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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
1:17 PM Wed, Nov. 21st

Column: There's no going back to 'small' driving now

Have you been taking many road trips lately? Hmm... I didn't think so. Now that gasoline is around four bucks a gallon, it appears we are all trying to find ways to conserve. There are some gloomy economists and news anchors who claim we will be heading for five (bleeping) dollars a gallon by the summer! Oh, did I mention that the angst (disgust) we are feeling about gas prices is nothing more than a psychological problem? It is called (by a Harvard professor) "behavioral economic distortion" and in a nutshell, this economist (nut) says that we, the public, are just too focused on the price of gas and we "should not get all worked up about it." Ha! Well, I disagree.

This scholar was on the radio pointing out that if we use 10 gallons a week and gas has jumped up 70 cents in the past few months, why get all in an uproar about seven dollars? He goes on to say that we are "freaked out" about gas prices because they are posted so boldly at every street corner - a constant reminder that we cannot escape so it "messes with our minds." So there you have it... another "expert" letting us know we are "crazy" to be so upset about the fact that we are getting hosed at the gas pump.

Oh, I had a good laugh when some politician said on the news that the American public is just "dumb and happy" when it comes to our dependence on gasoline. Hey, I resent being called happy! How the heck are we supposed to be "happy" when every time we go to a gas station we are seeing a higher number for one little gallon?

I am pretty sick of hearing how the price of petrol in Europe is extremely expensive. We don't live in little villages with trains and subways running through our towns. Some of us will drive in one year what a person in Europe will drive in their lifetime! Americans aren't addicted to fossil fuels - we just live in wide, open spaces and love to (or have to) drive. We have sprawling communities, with many places to go. Our lives take us down many roads (literally) and most families have to have two (if not three) vehicles.

We live in the West and life is different here. My Aunt May lived 100 miles from London, and when she died at age 98, had only traveled to London twice in her life! And many of her neighbors and family members followed suit. Why go into the "city" when you have a nice home in the country? Not quite our mindset here in the great U.S of A. Driving is embedded in our DNA! We are freedom seekers, explorers, commuters, and hard workers and players. We are independent and like driving!

If you want to see the range of human frustration, just go to your local gas station and look at the facial expressions of the poor, hapless gas addicts as they swipe their credit cards and watch, with glassy-eyed horror, as the numbers keep rising. Check out how some people are (or aren't) coping. I saw a man with a big pickup truck mutter some words that I am unable to repeat in this fine newspaper. I watched while a woman screamed at her teenager while she was pumping about $60 worth into a big SUV, saying, "I am done being the chauffeur for you and your friends." I saw a teenager put about $3 into her little car, crossing her fingers that it would get her to her job. I also saw a man in Prescott Valley holding a sign that read, "Will work for gas." A joke? Maybe... but who is laughing?

It seems when the gas prices rise, we all start thinking small, like in compact cars again. When I was in my 20s I drove a Volkswagen Beetle and loved it. However, going back to "tiny" is pretty rough. Besides, we are used to carrying our "stuff" around in our vehicles. Computers, papers, briefcases, tools, folders, files, boxes, sporting equipment, doggy cushions, child seats, first-aid box, flashlights, extra pair of boots, not to mention the kids and pets we cart around. How can we ever go back to small?

And if gasoline prices are so high, does that mean that the oil companies that post billion-dollar profits every quarter are to blame? I mean, it does feel better if we can blame somebody (besides politicians, because we know they must be all guilty of something) when we are being robbed each time we go to the pumps. Of course, why get upset about gasoline? It is obviously out of our control. Yet, I admit that sometimes being in a bad mood along with a few hundred million other Americans can be kind of fun. Let's just "let it rip" and speak up, demand an explanation and then try not to have a meltdown in public. In the meantime, bicycle, walk, share a ride, saddle up the horse, stay home more, dust off the rollerblades, and tell your boss you will be working from home (let me know how that goes). Oh and be sure to drink plenty of high-octane beverages, which is the only octane we'll be able to afford.

Dear Readers, I do have good news! The value of gold is sky high and there is a place in Phoenix that will exchange your gold jewelry for gasoline cards! Time to rummage around for all those watches and rings you never wear and put them to good use. Jewelry for gas? Now there is a "golden" idea. See you at the pumps!

Judy Bluhm is a writer and local realtor who lives in Skull Valley. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.