Now when I die, I don’t want no coffin
I thought about it all too often
Just strap me in behind the wheel
And bury me with my automobile
-James Taylor, from “Traffic Jam”
We love our cars, don’t we? In America, that four-wheeled pony represents freedom. Freedom to hit the open road and go wherever we want, whenever we want.
I remember sitting in a beachside restaurant in Malibu, not so long ago, thinking “Man, I’m a long way from home.” But then I thought about the fact that the parking lot I could see from my chair connected to the PCH, and from there, I could get all the way back to my front door in Arkansas without ever getting off the pavement. At that moment, the 1600 mile distance to my couch didn’t seem like much.
Today, it seems far away again. Considering that my car gets about 20 miles to a gallon, and the last gas station sign I saw displayed, proudly, the price of a gallon of unleaded at $3.45, I did some ciphering. That’s about 17.3 cents a mile. So, I’m thinking. If I was out there right now, and needed to get home, could I?
I checked my wallet. $67. The 1600 mile trip would cost me $276.80 in gas alone – meaning if I didn’t eat or drink anything for 27 hours, I was only short about $210. So, how far would that get me? I mean, I might as well take off and get as close as I can before I set out walking.
388 miles. Where’s that put me? Sitting beside I-40, in the desert, about 30 miles east of Kingman, Arizona. I’m not happy about this. I’m hungry, thirsty, out of gas, and it’s 1200 miles home. If I walk, without food or water, I still never have to leave the pavement (or the shoulder, anyway). I might be able to make 60 miles in a 12 hour day. So in 3 weeks, I’ll be sitting beside my green, frog-filled pool, with an IV in my arm to replenish my fluids, eating a high carb diet, pondering why I keep hearing from Republicans on TV and radio talking about how well the “economy” is doing.
I s’pose, if you’re rich, your economy is doing swell. But considering that Wal-Mart just had its lowest profits in the company’s history, I’m going to just take a wild guess and say that folks who aren’t rich must be either spending their disposable income on gasoline, to get to their low-paying jobs so they can work their butts off to pay for the increased cost of food and clothing that will follow gas prices; or sticking a few dollars back so they don’t get stuck in the desert outside Kingman, Arizona and have to walk home. Either way, the simple truth is that when gasoline prices go up, the cost of practically everything else goes up as well, because those flip-flops and toasters don’t grow on the shelves at Wal-Mart. They have to be transported in there from someplace else. And somebody’s gotta burn some fuel to get them there.
About this time next year, fuel prices will go down, because there’s an election next fall. The jugheads who are raping this country while lining their pockets, and those of their friends in “Big Oil”, will want you to forget sitting beside the highway in the dark desert, with the moon illuminating that sign ahead that warns you not to pick up hitchhikers because they may be escaped convicts. They’ll want you to forget that the oil companies, while the government looked the other way, were taking in record profits and telling you that “supply & demand” dictated the prices at the pump. They’ll want you to forget that one reason supply was down was because the oil companies, at the peak of the driving season, decided to shut some of their refineries down for “maintenance”. They’ll try real hard to make you forget that there was a Republican administration in charge (for 7 years) while all this was going on. If history is any lesson, they’ll probably succeed. People’s memories are as short as the government’s foresight.
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take the highest gasoline receipt I get this season, and stick it up on my refrigerator. That’ll do two things for me. It’ll remind me why there’s no food inside; and it will be there next November when I go to the polls – to remind me to do my part to vote as many of them as I can out of office. I’ll vote against the wimpy pandering Democrats in the primary, and I’ll sneak out the Monday night before the general election and siphon all the gas from the cars of my rich (or wannabe rich) Republican friends so they can’t get to the polls.
Just doing my part for America.
I used to think that I was cool
Runnin’ around on fossil fuel
Until I saw what I was doin’
Was driving down the road to ruin.
© 2007 Rick Baber