. She volunteered here at the coffee shop a few days per week, but was currently just in to grab a cup of  joe. She introduced me to her husband, a firefighter at the local navy base, and they continued with their conversation about the goings-on of West Pensacola. Joining them was a charter fishing captain from England, and a surfer. They were talking over the issue of booms. Because of Florida's comparatively limited involvement with the oil drilling industry, the booms were not as heavily invested in as, say, Alabama or Louisiana. The problems that it's leading to now are two-fold: Even as the municipalities along the coast are running out of 3' boom, and are forced to use the less ideal 1' boom, existing lines have been getting cut by ignorant boaters who want to either enter or exit a harbor. The utter frustrated fury that this evoked was clear.

          Another problem, which many were currently concerned about, is the loss of income in cases of undocumented work and revenue. What happens, as an example, if you are employed as a waiter or waitress at a seafood restaurant and you can't prove how much of your income was from tips? And it's not just food servers who have this problem to consider, but bartenders, taxi drivers, entertainers, and especially fishing charter employees.

            But the deepest concerns, above all the problems and nuances of the implementation of compensation, are questions still much more fundamental: WHEN will it be shut off? And HOW does BP expect to possibly 'pay' for all the irrevocable damage it has already done, and continues to do to the many miles of Gulf Coast. They are fair questions, given the straining possibility of a BP bankruptcy, and the ugly, as-of-yet unsorted, legal snarl which includes not just BP, but Haliburton, Transocean, and even the Mineral Management Service, a U.S. government agency. These questions are important, but nobody seems to have an answer. I wondered if there was any good answer at all, but my input would have surely already occurred to everyone in the room.

           That night I thought hard about these problems, and wound myself up until it was almost 3 AM. Where can I try to answer these questions?

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