Friday, May 23, 2008

pump my gas

A few years ago while living out in Nevada I remember checking the Internets to see if there’d been a Web site established that provided current gas prices in my local area. What’s strange to remember was this was the summer of 2005 when gas prices were heaving up towards $2.25 - $2.50 a gallon. I came across, updated by locals, and would occasionally check it before heading into Reno just to see if there was some mystery station with crazy Eddie pricing. (More on that in a second.) I’ve now joined gusbuddy for no other purpose than to increase my demented old-man hobby repertoire. Since I don’t drive to and from work in the morning I can now pull out my little pad and jot down gas prices at the four or five stations planted along the main artery towards my work. The immediate fear of addiction is clear: I can see myself trying to write down the price of every gas station The Eleven passes as we motor about NoVa in search of craigslist treasures or groceries. “What was that? I think it was a Shell, no, an ESSO? Crap. 385 397 411 and 452 for diesel. Was it 452 for diesel or 462? Slow down, I can’t read the numbers. Turn around, I need that station. Hey, that place is only 399 for premium; pull-in and top off…I don’t care if we only need a half gallon.” You get the idea. Of course, the search for cheap gas prices is an almost comical mission. Unless you’re deciding between $3.99 and $4.25 per gallon it’s a complete waste of time – that’s where a Web site might help if there’s some indie, rebel-like, socialist station in the neighborhood. If I'm saving two bits per gallon when filling up a 17-gallon Golden Mercedes (as if you’d have one), for a grand total of $4.25 in savings per tank, I think that we can chuckle the next time I use that to buy another grande mocha down at the local. If we’re digging around to save a nickel per gallon – a glistening $.90 per fill up – we’ve lost our minds. There was clearly a point where we crossed over to financial difficulties related to gas and its direct relation on all consumer goods. In fact, I think we can look back at the $2 per gallon mark as the quake point. It was pretty clear even back then that when gas prices doubled we’d have economic issues. The question now is how high do they go? Is there another double left in the system? I think $5 a gallon wouldn’t have a much worse effect than we have right now; I think our personal recovery process to get through this round will hold us through that number. Six bucks a gallon will trigger a new crisis.

Speaking of gas, the Summer Gas Tax Holiday very quickly became the stupidest economic idea of the decade – almost immediately setting a new record after the Administration’s economic stimulus package stood top of the hill. The federal gas tax is $.18 per gallon which leads to similar math as above. Let’s pretend you are driving The Ring and filling up once a week: a net savings of $12.14 per week, $48.42 per month, $145.26 for the summer. If my mortgage is resetting upwards and I'm struggling with food prices, that $140 over three months isn’t helping – it’s pandering. And at the expense of billions and billions of tax dollars used for infrastructure. I'll let you read economic reports and figure out the exact details.

I’ve also learned that the gas station/company Total is really pronounce /toe-tahl/, as in the first two syllable of totalitarian. Something good has come…

I just heard a story on NPR about how The Gap (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Rep) is struggling to survive: the reporter indicated that they're losing the hip market share to Urban Outfitters and J. Crew. That’s kind of like saying that N*Sync is losing market share to the Backstreet Boys. What I want to see a cross-mall, customer showdown between kids kitted-out in Old Navy and the newer, hipper kids wearing Urban Outfitters. They can begin their battle from across the atrium, Ride of the Valkyries playing gently from the mall speakers, stream passed the Barnes & Noble and Williams-Sonoma, skirt the Apple store, jump over the information desk - and as the soundtrack of war suddenly changes to Lily Allen or Natasha Bedingfield - throw half-empty cans of Red Bull across the battle lines.

Must be a Friday before a long holiday weekend.


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