Saturday, April 29, 2006

Gas Rationing

Back in the early 40s, while WWII was raging in other parts of the world, the folks on the home front were doing their part by complying with the rationing of food and gas. Even at four or five years of age, I felt the ramifications of this. I had my own rationing book in the name of Lou Anderson and I have it still among the mementos I keep of my early life. Even then, I did not eat all the meat allocated for my consumption!

We planned our trips in the car very carefully, as gas was scarce and there was no way to replace worn-out tires. Mother felt strongly, though, about traveling out to Wilder, Kansas to see Aunt Addie, her mother’s sister, and her Cousin Cora Lee who lived close by. I remember my father sitting at the dining room table, calculating mileage and money and seeing if a trip was feasible. Thanksgiving and Memorial Day were almost mandatory and we skimped elsewhere to be able to afford to make those all important trips. We walked to the stores in Waldo and took the streetcar for distances beyond walking range. The old 1937 Plymouth would sit for months unused and dusty.

Today my father would not be able to comprehend the price of gas. But old habits carry on and I have taken over the task of calculating. I’m on a restricted income and so my budget is not very accommodating of the skyrocketing cost of gas. I spend the same amount on gas each month, and as prices go up, the miles I drive go down. Roughly…at $3.00/gallon, I can buy 10 gallons on my $30 monthly budget. Rider gets about 15 miles to the gallon so I have to plan out where the 150 miles will take me. Round trip, it’s 15 miles to the golf course, 30 miles to my sons’ place, 8 miles to the branch library (with a stop at Wild Oats on the way, 14 miles to the Tri-Met’s Gateway Transportation Hub, only two miles to Safeway.

When I do drive I keep it at 55 to get the best mileage, although other drivers do not like the slowpoke very much. I take the shortest route, cluster errands, skip unnecessary activities, and keep the car in good condition with regular oil changes and tire rotation. I carpool when I can, although now most drivers ask for compensation that is probably more than I would spend to drive myself. I have a bike now but I lack the courage to ride it out on the street in traffic. It is primarily for exercise, but there again, I have to drive to the bike trails.

Oregon Department of Transportation is panicking as they fear that people will be less able to afford to buy gas and consequently the revenue from the gas tax will decline and put the road system in jeopardy. To counter the new movement toward better gas mileage with hybrids and late model cars, as well as the rising costs, ODOT is proposing a tax on MILES DRIVEN. That will be an incentive for me to stay home altogether.


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