Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Price of Gas

I'm not going to pretend that I have tons of disposable income. In fact, as a college student, I don't really have any. My decision to commute was supposed to take care of financial issues.

This has not been the case. Over the last few years, I've seent the price of gas triple in my area--that means while I could drive for a week on ten dollars in 2002, I'm now spending thirty.

I have become gas-savy. I figure, if I save a little money on gas, I can spend it on music, or a new CD player for my car. I call this Economics. In Economics, buying cheap food means I can buy expensive shoes and still be saving money. This is called Math. If I save all the reciepts from purchases with my debit card and cram them in a box, I am Balancing My Checkbook. I have always been good at this sort of thing. It's a pity the bank doesn't use my system.
I have found the most expensive gas station is in Denver, the next less is in Roann, and the cheapest is on the corner of 114 and 15 on my way to school. Sometimes Peru beats this station, but since I would have to use gas to drive out of my way to buy Peru gas, it wouldn't be too Smart to do that.

Monday I needed gas. I needed it bad. Mom had borrowed my car (again) and had pushed the limits (again), allowing the little white arrow to go beneath the little red dash beneath the E. I begged my little gray Honda to suck up as many fumes as it could on the way to school, to use those for what little energy it needed, so that I could pull it into a parking spot and let it relax. Then I would be safe all day, and I could get gas on the way home. That was the plan.

But gas was $2.89 a gallon in North Manchester.

Assuming I was going to put twenty dollars into the gas tank, and ONLY TWENTY, buying gas in town would have gotten me a measely 6.9 gallons. See? I used Math. And I determined this was Bad. Very Bad. No way, I thought. It would be Smart to go somewhere cheaper.

I would go to the cheap place, I thought. It would be cheaper. That would be very Smart.

I sang to my MP3 player as I drove, passing abandoned fields and decaying old farm houses with chipped paint. My windows were down. I had achieved an acceptable amount of sound by turning my radio volume to maximum, pressing the tape deck deep into the dashboard, and turning the volume on the MP3 up to maximum. Now the music was about as loud as a normal human speaking voice. I had it good--one whole speaker was working! It was a good day to drive. I pondered hitting a pothole on purpose so that I could improve the second speaker's sound, but decided against it. Not when it was already working so well!

I pulled into the gas station, still singing. By this time, it was to The Mamas and the Papas. I positioned the car for a smooth entry, with the correct side of the car next to the pump. I was ready to buy my gas. This was good.

I don't know what made me look up when I did. I had been turning off the MP3 to put it in my purse, and the music wasn't off yet. I couldn't have heard the shouting then...

I clicked off my radio when I saw them, all of the men, all of the rifles, all pointed at the other man, the one in the red pickup. Some of them were in police uniforms, some were not, but all were very angry and all were very armed. It was the first time I had ever seen a county policeman with anything more than a holster. Now they all had assault rifles. And I had the foresight to push hard on the brakes.

It was a standoff.

I made the most insane U-turn of my life, in a fervor of mania, knowing that I would be perfectly content to abandon my miserable, fuel-deprived car and walk home instead of venturing into that situation.

If I had continued to sing "Monday, Monday", I would have been on the wrong side of that conflict, in the perfect place to get shot at by the people with the big guns.

And that, my friends, is too high a price to pay for fuel.

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