30 May 2008
Gimme A Dollars Worth!
I still love cars. When I was Sixteen I thought I might want to make them the center of my life. Impossibly greasy, dirty hands and fingernails changed my mind...
I'm obsessive/compulsive about my hands being dirty. But for a year I worked pumping gas and as a mechanic at a local filling station. While working there the price of gasoline fluctuated around the price you see above... 32 cents per gallon, plus or minus a couple cents. Customers would pull in next to the pumps, running over an air filled rubber hose as they came to a stop. The weight of their car running over the hose would cause a bell to ring in the station, causing me to run out like one of Pavlov's dogs to pump gas into the waiting vehicle. I would then normally hear one of two things:
"Fill 'er up."
"I'll take a dollars worth."
Hard to believe, isn't it? One dollar would buy about 3 gallons of gasoline. Most cars back then got around 15-17 miles to the gallon, so customers asking for a dollars worth would expect to be back at my pumps in 51 miles or so. Those asking for their tank to be filled would be handing me something over $5.00 after I finished washing their windshield and checking their engine's oil and water levels, assuming their tank was nearly empty when they pulled in.
Back then, when you were in the market to buy a used car, an average car could be expected to have 10,000 miles per year on it. More miles than that decreased the value of the car considerably, and caused many unscrupulous used car dealers to "roll back" the odometers. State Attorneys General put a stop to that practice long ago.
Low fuel prices enabled us to make changes in our lives...
We've moved farther from our workplaces. We use our cars to travel more. I think most people expect a car to accrue 15,000 miles or so in a year now.
But the latest uptick in gas prices have changed my family's behavior. We postpone even starting the car until we can accomplish several errands at the same time. Some trips are cancelled altogether. An auto mechanic I chatted with yesterday said his business has already been affected... people who drive less have fewer breakdowns.
There will be other ramifications that we haven't considered. The BK117 helicopter ambulance I fly burns 60+ gallons of kerosene an hour. Our company didn't foresee a 25% increase in the cost of fuel... Guess who will end up paying for that increase?
We live in interesting times. There will be changes... some of them will come pretty quickly, and some not soon enough.