Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bitchin' at the Pump

I filled up my gas tank today. I'm still recovering.

Years ago, I drove a Datsun B210-- does anyone remember those? It was before the company called itself Nissan. It was 1975 and I was 17. I had long dark hair and a surly expression which I cultivated in the hope that it would make people think I was tough. It seemed important to be tough at 17.

Come to think of it, it still kind of does. But that's another blog post entirely.

The gas tank of my Datsun was about the size of a Granny Smith apple and the car would run forever on a full tank. Back then, gas cost 79 cents a gallon.

Yes, you read correctly.

I was famous for letting the tank almost get empty. I don't remember there being a light to indicate that I'd dropped to near-empty levels like in today's cars. I may be mistaken but I think we just kept a careful eye on our gauge and then learned just how far the car could go once it hit the "empty" mark. My car could go pretty far but once I knew I'd reached my limit, I'd put $2.00 of gas in the tank and drive for another few days.

Back then we had another kind of gas crisis. There was a shortage and rationing was implemented. Based on the numbers on our license plates, we were assigned a day -- odd or even -- to purchase gas and I have vivid memories of waiting on long lines at the Mobil station on Fort Hamilton Parkway in Brooklyn. I'd sit in the car, twirling my hair and looking surly so no one would dare speak to me.

Tempers wore thin on those lines and one day a fight broke out between two men. We all watched like it was great theater as they pummeled each other until the cops arrived. Truth be told, I often felt like pummeling people who were in line with me, too.

Now that you mention it, I still feel like pummeling people in line with me (especially when I'm in the ladies room) but that's another blog post entirely.

Wait on line for gas? An outrage! That was the general consensus as we waited our turn. There were no debit cards then and who had a credit card? Certainly not me. I remember sliding my money under a glass partition, the smooth metal guiding the bills into the hands of a clerk who's surliness rivaled my own.

Now, the outrage is the price. The highest I've paid so far was 4.85 in Washington, D.C. It was either pay up or establish residency down there so fork it over I did. And I filled the tank, something I rarely do these days.

I suffer from the self-delusional syndrome of only getting a partial tankful at a time. But again today, I filled it up. I couldn't make eye contact with the pump...only glancing at it peripherally as the numbers flew by and the dollars increased in leaps and bounds.

The only saving grace about any of this is that disgruntled gas buyers bond quickly. Though we may not look at the numbers on the pump head on, we do make eye contact with each other and do lots of shrugging and some sheepish smiling.

But mostly, we bitch about stuff.

No longer surly and having become one of those friendly weirdos who loves to talk to everyone, I look forward to encounters with other outraged bitchers.

We start by bitching about gas. Sometimes it ends there but lately, gas-bitching has turned into bitching about lots of things. Today my fellow gas-bitcher went into a great tirade about ice cream.

It seems that ice cream no longer comes in half gallon cartons but has been down-sized although the price remains the same. Not one to take something like this lying down, I joined in with gusto. We moved on to the amount of tuna in a can and the size of candy bars. My partner-in-bitching clearly had carbohydrate issues because he wanted to discuss diminishing amounts of Cheezits and Milano cookies, as well.

Having not bought either in a while, I could not contradict his impassioned claims that there are fewer cookies in the fluted paper cups and that Cheezit boxes appear to be shrinking daily. But I had fun chiming in because I am easily able to summon white-hot fury regardless of the issue. I was able to push him to near apoplexy with the info that there are fewer Girl Scout cookies in a box.

Last week, I had a chat with a woman who was incensed about the price of meat. Though an infrequent carnivore, I joined right in. It proved to be an epic bitchfest (she was from the Bronx) and l left feeling very fulfilled. She knew her beef, I'll tell you that. I tossed around a few terms (rib eye! sirloin tips! top round!) and she never questioned my authenticity.

I am more than ready, however, to give up these public bitchfests and put them back where they belong--in the home. This obviously means that prices at the pump will have, at the very least, stopped climbing but at best, will start to drop.

Diane Sawyer, with her most sincere cat-straining-in-the-litter-box expression on her face, told me to give up on this. At least until after the summer. So, until then, I have replaced physical exercise with's much more interesting and nearly as aerobic if done correctly. 

Add to that the Milanos I bought to check that maniac's theory about fewer cookies in the fluted cups and I'll soon be bitching about how my clothes are suddenly too small.

But that's another blog post entirely....

Alternative means of transportation will become crucial as gas prices climb.


  1. i loved this...hahaha! you always make my day!!

  2. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!!Oh hell. And yes, I do remember the Datsun first boyfriend had one and we were busted doing **** in it...but, that's another blog post entirely! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Maria!!!!!! In a teeny, tiny B210. I look forward to that blogpost, young lady!

  4. When I started college, gas was $0.21 a gallon. Of course it didn't matter much because most of us still rode horses, as cars hadn't really come into vogue yet.

  5. Well, speaking of bitching, finals week has relegated me from Snarky Bitch to Cranky Bitch.

    Of course, as a Catholic, I'm always told to "Offer it up" which means "Quit bitching." To which my response is, only if you can give me some alcohol."


  6. Katie, you always tell it like it is, young lady. We are all looking so forward to next weekend.