The Third Inauguration

When I flew out of Portland International Airport before 2023, I usually stayed the night before at an airport hotel that provided free long-term parking and a shuttle to the terminal. It was a good deal and reduced stress.

But that was before Oregon had to pay for its share of the new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia. When the old bridge collapsed, the loss of commerce and reputation hurt the Portland / Vancouver area pretty badly. Truly Exalted said the federal government would help with 20 percent of the replacement cost, but only if Oregon and Washington came up with a “terrific” plan to pay the other 80 percent.

Washington added one percent to their sales tax. Oregon sold the airport to Koch Industries.

When I tried to reserve a room at one of the airport hotels just after Third Inauguration 2025, the Hotel Ivanka was booked for a Mary Kay convention promoting a perfume called “Melania.” Hotel Donald had tripled its rates except for corporate clients, who received a 70 percent discount. Hotel Eric was under extensive renovation after receiving a tax credit for coming out of bankruptcy.

So I was stuck with driving for five hours and long-term parking provided at Koch International for my old Taser, the first electric car I could afford. It’s not luxurious, but it’s real quick and I was able to hack the software so I can drive it myself some of the time, at least in rural areas where the Insurance Central Safety signal is still weak.

For the month I planned to be gone, the price for a space in “Blue Safe and Secure Parking” was more than my plane ticket, so I opted to take a shuttle from a space about two miles away in “Brown Open Park.” At least the shuttle waiting room was a Starbucks.

I bought a Coffee Mega and waited in line to buy a shuttle ticket. I had three choices. Actually, I had six. Each of the three shuttle companies had two levels of service, but it was like they had agreed on what they would offer. The fastest of each took about five minutes to the airport, but it cost $75V in Visa currency guaranteed against inflation. The slowest took more than an hour and cost $10V.

At&T’s shuttle kiosk was red, Verizon’s was white, and Comcast’s was blue. I couldn’t afford the faster service, so it really came down to whether I wanted to watch Disney, which Comcast broadcast to passengers through seat-back screen, Fox Real News on Verizon, or an abridged movie on the AT&T shuttle. It was a tough decision and took me a while.

“I don’t understand why we have to pay so much to get to the airport in a reasonable amount of time,” I muttered to the man waiting behind me wearing a red “We’re Still Great Again” hat left over from the Third Inaugeration.

“You have a choice,” he snarled. “Why don’t you make yours so I can make mine, commie libtard?”

“I’m not a communist. I was just wondering…”

“Shove it,” he said, pointing at my Lock Him Up t-shirt, and went over to the Comcast line.

“I heard your question and I have the answer,” said a very pretty young woman who looked like she was dressed for a beauty pageant in red, white and blue. She must have been employed by all three carriers.

“The prices are what they need to be so we can invest in infrastructure and keep shuttles running on smooth roads,” she said.

“Aren’t these public roads?”

“Well, yes, but we have an exclusive license to use them, and we own those licenses. We also have to paint lines on the road to separate the fast and the slow lanes.”

“So if you didn’t have to paint the lines, it wouldn’t cost so much? And why does the slow shuttle take so long?”

“I don’t think it works like that,” she said with a look of concern. “The slow shuttle needs to make up for its lower cost to you by carrying municipal passengers to their destinations all over town. It’s just the free market. You believe in the free market, don’t you?” The look of concern now furrowed the thin space between perfectly plucked and painted eyebrows.

“Okay, but why is the fast shuttle so expensive?”

“You just answered your own question!! It’s expensive so it can be fast! But the best thing is, you have a choice!” She laughed, flashed a brilliant smile, and gave me a coupon for free coffee sugar.

I finally bought a ride on AT&T Slow Red and got another coffee so I could use the free sugar coupon. I was looking for a place to sit when a man with an umbrella made eye contact and nodded at an empty chair at his table. When I sat, he moved the umbrella off of a ragged newspaper.

“Is that a newspaper? A real one?”

“Yeah,” he smiled. “From 2019.”

“May I look?”

“You know, that’s probably not such a good idea. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable these days. I like to keep it kind of out of sight.”

“You let me see it.”

“Yeah, but I heard your conversation with those two, and figured you were safe. It’s not illegal to own a newspaper, they just make people uneasy and that can lead to awkward situations. By the way, would you like to get to the airport a little sooner?”

“How?”

“I’ve got a ride out there in the parking lot. We can be there in fifteen minutes and it will only cost you $25V.”

“I already paid for the slow shuttle.”

“And you can wait for it, and maybe you won’t miss your plane. The slow shuttles aren’t very dependable, you know. Sometimes they just stop, and they’re never on time. The carriers says its because of congestion, but I think they slow shuttles down so they can sell more tickets on the fast lane.”

“I don’t know. Is it legal to go with you?”

“Mostly. If we get hit by Curbies, just say we’re friends and I’m dropping you off.”

“Curbies?”

“Guys looking for curb bounties. They get a cut of every fine. They’re real good at recognizing cars they’ve seen before, but the Jeep I got now is pretty new, at least to me. It should be okay for a while, then I’ll get it painted again.”

“Okay,” I said at last, and pulled out my credit card to give him $25V.

“Oh, dude, I can’t take those. It’s not like I’ve got a sign on my door.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” I said and pulled two worn $20 bills out of my wallet. “Got change?”

“Um, you know, those might not be worth $25V by the time we get you to the gate. You got any Bitcoin on you?”

About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon
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