Mar 3, 2011

Gas station Hangover

I remember a time not too long ago when the price of things, I'm talking about a gallon of gas or a can of Red Bull, didn't affect me emotionally.  Now, when I pull up to a gas station, it begins.  The gnawing resentment that somehow I’m getting hosed and it's my fault because I'm lazy and I haven't gathered a group of my rowdiest girlfriends to take to the streets and protest.  Neither have I paid close enough attention to the issues so although I’m aware, I don’t possess enough comprehension to speak eloquently about why this is happening or what I can do to fix it. Why? Because I don't have time during the day to watch a documentary on Wall Street or scour wikileaks and unravel the insanely confusing system under which our government runs.  I just want a few gallons of gas and I want my gallon to cost less than a pack of cigarettes and I want a bottle of water. And I don't want to have to pay $1.39 for that bottle of water either.  It wasn't so long ago that the only annoying thing about pumping gas was that I had to stop doing what I was doing and pump gas.  Now I have to come up against uncomfortable truths about our country and I just don’t want to.  

So I’m angry.  And that's how I pump my gas these days.  Angry.  And that stupid $.45 cent surcharge they put on your debit card?  What is that about?  When did this start? And should I say something?  Is this legal?  Can they charge me to use my card? Who’s making exactly how much here?  Is it totally lame that I want to argue over 50 cents? 

And, if I go inside the station, I will look at the glass cases of sodas and waters and Starbucks double shot coffees and I will silently shame myself that I even want these things. 

So you know what I do?  I pump my gas anyways because I need it to get home.  And usually I’ll clean my windows to help lift my spirits, as if cleaning away the dirt that's fallen from trees onto my car because I have on-street parking because there's a nice enough guy that lives in my garage so my landlord can make a few extra each month will also wash away my dirty resentment, and I get back in my car.  I push away the feelings of shame that it's my fault I'm getting duped, we're all getting duped.  I remind myself that I can afford gas today and if I needed it, I can afford water or a soda.  Maybe I notice a large SUV pulling up and I feel a little better because I drive a Prius and it costs me $25 compared to $60 they spend to fill up their tank.  And for a moment I forget that I was ever resentful in the first place.  I forget that something felt wrong.  Someone's got it worse than me.  

And then, as I drive away, I turn up NPR and listen to Kai Ryssdal and Michele Norris tell me about falling home prices and government bail outs.  And I listen closely hoping I’ll learn something so I’ll know what I’m supposed to do. And then, as the gas pumping session emotions begin to settle, I look forward to getting home to dinner with my family, where I know I'll be safe and the world won't try to take away my sodas at a gas station.  And I know the truth again. I've got something at my dinner table that no Wall Street, congressional hearing, bill passing, state of the union addressing, foreclosure bailout can touch.  It's called family love.  And I've got that.  And today I know how to show up for that. 

By the way... here's the next car I want: 


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