A Titanic Bailout 01.28.09 Search

Pass the Bucket of Chips, please


A parable for our times

titanic in port

Once upon a time a titanic ship surged powerfully through uncharted waters. On board were many people having a grand old party, laughing and gambling with other people's money like nobody's business. The captain, too, was in this party. Below the decks  the loyal crew toiled for low wages under hot and dirty circumstances, making the ship go.

Late one night, the sentinel cried out, "Iceberg ahead! Change course immediately!" but the noise of the party was so great that the captain did not hear the warning, and the few revelers that did, dismissed it as inconvenient, alarmist in nature, and probably overstated. Only unpatriotic nay-sayers could doubt that this ship was the safest, prettiest, fastest and best ever built. So the ship stayed the course and soon hit the iceberg quite solidly, causing a torrent of icewater to pour in on the poor, hard-working crew down below, who got thoroughly soaked.

The crew swarmed up from below, disrupting the gaming tables, much to the consternation of the players, who insisted that the crew return to their proper stations at once. "We're taking on water!" shouted a crewman. "We must start bailing!" and they began to hand out buckets, but only the crew started bailing.

"We don't do that kind of thing," said one gambler, disdainfully. "Besides, we have a really big pot going, and we have to distribute our winnings before we can think of anything else. You all start bailing, and we'll join you after we finish our game and cash in our chips."

The crew then accosted the captain, "We have to head for port! We're sinking!" but the captain said, "This ship can't sink. It's the best in the world. Stay the course! Go back to work!" and the crew locked him in his quarters and elected a New Leader, who immediately changed course for the nearest port. "Everybody bail!" commanded the New Leader, but the gamblers just stared and went on playing for the big pot.


The New Leader rose and addressed the grand old party-goers. "Look," he said, "If we don't all help bail, we'll all drown. Please help us save the ship."

But one hedge-fund gambler got up and said, "I bet you'll never get this ship into port. Not enough people are bailing. You're going to fail."

"Then what do you propose?" asked the New Leader.

"I think we should distribute our winnings so when we get into port, we can buy a boat that doesn't sink."

"But what if we don't make it into port?" asked the New Leader.

"Then I'll win my bet, because I can say, 'See? I told you so!'" said the hedge-fund gambler, as he cashed in his chips while ice water swirled about his ankles.

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