Saturday, March 19, 2011

Blackout cancelled

Teiden chuushi!

I think it's the forecast for warm weather that made TEPCO decide there would be no blackout today. Everyone seems a little happier and a little more energetic...which is kind of dangerous for two reasons.

1. People have been turning to bicycles because of the gas shortages. This is a wonderful idea in theory, but the fact is that some of these bicycles are older models that haven't been ridden in a very long time, and some of these riders are older models that haven't ridden in a while. So you're driving along on a road without a sidewalk, and there's an older model riding an older model, and just as you are about to pass them, they totter in your direction...OK, I made the last part up, but I am sure it is a definite possibility!

2. If you are going to wait in line for gas, you'd want to do it on a warm day, so that you don't end up like the guy who died of carbon monoxide poisoning because he was trying to stay warm using a portable kerosene stove in his car while he was waiting in line for gas. So off you go to the gas station, where the line is already almost a kilometer long at 9:00...and the gas station is scheduled to open at 11:00. So there's cars that end up in line for gas when they thought it was just your garden variety traffic jam, and they suddenly realize it isn't your garden variety traffic jam, but quake/ tsunami-induced panic buying-induced gas shortage-induced long line for gas, and they try to get out of the line without so much as a turn signal. OK, I made the last part up, but only the last part. And I'm sure it has happened, just not in front of me.

I finally understand the hoarding/ panic buying mentality after having made a weekend grocery run. The crowd waiting for the store to open an hour later than usual, the unheated, dark store congested with shopping carts, the occasional empty shelf. The atmosphere of doom almost induced me to buy bread and milk I didn't really need.

I was thinking that the panic-induced (and not actual supply/ demand discrepancy induced) gas shortage would die down by now, but it hasn't. Yesterday, my mom's friend's husband went to the gas station at 6 in the morning. At 10, when my mom's friend delivered sandwiches and coffee to him on her bicycle, he was still in line...

You're finally seeing regular programming on TV. The regular networks were all about the nuclear reactor and the trains in Tokyo stopping. Since TV is all about getting people to watch until the commercials, I guess the marketing choice would be nuclear reactors as opposed to nice people in the refugee shelters trying their very best to keep their cool among blackouts and shortages. So you prop up a nuclear physicist next to your newscaster, ask him (I'm sure there are woman nuclear physicists in this country, they just haven't been shown on TV) if this situation is bad, and he'll say "oh yes, this is very bad, much much worse than Three Mile Island. The radiation level is 20,000 times higher than usual". And people will be glued to the set ("20,000 TIMES!!!") and start to get angry at the government (it's not the government's fault, if it's anyone's fault it would be TEPCO's, and possibly General Electric's) and afraid for their health and start buying Betadine (upon which you would have lost their viewership but not their attention).

Notice how few doctors there are next to the newscasters in these shows? That's probably because all the doctors are too busy dealing with the panic-induced phone calls and hospital visits by people who watched these newscasts in the safety of their living rooms while drinking tea. As opposed to dealing with one of the Fukushima 50. Or, when contacted, will say "meh" which isn't going to get as much attention as someone saying "this is awful this is disaster this is ARMAGEDONN!" (never mind that the nuclear physicist might not actually be Christian...)

The most helpful bit of information I learned this past week is that when you do animal research on the thyroid, you should never, never, never, ever use "iodine-free" animal feed made in Japan because it will skew your lab results. Always use made in USA or EU. Why? Because all food made in Japan contains iodine, no matter what it is. So unless you've lived outside Japan for the past several months and just arrived in Japan during the past week, your thyroid is safe.

Unless you're part of the Fukushima 50. These people are in real danger, and they know it. They are heros worthy of the highest praise. But unless you're actually in the 20km area (in which case you probably should talk to a health care professional in person, and stop checking blogs of people you don't know), don't go out and buy Betadine and take a swig, OK? Have some miso soup or something, it's comforting (and it contains iodine!).

No comments: