Waiting to cross the street at El Cajon and 30th, I see it coming. Knowing my duty, I salute and address by rank and name in a clear and distinct voice.
“Paramilitary fume-spewing terror enricher! – Paying 3.27 a gallon for our freedom sir!”
The Hummer roars by, it’s tightly closed windows keeping the enemy at bay, followed by an elegant German made fume spewer and a kid on a five-horsepower fume spewing skateboard.
This is San Diego and here, more than anywhere else, people take their fume spewers seriously.
We are convinced that the combustible liquid splashing into our fuel tanks is the currency of success. We shake our heads, pay whatever is required, and defend our addiction to immediate geographic gratification.
This subordination makes us the most dependant community in the country (world?) and the perfect target for street dealers.
The result of this helplessness is that San Diegans are often forced to pay the highest price in the U.S. for retail refinery products. And what have statistics shown us? That, contrary to all rational economic theories, as price rises, so does demand.
To have a customer that increases usage, even as price rises, results in unquantifiable profit. This is every dealer of every substance’s dream come true. My advice to OPEC would be to give each American a free SUV to keep us wholly and utterly at their mercy.
It isn’t like folks have much choice here. The central public transit system is adequate, and even operates some natural gas powered busses, but much of the system ceases by 11 pm. After that, you’re on your own in a 400 square mile city.
Suburban areas, especially office and industrial parks, are almost impossible to reach without an individual spewing device. This becomes an effective discrimination tool against those who are not willing to use one.
“If you don’t pollute the air and help finance Bahrain; you can’t be part of our society.” seems to be the message.
Urban planning offers the smiling face of transport convenience fronting the tightened fist of fume spewer dependence. Most activities require one, from searching for parking at the beach to venturing to the casinos to offer our native friends reparations for their territorial losses.
Lonely pedestrians enjoy empty sidewalks but are automatically suspect. The driver’s instinctive question is, “Why aren’t you in your spewer?”
The anthropological prediction of this Journalism major is that eventually, the driver’s legs will be taken from them, and their descendants will be left with long, thin dowels suitable only for pushing pedals.
Local TV news coverage is dedicated chiefly to fume spewing concerns. After a few stories about a freeway chase in LA, the driver who confused the brake with the accelerator and plunged through the store front window, and “that zany cat that crawled into the carburetor”, we come to my favorite.
This one always begins with the reporter next to the gas pump explaining how we’ve reached a new retail or barrel price high followed by “man at the pump” interviews. All are represented in this vox populi but, woman or man, old or young, Hispanic, white or black: the answer is always the same.
“There’s nothing you can do.”
This is the part where I get up, do a backflip off my couch, and pound my head with an ice cream cone in one hand and a hammer in the other. “There is nothing you can do.” Repeat it again my obedient San Diegans. “There’s nothing you can do.” This is the mantra of the addicted.
Then the piece always ends the same. The reporter, their back to the action at the pump, sets us up for the inevitable.
“Analysts predict that prices will continue to rise.”
Presidents come and presidents go but none are ever able to drag America to the intervention it so desperately needs.
I can’t help but think that, if we’d have elected Al Gore, we’d all be cruising on atmosphere vacuuming fiberoptic monorails by now.
From time to time a few angry, weary spewers will throw a group tantrum in the form of a ‘gas out’. Their logic is that if they all refuse to buy for one day it would cost the industry 2.2 billion dollars.
I’m sure the petrol masters are extremely concerned until the next day when the revolters slink to the pumps and fill back up.
Others have taken to making a few bucks tattooing advertising on their spewers. This risks ridicule in a market where polluting devices, like haircuts, need to be kept uniform and proper.
But, in the end, they always win. The lure of self determined mobile human ego justifies any cost thus far. This tolerance for price manipulation may exist to the top dollar or bottom drop.
Cradle to grave dependency, mortgaged as far as the traffic can jam. Besides, without a spewer one cannot go to work, go to school, breed, rush your wife to the hospital, taxi rugrats, have a ticker tape parade, have a smash up derby, get a burger at the King after hours or head for that final “drop off” in the long, black Caddy.
I can almost hear you saying these words as your eyes follow the small pendulum and flutter shut and the petroleum gypsy smiles smugly.
FINAL NOTE: Police report that 45 percent of all fatally injured motor vehicle operators have blood alcohol content’s of 0.08 percent or more. People, please, don’t get trashed and operate; especially not in a nine ton PMFSTE.
FINALLY, FINAL NOTE (I promise, hand on my hummer owners manual): Maybe global warming will solve its own problem. Think how quaint it will be when costal cities such as SD become inundated by the swollen ocean.
Downtown streets will become canals as in Venice and there will be beachfront property in previously low-rent neighborhoods. The only question is, how will we power our individual para-naval transport vessels?