What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Attack of the Sheiks

I had a traumatizing experience the other day. I know we say that a lot here at FCN (and it's true that trauma is attracted to us), but this experience was find- a- beetle- in- your- sealed- water- bottle- type trauma. It was learn- your- Grandma- is- remarrying- your- Grandpa trauma. It was paint- your- toenails trauma. It was the kind of thing you don't forget until another traumatizing thing takes its place on the memory hot seat.

In case you haven't figured it out right now, the horrid thing that happened to me was that I filled my car's gas tank

The actual filling really wasn't that bad; modern pump technology makes the passage of gasoline fuel quite pain-free. What really got me was paying the clerk after the fact.

As background, I usually do the pumping while my father handles the paying. The system works out quite nicely; whenever we carpool into town or drive together recreationally, I'll glance discreetly at the gage and, if the dial is anywhere below half-way, comment on the low level and swing the car toward the nearest station. The system had, until last Saturday, worked out quite dandily and I had yet to pay for the miles I drove.

Maybe my dad figured out my strategy or maybe he wanted to teach me a lesson in economics or maybe he just forget to fill-up, but whatever the reason, when I got into the car early last Saturday to drive into town, the gas light was on and my car was in need of fuel.

Half of me (well, more than half, really) wanted to drive the car to town, return with a dangerously depleted automobile and hope that my father would accompany me on my next excursion. A small fraction of me spoke against such pragmatic vehicular abuse warning that I might run out of gas on the highway and that it really wasn't a very nice thing to do.

Nice. It's the four-letter word that drives more indignities than any other except “love.”

Since when was I a “nice” person?

It was the above question that landed me at the gas station, pump in hand, paying my dues to the Sand Sheiks of the Middle East.

I watched the digital readout carefully, knowing that as a poor college student, I really shouldn't be splurging on a full tank. The numbers went by very quickly. The tank was barely half full when I reached my limit. With a cry, I removed the nozzle from the guzzle and replaced it in the swizzle.

Then I went to see the clerk.

I payed my bill slowly, placing every precious dollar bill on the counter with calm that belied my raging heart. I was being mugged, robbed of scarce funds that should have purchased an entire tank – would have a few short years ago – but were now worth half their previous value. The price of a movie, gallon of milk and egg had changed little in that time, but gas was a different story.

I was in Europe being extorted by ridiculously high gas taxes. I was in Yosemite subsidizing the gift shop with inflated park prices. I was in Texas at the Last Chance Gas where they could charge you anything.

That's when I realized, I was being attacked. My car, my person, my pocketbook were all taken hostage by the Sheik. I had no power over the price but the price had power over me.

I shook off my trauma long enough to thank the clerk, whose name was Shirley, and return to my car. Inwardly I cursed it for not being a hybrid.

When all was said and done, when I'd wiped the last restrained tear from my cheek, I learned one thing through last Saturday's experience: The next time my tank gets low, I am going to carpool with my father.


adrialien said...

HAHA! That was great...you should feel fortunate not to have to purchase your own gas ALL the time!

BTW, I'm very curious to know how you managed to find the gas cap. Did you have Travis along?

A City in Germany said...

"I'm very curious to know how you managed to find the gas cap. Did you have Travis along?"
With those two, it may go either way, adrialien.

adrialien said...

City in Germany:
Maybe, but when my car needed the oil replaced, it was T, not C, who knew where to find the oil :).