Sorry to disappoint, boys and girls, but I survived my weeklong repast

in the wilds of the Florida Panhandle. No, I didn’t finish either of

the books I took along (though I’m a fair way into Snow Crash,

and suddenly I get the inside jokes signified by a few TR aliases). The

major pastime for the trip was watching Katrina news coverage and

analysis, which was made far more resonant by our proximity to the

damage. We suffered no major incidents, other than a gas shortage that

saw us coast into our destination on fumes, but did witness lots of

emergency personnel and volunteers heading back and forth along I-65

and I-10, which made for some interesting sights (props to the guy who

drove the Geo Metro from Alaska to Alabama).

We were pretty well east of the physical Katrina impact, but there were

several non-physical effects to be felt. Besides the gas shortage

(which is still pretty serious in some spots, especially in rural

zones), we passed a few evacuee shelters, and pretty much every

business was offering hefty discounts to people with Louisiana,

Mississippi, and Alabama driver’s licenses (the going rate is a 50%

markdown). We had to make a few trips to the local Wal-Mart and Home

Depot in search of gas cans for the return trip (a scarce commodity,

to be sure), and we saw families buying furnishings and building

supplies, readying for a return trip they weren’t sure would ever come.

We felt a little guilty taking our vacation during this whole mess,

even though it was scheduled months in advance and couldn’t practically

be moved. I guess we did our part to keep the economy going, and I’d

like to think we’ve donated as generously as we could (the local

messages we saw down there continuously reiterated “We have enough

volunteers and leftover supplies, send cash!”). It just made for an

unusual trip, and I’m strangely glad to be back at my desk, being

productive, getting my own world a little more normal again. That’s a

luxury a staggering number of people are a long way from being able to