“You won’t have to pack me lunch tomorrow,” my son said. “My teacher is buying the whole class pizza. Everyone aced the math quiz, so she’s rewarding us for it.”
For as long as I can remember, pizza has been a grand gesture that most kids happily prefer over certificates of merit or shiny medals. Pizza evokes warm fuzzy feelings in everyone—human, zombie or vampire. It gets the gastrointestinal juice growling in anticipation and if you were to ask anyone to reminisce about a special memory, it would most definitely include a reference to pizza. I know a couple who served pizza at their wedding. It’s celebratory fare, plain and simple.
But on February 16, 2014, in one deft, ill-conceived move, oil giant Chevron made its own grand gesture and diminished pizza to an apology when it distributed gift certificates for a large special combo valued at $12 to the residents of Dunkard Township, PA, after a hydraulic fracturing well exploded there. The well burned for four days. Of the twenty contractors on the well site, one was reported missing, and presumed dead.
It was with a heavy heart that I broke the news to my son. I arrived to pick him up from school with a ready, rehearsed verse on my lips.
“There are those who give little of the much which they have—and they give it for recognition and their hidden desires makes their gifts unwholesome.”
“You sound weird and hungry,” he said. “You still living on smoothies?”
So I explained, “That’s the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran, smart one! It basically means some folks have a lot and are generous and there are those who have plenty and give out cheap pizza.”
I told him about the explosion. We agreed that Chevron has ruined it for the Kids of America. Pizza—cheap, filling, satisfies all the food groups, now forever associated with an admission of guilt thanks to Chevron’s cheap gesture. It was our go-to meal for birthdays, parties, get-togethers, when I found myself hosting half the neighborhood’s kids on an impromptu playdate, when I wanted to reward my kids for being the delightful munchkins that they are… It says “hooray, we made it through the week, you rock.” It’s a flagship of accolades.
“We (kids) should sue them,” he promptly said.
What can I say; he is American with righteous, litigious blood flowing in his veins.
Cut to the present. I discover a letter hanging on the doorknob from the oil company that owns the mineral rights to the land on which our house sits. As mere surface owners of such property, they inform me, they have the right to determine if we are quite literally sitting on liquid gold. So can they plonk a probe on our property to zero in on where exactly the fracking oil is and how much it is fracking worth to them? Hey, they imply, there no use protesting this, the State of Colorado condones this audacious raping of our natural resources, (no surprise there—our esteemed governor is a former oil man) the city you live in has given us full access to every inch of this thriving town to plunder.
Why, you ask? Because we can and nobody can do a fracking thing about it. So suck it up, surface owner. You have no recourse. Oh, but just to show there are no hard feelings, and that contrary to all the lies that are being spread about our greed and our complete disregard for Mother Earth and her children, here’s $25 if you want in on a limited partnership—Limited to us installing a probe on your property that can rattle fixtures in your house and shift the foundation a bit.
“Nah, no one in our neighborhood is stupid enough to go for that,” we reassure ourselves. Why the city engineer assured me that the folks who did, regretted taking the paltry sum because repairs and replacements had cost so much more. But morning brings greater clarity to the fact that greed is indeed unfathomable. Across the street, a probe, betrays a sellout. Down the road, many more have done the same.
If you were to go to Sams Club or your local grocery store on days, usually weekends, when they are handing out samples of their new inventory, you’d find no dearth of people, even entire families, parking their SUVs and fancy crossovers, to cram the aisles and line up for a morsel, simply because it is free. This from the citizens of the richest nation in the free world.
Is it any surprise that our neighbor sold out for $25? Or that for many in the fine community of Dunkard, Chevron’s grand gesture wasn’t simply a cheap hand out, but eight luscious slices of yeasty rising topped with a combination of processed meats, a few token veggies and a whole pound of Mozzarella—All the food groups truly satisfied and every bit worth the inconvenience of breathing noxious fumes from the exploded well for more than four days.
So here I am, parked in the pickup line at my son’s school, eager to tell him that his grandma who has been ill lately is finally feeling well.
“Hungry? I have pizza waiting for you at home,” I say.
He looks at me sadly. “It’s okay, Mom. No need to apologize. You forgot to pack a spoon for the yogurt. I used my fingers, don’t worry!”