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As a kid the first time I ever had to deal with gasoline prices was in the summer of my fourteenth year.
Never mind what summer that was.
OK, it was 1959.
Can we get back to the story?
That was the summer my father gave me exclusive use of the family's 16-foot Novi-built, cedar-on-oak skiff with a 10-hp Evinrude outboard.
My father didn't actually use the words “exclusive use” when he gave it to me, but I knew what he meant. He wanted me to have the joys and responsibilities of a boat one whole year before I would get my Maine driver's license and take off in a car for who knows where?
Dad bought me the first tank of gasoline, but all the refills that summer would be my responsibility. I had started cutting lawns and was beginning to learn the power of money.
I can't remember how long that first tank lasted, but I can remember that it didn't last as long as I had hoped.
I recall being tied up to Tink Stanley's wharf waiting for my turn to gas up. I was wondering where that first tank of fuel had disappeared to. I hadn't really been anywhere - a few trips to the harbor, a few trips to some islands, that was about it. I promised myself then that I'd be more careful with how I burned my fuel.
Here it is a few summers later, and I'm still wondering where my last tank of fuel went. And now that the purveyors of fuel are getting over $2.30 a gallon for the stuff, the question seems as pertinent as it was all those years ago at Tink's wharf. Maybe even a tad more.
Fact is I do everything - fuel-wise - that I'm supposed to do to get the best mileage. I keep my late-model car tuned. I check its fluids regularly. I keep my tires inflated to the proper pressure.
OK, I'm lying.
I think of doing all those things and occasionally do some of them when I think of it, but my fuel should still last longer than it does. Shouldn't it?
And while we're on the subject, why does gasoline cost so much?
Ask the average car-driving citizen why gasoline prices are so high and you'll most likely get one of several answers.
“The oil companies are gouging us. They're always to blame for something.” Or, “The gas station owners are the ones doing it. They're making all the money,” or “It's the Saudis and OPEC - they're the guilty ones. They slow down production and - “poof” - up goes the price.” Some will say gasoline is taxed too much and that's why it's so expensive. “Just lower the tax on the stuff and it'll be a lot cheaper.”
Simple enough.
Politicians say they'd like nothing more than to lower the tax on gasoline but they can't.
Why? Well, for one thing the gasoline tax is what they use to build and repair all those roads you drive on, roads that more and more people are using and wearing out.
I went home over the Fourth and heard that Tink's son is doing very well with the family business. He built a huge marina and chandlery, and so I drove down to see it.
As I at there in my car looking at my gauge and wondering where the last tank of fuel went, I couldn't have been more happier for him.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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