Another tale from Black Swan

I wish Black Swan, the commenter on Mish’s weblog, kept his own weblog, but things he has said in the past suggest that it will never happen. In the meantime, I read his comments as I see them and pass along my favorites. These are real stories, without pat endings or morals, well worth pondering.

Last night I went to a party a few blocks away from my house, that featured a live bluegrass band. I met some interesting neighbors. An Egyptian-American, who owns a large trucking business, was holding court. When he left the group he was talking to, I struck up a conversation with him and his sister. 

I noticed he was wearing a large Rolex, and he mentioned the properties he owned and the new Range Rover he had bought. Then he started talking about his trucking business.

I live in a port city, so a trucking business that moves containers that come in and go out can be quite lucrative. My neighbor told me that most of his business is done with countries in the Middle East. After we talked a while about the stock market, where he said he just made a killing buying Krispy Kreme stock (he had been transporting the donut mix to the port to be shipped to Saudi Arabia and China, where franchises were being opened), I hinted that his trucking business must be hurting. He said he was down 40%. The former engineer then went on to tell me that he got killed in the stock market with bank stocks, his real estate was all upside down and oozing cash, his Range Rover was a piece of crap that burned through tires, and that he had recently suffered a "meltdown" with his two and four year old kids, when they dumped food on him at an Italian restaurant, that was so severe, that his wife and kids went on a forced vacation without him. 

His sister had been staying at his house for two months after leaving Dubai. She had been making a killing selling real estate in Dubai until the market crashed. She sold mostly to the Saudi Arabians, who, she said, were the biggest suckers and worst businessmen a real estate salesperson could hope for. She said they stopped being suckers once the price of oil dropped. She told me that she left her $10,000 Chinese car in Egypt to move back to the states, where she has yet to find a job. She was very grateful for her brother’s hospitality. 

After giving my neighborhood trucker my doom and gloom prognosis of how long this depression would last, I asked him how he planned to get by. He told me that only months ago, he had prayed for lower fuel prices which had been cutting deeply into his profits. He said he would never have guessed that receiving the answers to his prayers would would cause those Middle Eastern fuel producers to seriously cut back on their US consumption, and hurt his business far more than the price of fuel. He hinted that the shipments of US weapons to Saudi Arabia had become a more important part of his family business, but that there wasn’t enough there to make up for the shortfall. He said that his only course would be to do what he always did, keep working hard and God would see him through.

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3 thoughts on “Another tale from Black Swan

  1. I had a conversation with my college age son recently about the affect of dropping oil prices. He had been reading how it had affected Russia in such a way which could make it even more dangerous. I hadn’t thought of countries outside the Middle East. Makes one wonder what will happen next… or perhaps one doesn’t want to wonder.

    He has a very good friend whose family are from India, both working at the University. He lives in a beautiful upper middle class subdivision, many of the homes owned by foreign professors and researchers.

    About a year ago (this was before the stock market crash), his friend told him almost everyone in the neighborhood was heavily in debt and their homes mortgaged to the hilt. Part of it was cultural (they believe in paying for all of their children to go through as much college as they want, including PhD’s) and part of it was the need to keep up an image before the others.

    The appearance of success was based on fiction.

  2. Interesting. I wonder which God he is referring to when he says ‘God will see him through’.. I don’t doubt the God of the Bible’s ability to see anyone through hard times, however.

  3. Brenda,

    Russia, Mexico, and Venezuela are all heavily dependent on the sale of oil at high prices to fund their governments; the 60% drop in oil prices has cut their total revenue by about the same amount. If oil prices stay down, there will likely be some major global power shifts, with Russia becoming openly aggressive and Mexico and Venezuela collapsing.

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