Gas Prices in the Good Old Days
ED GORDON, host:
We talked earlier about the strain gas prices are putting on many Americans. And because there's no relief in sight, some people can't help but think back to the good old days.
Commentator John McCann remembers when gas prices were low and when driving a car meant cruising, not running errands. He invites us to go back in time with him for just a moment.
(Soundbite of unlocking and getting into a car)
Mr. JOHN MCCANN (Columnist, The Herald-Sun, Durham, North Carolina): Hey, hop in.
(Soundbite of car door slamming shut)
Let's take a ride.
(Soundbite of radio and gauges inside car)
The year is 1991, and you couldn't tell me nothing. I'd just completed my first year of college and I was home for the summer. And there it was, parked in my parents' backyard, a 1987 Ford Escort Pony. It was white and it was mine. And gas was like $1.02 a gallon.
And it was time to cruise, because a brother could ride for days on $10 of unleaded. And the man in the White House was named Bush. Well, Bush, Sr.
Anyway, I was ready to get my chill on, because I finally had my own wheels. Now, I didn't have no money for no BBS rims or anchors(ph), just enough spare change to scrape together and buy a vanilla aroma tree freshener to make my ride smell good. And because it was a white car, you had to keep it clean. And believe me, I kept it clean, Jack.
Yet there was just one problem. I didn't know how to drive the thing.
Unlike what I heard some of you did back in the day, when I took driver's ed, I did my three-point turn and all that on a car with an automatic transmission, which wasn't helping me all that much at this point, because my folks had just put their pennies together to get me this 4-speed, stick shift Escort.
So my daddy put me behind the wheel in the parking lot of this community center where I perfected my basketball game that resulted in me, well, getting cut from the team in middle school and high school. But hopefully this would prove to be more fertile training ground, as far as my new car was concerned.
So there I was, jerking and sputtering and stalling that poor little car; had it doing the Harlem Shake before the dance came out this millennium; had the car sounding like it had the flu; just coughing. I couldn't find the right balance between giving it some gas and easing off the clutch.
Daddy was frustrated. Boy, I done bought you this car and you can't drive it. And boy, you got to learn how to drive this car. You got to learn how to drive this thing!
And before long, I got the hang of it, which doesn't mean I didn't stall when I got stuck out there in traffic, but I learned little tricks, like using the emergency break and revving the engine if I happened to find myself stopped on an incline at a red light. Tricks like that.
Well, my little Escort's gone to that automotive graveyard. These days, I drive a Honda Civic 5-speed, another stick shift, and I can change gears with the best of them. Thing is, I don't care that much these days for driving, which is a far cry from the time when I first got my license and looking forward to washing my parents' cars, because it meant I got to drive them into the backyard. And it's not like I was really driving, because the distance from the driveway to the backyard didn't even require me to give the cars any gas. I'd just them in gear and let it roll.
But I was behind the wheel, you see, and that's all that mattered. Now, I can't stand driving, because I'm either loading groceries or loading my two-year-old in the baby car seat, or loading my gas tank - and depleting my wallet at the same time - with expensive regular unleaded gas that's either at, or around, $3 a gallon. Could be worse though, because I could be you.
You and your big, giant, gas-guzzling SUV.
GORDON: John McCann is a columnist for the Herald-Sun in Durham, North Carolina.