Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How the Gas Crisis is Tearing the Beetle and I Apart

Honestly, the bloated gas prices are bad enough. I don't need any problems with gas stations other than that intimidating $3.60/Unleaded Gal. sign. Unfortunately, on my way home yesterday, it wasn't just the prices giving me trouble.

After an extra-long day at work, I jumped in the Beetle and noticed the wavering gas needle, closing in on the warning light. Rather than pushing my luck, like I usually do, I decided this time I'd take care of the gas right away and avoid that panicky drive I usually make to the closest station as the poor Beetle licks her last drops of unleaded.

The first station I passed (Ashland and Lawrence) flaunted that $3.60 sign. I could feel the Beetle pulling toward it and I reined her in.

'No,' I calmed her. 'This intersection always has the jacked-up prices, and we're going to pass more gas stations on our drive home.'

The Beetle relented, and we continued on our way.

A mile or so down the road, I spotted the Marathon at Ashland and Bryn Mawr. $3.44/gal. Totally more reasonable. I pulled up to the pump and popped the gas tank open. I had already put my debit card in the pump when I realized that every single pump had a Post-It note with a scrawled "Out of Order" over each Unleaded pump.

(At this juncture, I admit, I could have just gone with the upgraded fuel, I know. But I felt, having already passed up one gas station for its high prices, that by God, I would not get screwed by another station only because their unleaded gas didn't work. I slammed the gas tank shut and got back on the road.)

Turning my car on this time, she bleated plaintively: BEEP!! Fill me up!!! BEEP!!

'I know, little baby!' I cooed, stroking the dashboard. 'It's coming, I promise.'

There was one more option on my commute home--the Marathon on Clark and Rosemont. This gas station is generally where cabbies gather and chat, and there's also a huge North and East African hang-out here too because of the East African restaurant in the mini-strip mall. The other thing I love about this gas station is the laundromat next door. The wafting scents of bubbles and dryer sheets overpower the noxious fumes of the gas and remind me of when I was little and would jump in clean, warm, just-out-the-dryer laundry, despite my mother's warnings.

'OK,' I told the Beetle as I pulled in. 'We're here!'

She sighed as I turned her off and popped open the gas tank once more.

Happy to see no Post-Its at this Marathon, I swiped my card, selected unleaded, and started pumping. And by started pumping, I mean that I stood and watched as the pump slowly ticked off a couple cents. And by slowly, I mean that this tank was diabolically slow. It was Chinese water torture manifested in gas pump form. A full minute passed before the total sale read $00.63. I could not take this torture and turned hopefully to the other pumps.

My heart fell inside my chest--at each pump, cabbies leaned against their trunks chatting in foreign tongues as their own Lincoln Town Cars took the same prolonged torment, gallons creeping slowly, total sales amounting to nothing more than pocket change as the sun went down and day turned to night.

I couldn't stand here pumping all evening, I thought frantically. This was going to take hours--hours I didn't have. It would be faster, I decided, to get back on the road and drive to the next gas station. I paid my $1.53 and got back in the Beetle.

BEEEEEEP!! She cried as I started her again.

I was the neglectful mother, whose every nurturing fiber had been drained from her. I had grown resentful of the Beetle (Who was she to beep at me? She's always beeping when she needs something from me!) and self-loathing (Why hadn't I filled up earlier? Why am I so irresponsible?). Ultimately, I projected my self-anger onto the closest targets (This damn car! These damn gas stations!).

'I hear you, Damn Car!' I shouted. 'We'll go to the closest Damn Gas Station, OK? Now, shut up!'

I seethed as I drove down Clark, turning down Devon to go to the closest Citgo. $3.60.

'I hope you're happy,' I hissed through my teeth, popping open the gas tank one last time to start pumping. 'You'd better make the most of this, Damn Car.'

No comments: