Gassed

I don’t remember, particularly, the dream I was having shortly before I woke up one of several times last night, but it involved being driven around some obstacle-laden course really fast — and something about a man being paid in rubber ducks, which didn’t seem very lucrative to me. When I did finally wake up, I found myself thinking about gasoline.

I don’t think a lot about gasoline these days, and even in the days when I thought about it more, I still didn’t think much of it. But when you do think about it, it’s funny. Not the gasoline itself, I suppose, but the pricing and people’s reaction to that pricing.

Gas is always priced to the tenth of a cent. Not really the tenth, but the nine-tenths of a cent. So when you look at a gas sign and it says gas is some price, there’s always a +9/10 on the end of it. For all purposes, then, gas is a penny more per gallon than people talk about — because we all round down in this instance rather than up. It must make us feel better.

And gas-pricing must be a feel-better sort of game. I don’t know why this is.

When I was growing up, it was just a given that gas in Gunnison was going to cost more than anywhere else in the state. We don’t know why this was. The standard supposition was delivery costs, having to haul it up and over a pass no matter what way it came into town. But then I heard that these same trucks would go from here to Montrose, where it was always cheaper. Like 20 cents less per gallon. (Well, probably not that dramatic when I was a kid, because I’ll bet back then gas cost less than a dollar a gallon.)

The savings was so significant that almost everyone leaving town would wait to fill up until they got over one of those passes. I kind of think people here still have that mentality, even though gas prices have been competitive with other communities for many years now, and sometimes even cheaper.

I can’t even hazard a guess as to the current cost of a gallon of gasoline. The car I use most of the time is electric, and I can tell you that when I plug in the Level 2 charger here at home that my electric co-op just the other day informed me might be eligible for tax credits, I use over 7 kilowatt hours in the first hour of charging, dropping to 4 the next hour and 3 the hour after that. So, about 14 kWh to “fill up,” but I don’t know what we’re paying per kilowatt. I should look that up sometime.

But this is how I’ve always approached gasoline: I just go to my station of choice and fill up. If it’s the most expensive, or the cheapest, gas in town, I don’t pay much attention.

For much of my life, that meant shopping with the Bartsches, who also employed me for three (four?) summers during high school/college at their gas station/laundromat. Then, after the Bartsches sold to a rather odious man, who may have shut down the pumps and then let the laundromat slide into filth before it closed, I moved on to Gunnison Tire, owned by a high school classmate of mine and her husband. That’s still where I get gas for my truck, even though they sold a few years ago.

Lynn, who drives 22-plus miles every day, buys a lot more gas than I do, although she makes what I think is the unfortunate choice to shop with City Market, which doesn’t really need any more of our money than it already gets. But it’s convenient — the only other option anywhere on Main Street is right across from City Market, and it is locally owned, but they can’t decide by the year whether they want to sell gas or not, so it’s hard to know when it is an actual option.

And while Lynn pays attention to gas prices, I still don’t, just taking her credit card slips and entering the total into the computer each week.

I also don’t get the Denver Post anymore, and given everything they’ve cut from what was once an august publication (now owned by some hedge fund that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about journalism or public service), they maybe don’t still offer the little feature in the “Denver and the West” section on who in the metro area is offering the best price on gas.

But let’s think this through. Already you are paying a penny more than you think on any gas you buy, but if you went driving clear out of your way across Denver to save even 10 cents on a gallon, and you fill your 10-gallon tank, you will have saved $1. Is that really worth the gas you burned going out of your way? Not to mention the extra time?

But people get funny about saving money on gas.

I am old enough, barely, to remember the “Oil Crisis” of the mid-’70s, when long lines formed at gas stations (not so much in Gunnison) and prices shot up as the Middle East oil producers squeezed the United States. And I know gas has gone well over $4 per gallon here in Gunnison, perhaps even reaching $5, back when tank sizes were closer to 20 gallons.

But generally I think gas lives in the 2-3 dollar range. At $3, assuming you get 30 miles to the gallon and you were to commute to and from Crested Butte every day, and we round to 60 miles for ease of math, you will have spent about $1,600 on gas for the year. If you found a place that charged .10 less per gallon than other nearby stations, you could pocket $52 for the year — enough for a nice meal at a restaurant you probably shouldn’t be dining at these days anyway.

For me, anyway, it doesn’t equal out to all the brain cells so many people expend on the price of gasoline, and so I’ve never given my brain cells over to this — until this morning, when I’m wondering what it is in our psychological make-up that causes us to focus so much on getting “deals” for our gas.

And all because I had a dream with rubber ducks in it. What do you suppose is in my psychological make-up? Probably best not to go there.

I’m guessing, although I didn’t ask, that this gas-psychology may have played a significant part in Gilly’s failed adventure last weekend. She left for Montrose, 60-ish miles away, with a quarter-tank of gas. And no money.

Gilly, a resident of the Gunnison Valley for closing in on 30 years, is likely still of that mindset that you buy your gas out of town when you can because it’s cheaper, even though that might not still be true. Regardless, her first stop in Montrose was at a gas station, which was when she discovered she had left behind her wallet, including credit cards and cash.

There she was, primed to go shopping at Target and not a sou to her name. No money for gas, either, and she had to get back, 60 uphill miles, to Gunnison. She called her family, and they assured her that if she drove no more than 50 miles per hour and coasted on the downslopes, she could make it back. And she did, although her “low gas” light came on with about 15 miles left to travel.

Not too scarred from her trauma, Gilly picked back up and headed for Montrose again Sunday, but this time she checked to make sure she had her wallet. And got her gas in Gunnison, whether it was cheaper or not. It’s called “peace of mind.”

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