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July 11, 2006

Culture Maven: Forty-five years and umpteen tanks of gas

My driving history spans four and a half decades. Forty-five years I’ve been filling the tank with dinosaur decomposition from a past era when the Earth’s prominent species went kaput.

During that time there have been vehicles of various hues and attributes.
There was the red Porsche that blew an air box every six weeks whether it needed to or not. It consumed oil so thick it had to be spooned in like Gerber’s First Foods. A three-on-the-tree white station wagon used in the family business was so devoid of any redeeming personality — not even an AM radio in the dash — that I’d reconsider dates in high school if that’s all there was to drive. A dirty green Nova was dubbed by one friend the ugliest car ever to come off an American assembly line. That from a guy whose dream car was a Studebaker.

And the over-powered Pontiac LeMans that my lead-footed father had to own because of 326 cubic inches of zoom under the hood. It stalled at every third stop sign whether it needed to or not. Even the adulation of gearheads at the Big Boy didn’t make the aggravation worthwhile.

There was the first car of my very own — a ’58 Chevy with eight cylinders and enough burps under the hood to keep several garage owners in my college town smiling.

Forty-five years of filling the tank.
There have been road trips. Five in my VW to Daytona Beach, a trip so close and personal that the three gals immediately headed out on their own in the middle of the night as soon as we hit the beach. Trips to rock festivals and Martha’s Vineyard and around the corner to Convenient for papers and another quart or both.

Forty-five years filling the tank and it never happened until a month ago.
The $30 tank of gas.

’Twas a bracing moment. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that we paid less than 20 cents/gallon at discount pumps?
Oh, yeah, that was three decades ago.
But wait. The punch line is yet to come.

Yesterday I filled up. The full tank cost $38.12. That was before the guy was changing the sign, signaling a 10-cent bump per gallon. The $40 tank of gas is only days away. For some with larger tanks, it’s reality already. And not just those driving monster SUVs with enough room inside for U of L and UConn to hoop it up.

With no end to the trend in sight, we’ll be paying $50 — or even $60 — for a tank of fossil fuel by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, those who could make a difference genuflect before Big Oil. They waste time on flag desecration legislation rather than examining the energy fiasco upon us.

There’s a new documentary out called “Who Killed the Electric Car?” It is an indictment of those with the power and resources who conspired to maintain the precedent of the internal combustion engine as the motor of choice in the modern world.

Truth is, we’re all guilty. Not just the guys driving Hummers and gals schlepping 14 soccer kids comfortably in their Chevy Subdivisions.
We’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled to sleep. We care about Brangelina’s latest offspring. We endlessly consider the Star Jones/BaBa WaWa catfight. We debate Cats vs. Cards. We complain about the weather but don’t ask why it’s so wacky.

We pay little attention to some real baseline issues that affect survival of
our species.

Al Gore’s talking. Who’s listening?
Who paid attention to Katrina’s stern lesson?
I’ll own my part. I’m as guilty as the next guy. I look at the Smart Car and cringe at its diminutive stature. I pat myself on the back. When I run into the convenience store I turn off the engine. Big whoop. That should be a requirement for citizenship.

We all need to do better. Yesterday.
It is time to elect leaders who will think outside the box (or barrel) and not just about taking care of campaign contributors. They need to stop kissing the ring of John D. Rockefeller’s offspring.

It’s hot outside and getting hotter. Do we need to wait until February feels like August to make the connection between our habits and the adverse effects on our planet?
Maybe so.

Maybe it’ll happen if Paris Hilton’s next sex tape shows her getting it on in with a solar-powered vibrator in the back seat of a Prius.

Contact the writer at
cdk@culturemaven.com