“The fundamentals of the Economy are sound,” the captain had said. “She is unsinkable.”
Once upon a time, there was a great passen- ger ship, the U.S.S. Economy. This venerable vessel had been at sea for a very long time — longer in fact, without being substantially overhauled and refitted with modern refine- ments than many other of the world’s passenger ships. She was much larger than all the others and still fast. Although other ships were faster, none were as capable in terms of tonnage per sailing time. The current captain, Captain Commerce, had little experience, but he looked good in his uniform and had the confidence of the ship’s owners; they knew he would do as they expected.
The owners of the Economy considered her design to be the best possible — unsurpassable, unsinkable in fact. And because of this, they decided to remove most of the lifeboats on board. There were only enough for less than half the total number of passengers. Better, her owners felt, to keep the decks tidy and spacious so that the wealthy passengers could move around more freely. Why, the ship, they thought, could almost sail herself. Little did they know what a titanic mistake this would become.
There were many decks on the ship. Twenty percent of the passengers enjoyed eighty percent of the space and relative comfort with accommodations well above the water line. Nearly a fourth of these better-off passengers had staterooms with private access to spacious balconies. These passengers were afforded complimentary access to all the ship’s “finer” facilities: the grand theater and ballroom, the casino and the largest pool, this one being on the forward deck. The rest of this upper class had comfortable cabins in the ship’s interior spaces, though all were pretty much alike with limited space. These passengers were allotted separate, limited times for access to the finer facilities, but on a pay-as-you-go basis. Eighty percent of the passengers had only twenty percent of the space, and while most of this was still above the water line, large numbers of this group were relegated to accommodations below the water line and in steerage. Those in the lowest bowls of the ship were only allowed on deck for brief periods of time each day, scheduled by section. But none were ever allowed anywhere near the forward areas. Meals for these passengers were not served; they were delivered cafeteria style, dished-out on plastic trays by staff members who had lost favor with the ship’s purser.
There was icy fog one night. Nevertheless, the captain ordered full-speed ahead. This is what he knew the ship’s owners would want; a speedy crossing, after all, would mean higher profit. Then, sometime after midnight, while most of the crew on-duty was either dozing-off or playing cards, the Economy struck an iceberg a glancing blow. This caused a huge gash below the waterline amidships. There was panic among those in the lower cabins as icy water began to pour-in. But, above the water line, there was relative calm. The captain had proclaimed to the crew, who in-turn had passed the word along to all the better people on board, that all was well. “The fundamentals of the Economy are sound,” the captain had said. “She is unsinkable.” Notwithstanding, the ship began to list as it continued along at a declining pace.
As the ship rode lower and lower in the water, some of the crew and passengers began to question whether they shouldn’t go let the people below decks come up where it was dry and assist the crew in helping to repair the damage and stop the flooding. “No!” shouted the most elite, “That wouldn’t be fair. We paid big bucks for this voyage and we’re not going to share our space with the likes of those people. They made their choice; let them get what they deserve.”
Listening only to the passengers who had purchased the better accommodations, the brave captain steamed on into the night ordering ever increasing reserves of fuel into the ship’s boilers.
This, of course, is not how the story ends. You are invited to write your own ending and post for the rest of us to read as a comment below. Will the Economy survive?