Kate rides the trolley. She doesn't drive, doesn't even use the bus. She buys local food from a co-op. She says this won't affect her.
Kate works on the eighth floor of the EPA building. She is a record keeper; by night, she works on her MLS at Drexel. Eight floors being a long way up, she takes the elevator.
The air conditioning didn't seem to be working right. It was humid; the polyester shirt she wore stuck to her, not letting her skin breath, her sweat to escape. Four people got onto the elevator with her; at least one could use another shower. Kate tried to subtly breathe through her mouth, but that isn't something you can do subtly, and so she made her way to the back of the elevator so that none would notice.
Between the third and forth floors, the elevator stopped. Then the lights went out. "Crap--I've got a meeting in ten minutes," one of the men said.
"Eh, it'll be back on in a second."
"I thought they fixed the elevators," Kate said.
"That's not the elevators--that's the electricity."
They stood, shuffling a little, loosening collars, joking about the weather, the high gas prices. "See, that's why I live in the city and take public transportation," Kate said triumphantly.
"Yeah. The city's a great place to be when society's falling apart."
"Let it go, Paul," said a woman, who'd been silent until now.
"No--I mean it. The city was a cesspool before the crisis, and it's only getting worse. Did you hear about the shooting--"
"Which one?" Kate asked.
"Yeah. Exactly. Which one. And that was before--"
"Before the oil shock. Yes. We know."
"Three shootings a day. Did you know someone siphoned my car?"
"Huh?" said Kate.
"Siphon. Stole my gas. If I'd been there--"
"Yeah. God, it's stuffy in here. Do you think we'll run out of air?"
"I'm telling you," said Paul, "if it wasn't for the security in this building, I'd carry a handgun."
"Thank god for security," the woman said.
"Yeah? Let's see you say that when you get held up again. You were lucky last time."
The lights came on. The hum of the air conditioning kicked on. The elevator slowly lurched up to the sixth floor, and then the eighth.
Kate came to her desk, sat down, and opened her email. It was already a long day.