Monday, July 28, 2008

The Ghostly Green Light of False Hope

Today, and as expected for the rest of the week, barring, of course, any unforeseen calamities that will allow for a sudden increase in gas prices again, most of the United States will see the average cost of fuel hovering just below the $4 mark, except in the cases of the usual suspects as far as unaffordable gasoline go (California, Alaska, etc). Fantastic! Hooray! What a deal…thank you random deciders of the future of American transportation!

America is go this week! Load up the kids, visit the Grand Canyon, drive across a few states just because you can, people.


While it’s difficult to argue with the point that we are all getting a welcome break this week, the constant fluctuations in gas prices are leading to a sense that we should all remain calm and keep filling up our tanks because pretty soon, there will be some kind of break in the spike and we can return to life as normal.

This lowering of pump prices and subsequent high levels of publicity surrounding such drops makes us complacent as it lends to the feeling that all of our bitching is having some kind of impact; that someone high up in an office in Dubai or Washington is listening to the complaints of ordinary citizens and has decided to step in and save us all from what we know is forthcoming. The fact is, there are a number of variables having an impact on this sudden but not really significant dip in the price of crude, thus the amount you pay to fill up your tank and rest assured, none of them have anything to do with feelings. Yours, mine, or theirs. In a few weeks, something will happen and they will be back again, higher than before, although who knows by how much.

I'm heading up to Northwestern Ohio tomorrow to visit the parents and filled up the tank today after an almost 20-minute wait at the pump. I passed by the closest gas station because their prices were about 4 cents lower than the one I ended up at and the line to fill up was spilling out over a major roadway. People looked hot and tired this afternoon and while normally, people probably might have seemed a bit crabby to boot, there was actually a palpable sense of eagerness in the air. The same vibe I get when I am at a store with a big sale and there are people ooing and ahhing to themselves, impressed with the delivered promise of a deep discount. It was primal. And frankly, a little depressing.

It's a green light for me tomorrow too and I will readily admit it was nicer to fill up for 3.80-something rather than over $4. I noticed again as I was filling up that I seem to kind of glaze over as I watch the cents add up to dollars before I've even had time to flip the little switch that holds the pump trigger down for my convenience. I rationalize and wonder when the day will come that when I go home to visit I have to budget for it like I would if I was taking a flight instead. Is that two years from now or ten? Am I jumping the gun? Is there nothing to fear?

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