|I'm well aware that I drive too much, but I don't need AAA reminding me that these gasoline prices are my fault. |
The weather is getting warmer and summer is right round the corner. You've saved up plenty of vacation time, so you're packing the family into the car and heading out on that cross-country trip you've been planning...to the end of your block.
One of everyone's favorite rites of summer, or spring, or sometimes Valentine's Day, and this year about Groundhog Day is the yearly escalation of gasoline prices. Opinions vary on the reasons for these price hikes: free enterprise, supply and demand, lack of oil production, price gouging, greed, petty battles among rich people, legalized carjacking, and a way to help the economy by creating a ton of new jobs of changing the numbers on your gas station's price sign.
Gas prices which have risen above two dollars per gallon this year have stunned everyone, reportedly including the visiting cicadas, who after seventeen years have begun carpooling. And another problem has arisen this year which has become far more annoying than the guy at your local station who has just taken the last dime you found underneath your sofa cushions. That would be those friendly tips from AAA and the federal government.
The government, which will always do anything to help you, often predicts the future of gas prices, which will rise another six cents nationwide before the end of (insert current month here). Thanks for the tip. Try before the end of this paragraph.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that we slow down and avoid quick starts and sudden stops. I drive in New Jersey. A sudden stop here usually involves a driver aiming at the car in front of him which has been driving with its left turn signal on for over two miles.
AAA recommends giving your car regular complete maintenance. Many service stations now charge for air in order to keep your tires properly inflated, and an oil change can be swiftly completed after your steward lets you look at an oil list. A vintage brand from 1969 is not available.
They also advise that you combine your trips and errands to cut down on overall driving time. So far this year I've done a bundle of clothes twenty-five times at the laundromat to cover the next four months, and bought another four months worth of steaks and groceries for the summer vacation grilling I won't be doing.
And AAA says that you should also join a car pool. You can share the cost of the gasoline and the driving time, as well as enjoying some quality moments with the guy at the end of your block you haven't seen in fifteen years who will shortly remind you of why that was and cause you to consider leaping out of the front seat and into rush hour traffic.
But the most useful tip AAA has to offer may be the one to keep your windows closed when traveling at highway speeds, saving ten percent on gas mileage. At the same time, the use of air conditioning runs up your gasoline consumption.
These tips are especially helpful when you're driving on the expressway with your family in stop and start traffic trying to buy food in bulk and do laundry.
That experience may make you consider another AAA idea, lightening the load in your car, because carrying extra weight makes you burn more gasoline. Dropping off Billy, Cindy, and the wife at Howard Johnson's may relieve you of about 250 pounds and get you to the bulk warehouse in no time, but will present another small problem of dividing your food purchases in half, among other things.
I usually feel that kind of stress when some bonehead in the newspapers reminds me that gasoline prices are much more expensive in Europe than in the United States. Well, Europeans don't have to use that much gas because we are the ones who vacation over there. There is no sensible reason for Europeans to head to Paris, Texas on a holiday.
Then other papers tell you that gas prices aren't really so bad when you adjust them for inflation. This may be true, but unless I've missed something most of our paychecks haven't been adjusted for inflation. And that inflation answer doesn't cover it when Billy tells you that the books he needs for college cost approximately $269 apiece.
After that they remind us that we should have adjusted our lifestyles accordingly. Maybe with a smaller family we could have settled for a smaller car instead of our monstrous SUV. Maybe we would have been better off having a pet instead of more children. Maybe a hamster would have been nice instead of Billy. Have you priced those hamster wheels lately?
Actually, people are not that hard to fool into making adjustments. The best method gas stations could try in raising prices is to price gas by the half gallon.
It would be like orange juice, and shortly the same price. If the price was $2.10 per gallon of gas and the driver saw $1.05 on the sign, he would think HE was the one getting away with highway robbery. It would be like Starbucks coffee, now costing about $3.99. People fall for the $.99. As long as it's not four dollars yet.
But people are going to deal with the gasoline price problem in whichever way they see fit. They don't need AAA's advice before they decide whether or not they can afford a summer vacation. Besides, I hear the guy at the end of my block just bought six months worth of steaks and is having a cookout.