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Di Leo: Driving Around in the Village of Chelm



Podium chelmBy John F. Di Leo – 

The scene:  As the curtain rises, we see an empty podium, in front of the humble 60-room mansion that serves as the village hall of the remote, rural village of Chelm. Next to the podium, on the lawn, is a shiny new American-made electric car.

It is mid-morning on a weekday, and the members of the local village council – the Wise Men of Chelm – have just completed their weekly board meeting.

A few reporters walk on stage, taking their seats in front of the podiums, and finally, the Mayor of Chelm’s press secretary, Benito Bugiardo, walks on stage, absentmindedly juggling a set of keys in his hands as he walks. The spotlight hits the press secretary, and we begin.

Press Secretary Bugiardo: Good morning, everyone!  Glad you could make it!  I’d like to start with a little poll.  How did you all get here this morning?

Mr. Smith, of the Chelm Bugle: Me? I walked. My office is across the street.

Miss Jones, of the Chelm Herald: I walked. My office is around the corner.

Suzie Johnson, of the Chelm High School student newspaper, the Chelm High Times: I walked.  The high school’s just down the block (Suzie rolls her eyes).

Mr. James “Surfer” Chanel, of local television station 32: I walked, Mr. Bugiardo. What’s your point?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, then, as you can imagine, driving to work every day… umm. Wait a minute, you ALL walked?

Suzie Johnson: This is Chelm, sir.  It’s a small town, remember?

P.S. Bugiardo: Oh, well, yes. I’m so used to Washington where we drive everywhere…

Suzie Johnson: Nice being in a place where you don’t need 2000 pounds of metal surrounding you to protect you from the locals, huh?

P.S. Bugiardo: Well, umm… hmm… anyway… if you HAD driven here, you’d be conscious of the challenges of finding, and affording, gasoline these days.

Mr. Smith: That’s for sure.  It tripled in price in a year and a half, then it came down 30% from its high and our overlords expect us to thank them,  even though it’s still double what it was.

P.S. Bugiardo: Anyway, the point is, the rising cost of gasoline is a problem that needs to recognized and dealt with.

Miss Jones:  Everyone knows the cost of gasoline is a federal issue, created by destructive government policy, completely out of Chelm’s control.  How does the village government of Chelm think it can do anything about the cost of gasoline?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, obviously, we can’t.

Suzie Johnson: I missed history class for this.  Please have something worth reporting this time, huh?

P.S. Bugiardo: We certainly do, young lady.  The Village of Chelm is proud to announce that we have taken action to render the price of gasoline irrelevant to our community.

Mr. Smith: This, I’ve gotta hear.

P.S. Bugiardo: The Village of Chelm is going to be free of the internal combustion engine forever. In this morning’s village council meeting, the Wise Men of Chelm decreed that no more gasoline-burning engines may be sold in Chelm, effective ten years from tomorrow.

Mr. Smith: Excuse me, are you saying this has already passed the council?

P.S. Bugiardo: This morning!  Unanimously!

Miss Jones: Not one alderman voted against it?

P.S. Bugiardo: I didn’t say that.

Suzie Johnson: You said it was unanimous.

P.S. Bugiardo: Once it passed, the Mayor asked them all to make it unanimous, so they did.  So that they can all bask in the glow of consensus-building.

Miss Jones: So they can all avoid responsibility by not having people on record for their up or down votes, you mean.

P.S. Bugiardo:  The point is, in ten years, our town will be free of this problem for good.

Mr. Smith: We have a car dealership here in Chelm; it employs a couple of salesmen and several mechanics.  What do the Wise Men say about this complete attack on a local business?

P.S. Bugiardo: Well, the Wise Men didn’t actually talk about the Chelm car dealership directly, but I’m sure that ten years will give them time to adjust their business model. They’ll be fine.

Miss Jones:  When they’re not selling cars anymore, relying on just repairs of old cars is bound to hurt the business, isn’t it?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, now, I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized business…

Suzie Johnson: My boyfriend works at that dealership part-time.  He was just telling me how the injection molder down the road makes some of the parts that are used in some of their new cars.  If people stop selling cars, they’ll stop buying car parts… so it’s not just the dealer who’ll be affected, but the parts makers, like that injection molder on the west side.  What did the Wise Men have to say about their assault on local manufacturing?

P.S. Bugiardo:  It’s not an assault on local manufacturing!  I’m sure that the injection molder can find other clients. He has ten years, after all!

Mr. Smith: How about the carpet company?

P.S. Bugiardo:  What about the carpet company?

Mr. Smith:  The Chelm Carpet Company doesn’t just make carpets for houses and businesses, you know… they make carpets for several US made cars and SUVs.  They sell to automakers in Michigan and Ohio and California… What did the Wise Men have to say about their assault on the Chelm Carpet Company?

P.S. Bugiardo:  I, uh, didn’t know they supplied the auto industry… Are you sure?

Miss Jones:  They’re so proud of it, they have a car in their front lobby, displaying their carpeting in both the cabin and the open trunk… it’s pretty hard to see their lobby and miss it.  You held a press conference there yourself, a few months ago, when you announced that you were installing their carpet in the Village Hall.  How could you have missed it?

P.S. Bugiardo:   Well, uhh, I guess I just didn’t notice…

Miss Jones:  They pointed it out to you.  They showed you the trunk!

P.S. Bugiardo:  Oh, well, we didn’t pay all that much attention since they didn’t win the bid.

Miss Jones: What?  You told us they were selected because they were local!

P.S. Bugiardo:   Well, no, not exactly… we selected them to participate in the bid because they were local, but they didn’t actually win the bid…

Miss Jones: So … who won the bid for the carpeting of the Village Hall?

P.S. Bugiardo:  We found a cheaper vendor. The Chinese Carpet and Camera Company, of Suzhou, China.

Miss Jones: When were you going to tell us?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Oh, well, we figured we’d hold a press conference when it was installed.

Miss Jones: And when will that be?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Not entirely sure at the moment… there’ve been some delays in shipment from Suzhou…

Mr. Smith: I can tell what’s coming… cost overruns too, right?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, only a little… see, it turns out, they won the bid because their product was cheaper than the Chelm Carpet Company.  But, umm, well, there were apparently other charges beyond just the cost of the carpet, and, well…

Mr. Smith: The Wise Men bought it on FCA terms, and didn’t anticipate the transportation cost to get it here?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, it is a long way from China, and all that carpet takes a surprising number of shipping containers… And who knew that ocean transportation was so expensive nowadays?

Mr. Chanel: Only anyone who’s watched the news in the past year and a half.

P.S. Bugiardo:  Now, that’s not fair!

Mr. Chanel: There’ve been times when we’ve shown pictures of the clogged port of Los Angeles and the jam-packed railyards on our newscasts every day for weeks.  And we talked about the high cost of inbound transportation every time!

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, umm, I guess we must’ve missed it.

Mr. Smith: Why didn’t you buy it on a delivered basis?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, you know, international trade isn’t our specialty… we’re a small town…

Mr. Smith:  So you took the sale away from a local carpet company to save a couple bucks, and you forgot to take into account the price of delivery from a vendor halfway across the earth?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, in a word, umm, yes…

Miss Jones: And I suppose you didn’t build in Customs clearance and duties and fees either, right?

P.S. Bugiardo:  What’s that?

Miss Jones: Well, textiles from China are usually subject to that 25% punitive tariff, so … the odds are that if you didn’t plan for it, between ocean transportation and tariffs… I would guess this purchase will be at least 50% over the deal that the Wise Men thought they would be paying. Maybe more. Right?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Look, you know, I’m not really up to speed on the carpet issue, and, I’d like to get back to the car thing…

Mr. Smith: So you’re going to sweep the carpet story under the rug, huh?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Now, that’s not fair!  I’m just here to talk about the automobile ban, that’s all!

Suzie Johnson: I’m game. Let’s talk more about the car ban.  I’m interested to know what other local businesses the Wise Men are shafting this week.

P.S. Bugiardo:  Now, that’s not fair either!  I mean, remember, the ban doesn’t take place for ten years!

Suzie Johnson: Okay, so what other local businesses are you shafting in ten years?

P.S. Bugiardo:   Now, cut that out!

Mr. Smith:  This is a small town with a limited tax base. Every local company that you harm is not only going to hurt its employees and the local economy in general, but it’s going to hurt your precious village government’s tax coffers. Businesses pay property taxes, and… what does the village government have to say about this attack?

P.S. Bugiardo:   Uhh, I don’t seem to have anything in my notes about that, umm… No comment.

Mr. Chanel: We have three gas stations in town – the two at the interstate exit and the one on the other side of town… what do you have planned when you ban gasoline-powered vehicles?

P.S. Bugiardo:  We are not banning the vehicles.  The Wise Men just banned their sale.  They didn’t say you’d have to get rid of them if you already have them.

Mr. Chanel: So as long as we buy our cars in other towns, you won’t mind?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, not at first…

Mr. Chanel: Oh. So you’ll ban them later?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, when nobody else sells them, I should think… but that won’t be for a few more years…

Miss Jones: Did the Wise Men come up with anything else we should know about? Like, for example, are they going to double the annual local window sticker price on our current gasoline-powered cars, or something like that?

P.S. Bugiardo:  How did you know?

Miss Jones:  It just stood to reason.  I mean, you know, as much as anything around this crazy town ever stands to reason…

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, we’re very proud of being visionary in this regard. We’re fighting back against gasoline! The Village of Chelm is very proud of itself, no matter what you say!  We’re standing up to the world’s dependence on petroleum!

Mr. Chanel: Your shirt and tie are polyester. You know that’s a petroleum product, right?

Mr. Smith: And your eyeglasses are plastic – both the frames and the lenses. They’re petroleum products.  You planning on giving them up?

Miss Jones: That podium you lean on every day is almost all plastic too. Wouldn’t be much of a press secretary without a podium. Planning on giving it up, on principle, chief?

P.S. Bugiardo: I don’t have to stand up here and take this.

Suzie Johnson: Oh, you’re welcome to sit down sir. But the chairs are plastic…

Mr. Smith: Just out of curiosity, what is that great big shiny piece of metal and plastic that’s been sitting there next to you, all this time?

P.S. Bugiardo: Oh, well, yes, thank you for bringing it up. I was meaning to get to that… it’s an electric car. The Village of Chelm is putting our money where our mouth is, and starting to replace the village fleet.

Miss Jones:  Fleet? The village government only owns about five cars, right?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Ahh, well, yes, that’s right. And we’re going to gradually replace them with electric cars to show that we’re standing up to petroleum.

Mr. Smith: Don’t they cost at least twice as much as a normal car right now?  I mean, the village government’s cars are only a couple years old; none of them need to be replaced. Why are you replacing them?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, we’re looking to the future. We’re going to be ahead of the curve.  Gotta protect Chelm from the scourge of the petroleum society!

Mr. Chanel:  I’m familiar with that model.  It’s a comfortable car. Expensive, but comfortable.

P.S. Bugiardo:   I believe it is, yes. Thank you.

Mr. Chanel: It contains synthetic carpeting, synthetic upholstery, a plastic dashboard, plastic knobs, buttons, and shift lever… all made from petroleum.

Mr. Smith: That’s a good point. it also has plastic insulated wiring and hoses, plastic relays and connectors, plastic bumper, plastic door handles… all made from petroleum.

Miss Jones: Not to mention the fact that it’s lubricated with synthetic oil, all the headlights and tail lights and turn signals are all enveloped by plastic lenses.  The keys you’ve been jangling in your hands for the last ten minutes are plastic.

Suzie Johnson: Sounds like this car’s even more dependent on petroleum than most other cars, Mr. Bugiardo!  Do you have a comment about that for our readers?

P.S. Bugiardo:  We can still stand up to petroleum, and advocate resistance to the petroleum culture, while using plastics!

Suzie Johnson:  Ah. In other words, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Got it.  Thank you.

P.S. Bugiardo:  It’s a cool car!  It really is!  Give it a chance!

Mr. Smith: Okay, I think my readers can try to be open-minded on this. Why don’t you take us all for a drive and show us how nice a car it is, that the Wise Men just invested all our hard-earned tax dollars on?

P.S. Bugiardo:  I’d love to!  I mean, I can’t today, but another day, sure! I’d be happy to!

Mr. Smith: Why not today?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, I mean, I can’t today, but… another day.

Miss Jones:  When? Tomorrow?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, not that soon, but soon.

Mr. Smith (grinning widely): You can’t start it, can you?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Huh?   Well, sure I know how to start it! Don’t be silly!  I’ve been driving for 20 years!

Mr. Smith: No, you can’t start it because it can’t be started!  It’s not charged, is it?

P.S. Bugiardo:  Well, umm… yes, that’s technically correct…

Miss Jones: You don’t have a 220V charger in this entire town, do you?  The Wise Men of Chelm bought a car that you can’t charge!

P.S. Bugiardo: Please, umm… don’t print that… we thought … well… they call them “plug-in” cars, you know… so we thought we’d just plug it in, you know… so when the truck delivered it last night, and the truck driver told us about charging it, and how it needed some fancy, expensive charging thing… the Village Hall isn’t wired for that kind of thing, you know, and… well, I guess you could say we were surprised… I mean… heck, who knew a car needed a special kind of charging station that costs practically as much as the car itself to install and operate?  They should tell people about that kind of thing!

Mr. Smith: Everybody knew, my friend. Everyone in the country knows.  It’s been in every article about electric cars for years.

Suzie Johnson: Oh, sure. Everybody knew… except the Wise Men of Chelm.

Copyright 2022 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer and transportation manager, writer, and actor. A one-time county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has been writing regularly for Illinois Review since 2009.

 A collection of John’s Illinois Review articles about vote fraud, The Tales of Little Pavel, and his 2021 political satires about current events, Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes One and Two, are available, in either paperback or eBook, only on Amazon.

  For those unfamiliar with the name, the Village of Chelm is an imaginary place in Jewish folklore, often known as “the city of fools” where everyone thinks themselves to be geniuses, but none actually are.  We have respectfully borrowed the name for our imagined town, somewhere in the United States, though in this version, there are actually a few sensible people in the town, such as the reporters representing the mainstream media.  This is fiction, remember.  No actual similarity with any real-life persons or places is intended or implied.

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