Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Everything's A Dollar: The Legend of 99cent Gas Prices

I'm thinking differently these days. Like a guy with a car he really cares about. I don't think I've ever owned a car that I love before and I've become protective. This car is beautiful. I'm thinking about stuff like premium gas and Armour-All.

My first car was the hand-me-down family car, a 1973 maroon Monte Carlo, and it was old even then. But I prefer to use the term "classic." The guys in high school loved this car. They wanted to jack it up and trick it out. But when you're sixteen and trying to grow out a bad perm, the last thing you want is to become the school's Classic Car Collector.

My next car was a white Ford Escort with red interior. It was cute, and took something like eight dollars to fill the tank. My sister also had a white Ford Escort with red interior. Our cars were exactly a year apart, just like us. It was like unwrapping a Christmas gift two seconds after Remi did, and realizing we both got pajamas! We were like twins.

Remi and I were discussing gas prices and we were talking like a couple of old ladies. "Do you remember when gas down by Grandpa's house was 99 cents a gallon?" I said. "Well it was 97 cents a gallon when I was a senior. I'd use my lunch money. I can't imagine what kids today are doing." she said.

And there it was. The phrase: Kids today.

"We are the kids today!" I protested. She laughed. And laughed.

I couldn't get her laughter out of my head. It haunted me. Could 31 really be the next phase? I started getting paranoid. As I drove around in my convertible, contemplating how good life is- scholarships around every corner, a new book nearly completed, a new tour deal in the works- I stopped to fill up. I left the pump in my car and let it go- 20,25,30,35,40 dollars...ridiculous. Across the pump, a sixteen year old guy was carefully watching the numbers. He was filling up his Monte Carlo, maroon like my old one, and from the early eighties. He concentrated on the dollars climbing up at lightening speed. His friends laughed at him. "Shut up!" he yelled at them.

His pump hit $5.11. "Damn!" he put the pump back, clutching a five dollar bill. His friends, squirelly and loud, screamed with laughter. He walked toward the little man in the box who sold cigarettes. I wondered how he hadn't paid yet. "Hey," I yelled. "You dropped a quarter."

"Nah, ain't mine, but thanks" he said.

"Take it. Must be yours because it was by your car," I insisted.

It clicked for him and I handed him the quarter. "Hey, thanks," he said, smiling. "That things is a gas-hog."

"I know, I used to have one. Older than yours."

"Older than that?! For real?!"

"Yeah," I said, feeling a little nostaglic. "It was a classic."

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