In 1979, with a major oil crisis in full swing, the U.S. implemented odd-even rationing of gas: If your vehicle’s license plate number ended in an odd number, you could buy gas on odd-numbered days, and the same deal applied for even-numbered license plates and dates.
Did this help reduce consumption or lines?
Nobody can agree. But mixed results will never stop Americans from asserting control over a situation with arbitrary organizational rules. USA! USA!
The COVID-19 catastrophe presents another launch point for this kind of thinking. A major question as different institutions and businesses reopen is how to cut down on capacity — with some cases suggesting that spaced seating and a 25 percent cap on crowd size is still not enough to mitigate the spread of the virus. It’s possible our Social Security numbers will end up determining our access to the hair salon on a given day of the week, but more likely, we’ll once again be sorted by the first letter of our surnames, just as we were in school.
Ah, cruel alphabetization — keeping libraries orderly, but also keeping us separated from our crush.
If indeed I am to share the next stage of pandemic response with my fellow “K”s, it wouldn’t be the bleakest fate: I’d have MEL’s Eddie Kim as company. When we’re struggling to get by in the FEMA relief camps for “K” names, we’ll lead raids on the Kardashians’ luxury tents for supplies. On the other hand, “K” is stuck in the middle of the alphabet, and rarely acquires any privilege — never the lucky first, “A,” or the fortunate last, “Z.” I’m not looking forward to being the 11th group in line for the vaccine. Why didn’t my ancestors foresee this problem? “Klee.”
It’s dumb, though I guess every other solution is even dumber. I just hope I don’t have to give an oral presentation in history or do the sit-up test again. Maybe, if we ever get back to “normal,” we can have a giant yearbook of every American who survived this shitshow, with funny quotes and stuff.
Until then, looks like I’ll have my designated socially-distant bar nights with Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. Things could be worse, honestly. At least this way I won’t be in the same lunch period as Elon Musk.