Date: Oct. 2
October mileage: 55
Temperature upon departure: 45
Today marks the first wave of permanent fund dividend checks. This is the day every eligible man, woman and child in the state of Alaska sells their soul to Big Oil for a taste of that sweet, sweet oil money. And thanks to "The Simpsons" movie, now everyone else in America knows what the urban legend of "paid to live in Alaska" is really about. You know that part where Homer drives across the state line and the customs agent tells him that all Alaskans get a stack of bills so they will look the other way while oil companies exploit the environment? Yeah, it's something like that.
Suddenly, we're all flush with $1,600 in free money. Most Alaskans do the rational thing with their PFD - they blow it on some impulse buy, like plane tickets to Hawaii or a down payment on a new snowmachine. This is the first year I'm eligible for the PFD. I did the rational thing with mine, too. I spent it in July, on a new snowmachine. I call him Pugsley.
I did not refuse the PFD. I don't think, when I gaze deep into my greedy heart, I could ever do such an audacious thing like turn down free money while the Alaska economy is squeezing $5 out of me every time I buy a gallon of milk and $12 for a case of Diet Pepsi. But still ... it feels a bit dirty. Call me a pinko greenie, but I am not a big fan of the PFD. It is not my money. I did not earn it. I was a mishmash of molecules when oil first started flowing through the TransAlaska pipeline in 1977. I was in fifth grade when the Exxon Valdez dumped millions of gallons of crude into the Prince William Sound. I remember seeing the televised images of sludge-coated sea otters gasping for air on the shoreline. It was one of the saddest things I had ever seen. I wanted no part of it.
Now I am part of it. I still own a car and take warm showers. I don't deny that oil feeds the very economy that allows me to live comfortably and work in Alaska. And I didn't refuse the PFD. I can think of hundreds of social programs where I would rather see the money spent ... Alaska could have universal health care; the best education system in the country; we could buy our politicians for a lot higher bribes then they're taking from VECO and the like. But instead, we all get $1,600 to spend on snowmachines. But I didn't donate my PFD to a good cause. I spent it. Before I even had it in my hands. So I am part of the system. One could say the worst part.
Man, now I feel guilty. And I haven't even gotten my PFD yet (I didn't file early enough and have to wait two weeks.) I think I will go soothe my shame with a $1 can of Diet Pepsi.