Remember that article you read here a few weeks ago about the shortage of #4 letters for gas station price signs? The vast majority of people picked up on its satirical nature right away. And if you’re not one of the ones who did, I’ll spell it out for you in plain English: it’s 100% made up, as I’ve done in the past numerous times.
At least three people, unfortunately, took the news that there could possibly be a critical shortage of plastic lettering as the truth. After all, it’s on the internet, so it must be true. Two people sent me e-mails like this one:
haha, they can’t raise there prices above 4 bucks? that’ll teach them for trying to overcharge us for gas!!!!1111oneoneonetwotwo
The third e-mail was the best one. It was from one of the top national nightly news agencies asking if I’d pass along contact information for my person at Industrial Signs, Inc., the fictional company that just can’t keep up with the demands for #4 gas station sign letters. At this point, I had a few options:
- Confess. I could just tell this poor news program producer that I made the whole thing up, perhaps crushing his dreams and making his last 20 hours of research a waste.
- Confess and laugh. Same as above, but I add on six extra paragraphs mocking anyone who could possibly fall for such a tale.
- Start Industrial Signs, Inc., string this guy along on an elaborate ruse, see my fictional story on nationally televised evening news, and possibly go to jail or whatever they do to people who do something like this.
In the end, I went with option #1 since, looking back, I did write the article with a rather serious tone, and perhaps I could understand why someone might mistake it for reality. I mean, stranger things than a shortage of plastic lettering have happened.
I considered the matter closed until a reader sent me a link to the following article from the New York Times, which does not often make up its news anymore: Old Meters Mean Double the Price at the Pump. To summarize: apparently some gas stations really can’t charge $4 for a gallon of gas, though the reason is not due as much to a lettering shortage as it is to old technology in the gas pumps themselves.
After reading the article, I realized the terrifying truth: I can cause humorous financial news just by writing it! Sure, a few of the details get mistranslated, but there can be little doubt that I broke the gas stations with my original article.
I’m not yet sure how I’ll used my newfound powers—perhaps for the good of mankind, or maybe just to amuse myself. It might just be best if I stop trying to make up the news, lest I accidentally author something like “Personal Finance Writer Nick Given All the Money in the World.”
Oh look what you made me write.