Take Your Time, George, The Oil Will Be There

Posted: April 12, 1989

That's what I like," said Slats Grobnik, with a snort and a snicker. "I like a guy who doesn't make any snap decisions."

Who are you talking about?

"Who else? Our new leader, the commander in chief, the great horseshoe player, President Bush."

What has brought on your sudden admiration?

"Well, I just heard he said the big oil leak in Alaska is the oil company's fault, but he's going to send in troops to help clean it up anyway."

I think that is a decision we can all agree on.

"Right, and what I like is he just didn't rush in there with any whatchacallits."

Premature conclusions?

"That's right. He took two weeks to think it over. He didn't make up his mind right away like I did."

You did?

"Yeah, as soon as it happened, I figured if it is Exxon's boat, and they run it into some rocks, and it's their oil that's spilling all over the ocean, it's their fault."

I think most people thought that way.

"And then when they gave the captain of the ship the old breath test, and they find out he was loaded to the gills, I says, that's it, they're in trouble. This had to be the worst DUI case in history."

Why the worst?

"Look at it this way. How wide is Chicago?"

About 10 miles.

"Right. Now, that's how wide the safe route was the boat could go through and not have to worry about hitting rocks. As wide as Chicago."

It would seem like a comfortable leeway.

"Sure, and remember, if you're driving down a street and you drift over maybe two, three feet and cross the center line, and a cop sees you do it, he'll probably pull you over and check you out. But I never heard of anybody being so loaded that they drift from the middle of the city five miles out into the suburbs or the other way into Lake Michigan. I mean, that thing in Alaska has to be the DUI to end all DUIs."

Of course, you're talking about a ship, not a car.

"Yeah. But a ship has got all that electronic stuff that tells you what direction you're going, and how deep the water is, and beepers that go off if you go the wrong way. My car don't even have a gas gauge that works."

Nor did Christopher Columbus' ship, now that you mention it.

"OK, so like I said, right after it happened, I figured it was the oil company's fault. Especially when I read they didn't have enough equipment to sop up all the spilt oil, and they had cut back on the payroll by getting rid of some of their spilt-oil experts."

A short-sighted move.

"So I'm waiting for Bush to do something. I mean, this is one of the worst things we've ever done to nature. And we haven't been exactly kind to the birds and the bees, and the fish and the flowers. But all he says is something like 'Mmmm, I gotta give this some thought.' "

Yes, but an executive has to delegate, look at a problem from all sides, consider his options and find a reasonable course of action.

"Right. Except I keep thinking if a bunch of fishermen who probably didn't finish high school know it's a crisis from day one, and any Eskimo knows it's a crisis, and even the sea otters know it's a crisis, why does it take the president two weeks to figure out it's a crisis and do something?"

I have to assume he was confident the oil company was capable of dealing with the problem.

"That figures. You got an oil company that lets some boozer run a ship, and you know real fast it don't have enough equipment to clean up the oil, but you're confident they can handle the job. If there's ever a fire in the White House, I hope he dials the fire department, and not some pizza joint."

But, as you pointed out, he has finally concluded Exxon must bear all

financial responsibility, and he has sent in military personnel to help with the cleanup.

"Yeah, that's nice. But I wonder if there are any personal-injury lawyers who will represent millions of dead fish, sea otters and birds."

But what would you have had the president do?

"I don't know. That's why he's president, and I'm not. But whatever it was, it wouldn't have taken me two weeks."

Well, there's no point in crying over spilt oil.

"Tell it to the fish."

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