Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Luxury of the Sunday Drive
I’m quitting using gas. When I go to Wal-Mart, it costs me twenty bucks. Thirty dollars if I forgo the hick look and do some real shopping in Roanoke. If I keep it up, I’m going to have to get a real job.
Everywhere you go in the country is far. That’s one of the drawbacks. In Jersey, you could walk down to the supermarket if you really wanted to. Granted, you got people shaking their fists at you and giving you the middle finger because you’re too far in the road trying to skirt around someone’s chain-link fence or avoid a vicious dog, but you didn’t spend anything doing it. My friends up north gasp when I tell them it takes me at least an hour to drive anywhere around here. They can’t believe, when we’re yakking about how to pinch pennies, that it’s not worth bringing clothes to the consignment shop, even the ones from the real shopping places, because they won’t pay you what you spent in gas. Or how you spend more money going to Sam’s Club than you save because of the gas. Everything I do, I ask myself nowadays, is it worth the gas?
People with little cars might think I’m cheap. But let them walk a mile in my shoes. Or in this case, drive it. I have a pickup truck, the ultimate gas guzzler. The last time I went to the Minute Market for gas and milk and a package of Little Debbie powdered donuts, it cost me over a hundred bucks. I thought about buying a Hyundai to hold me over until the gas goes down, if it ever goes down again, but what I’d spend on the car—the insurance, registration, personal property tax (something else they get you for down here) and the maintenance—would not offset the price of gas. Assuming that this situation is, of course, temporary.
Even if gas never goes down again, I can’t get rid of my pickup truck. I use it for farm purposes. I use it for getting grain and shavings and mulch. I use it to take the horses places and to transport irregular-shaped or large items like plastic kiddie pools for dog swimming, antique dressers hauled out of the Dumpster and flats of flowers. Plus, I like how I look in it. Big black truck, long blonde hair, sunglasses, Marvin Gaye or Gretchen Wilson (yes, I have very eclectic taste) blasting out of a stereo system Kurt installed so I’d be even sexier. Nah, I can’t get rid of it. But it’s going to sit right there in my driveway for as long as possible.
I’m not the only one revolting. I recently read about a guy in Missouri who is so mad he has sworn off his car and is pedaling to work on an old blue Schwinn even though it’s fifteen miles each way. Uphill. And there’s a kid in Tennessee who is actually riding his horse to school. Now that sounds like a great idea. But if I rode Harley to Wal-Mart, where would I tie him up? And where would I put the groceries? I know, I could use those stalls where you return the carts and hook him up to a wagon to carry the groceries home. Yeah, that’s it. We could all go back to horses and wagons just like Little House on the Prairie! It’d be fun! It’d be an adventure!
Kurt said, “Now you’re taking this country stuff a little too far. Next thing you know, you’ll be churning butter.”
Well, I don’t know about that. That’s manual labor for no good reason if you ask me. Like making soap. As close as I get to that is saving all the little leftover pieces and squishing them together in a big ball. It’s an Irish Spring/Ivory Soap/lavender-and-ginseng glob no one will use.
We’re not poor. Kurt makes a good living. But it’s still a struggle. The gas has caused everything to go up. I got sticker shock when I went into Wal-Mart last week. Almost four dollars for a loaf of bread? Almost a dollar for one pepper or one cucumber? I didn’t buy everything I wanted. I skipped the Sara Lee smoked turkey at the deli and ordered “whatever’s cheapest.” I bought bologna. I bought generic brands and I cut back on the extras. No paper plates, no paper towels, no People magazine even though there was something in there about Brangelina’s twins and it’s only a matter of time before Brad comes to his senses and wonders what he has gotten himself into. I’m sorry. I don’t like her. She’s mean to her dad. We’re talking about the Midnight Cowboy she’s being mean to. No wonder it didn’t bother her to take Jen’s husband—if she can be mean to the Midnight Cowboy….
Anyway, that is neither here or there. Buying crappy brands didn’t make a bit of a difference. The bill still came out to $388. for three people. I got out my glasses. It was somehow even higher than the last time. I don’t know what I spent it on. We’re still out of everything.
I wonder about the people who actually work at Wal-Mart. The people in low-wage jobs. Or even the guy down at the cabinet shop who has a good trade but who still only brings home about six hundred bucks a week. Decent money around here. I think about the nurse who is going to take the position the county is advertising for right now that pays a salary of $29,000 a year. How can they even afford to go to work? What about the people who have to pay for child care on top of it? They can’t possibly make any money after they fill up their tanks.
I’m giving everybody a heads-up. Don’t expect me to go anywhere unless it’s absolutely necessary because my wheels are parked. Sunday drives have become a luxury and my days of cruising around looking at the nice scenery around here are over. There will be no more driving to community service projects for the 4-H club or willy-nilly excursions to Lowe’s or automatic participation in fun activities without considering the distance and the fun factor. Except for barrel races and Frank’s Pizza, I’m not budging.
I wouldn’t even go down to the Minute Market when I ran out of milk. I called Kurt and asked him to stop on the way home. Then the next day I asked him to stop and get bread. Then I asked him to make the bank deposit on his way out. Kelly had a sleepover here and normally I would have offered to drive the girls home but this time I didn’t say a word. I didn’t say boo. It all adds up. My truck is still sitting there with half a tank. I’m saving it for a rainy day. I’m seeing how long I can go. Or stay. If gas goes up any higher, my tires just might dry rot.