Friday, April 30, 2010


I was pumping gas into my vehicle yesterday at a small, locally owned service station and there was a gentleman on the other side of the same pump doing the same thing. We said hello, mentioned the pleasant change in the weather and wondered to each other if we’d completed our Christmas shopping. When his tank was full he turned to his wife - seated on the driver’s side - and began sharing with her the details of this just completed fill-up: 14.68 gallons, 2.49/gallon, 87 octane and other facts I was unaware one could ascertain from a gas pump. She dutifully transcribed this information into a small notebook, checked the current mileage, did some calculations and then placed the book of statistics into the glove compartment. I was both amused and troubled by this event. I have known a handful of people in my lifetime that tracked this kind of data. A couple of my uncles and a brother-in-law always seemed to know exactly what kind of mileage they were getting – city and highway. And the exchange of information was highly competitive – each suspecting the other was lying and refusing to agree on any one brand of gasoline that delivered the best results.
Surely there’s nothing wrong or inhumane about tracking this kind of information. But I have always been puzzled by the need to organize, collate and catalog such mundane stuff. My hunch is that these people spend hours on the weekend poring over a lifetime of miles-per-gallon statistics comparing the manufacturers of the various vehicles they’ve owned through the years based on horsepower, engine size, number of cylinders and gasoline brands. I imagine them getting angry or elated or confused by a set of conclusions they reach. I imagine that some of the calculations throw them into odd forms of depression from which they do not quickly escape. They are tortured when they know deep down that their nephew is getting better mileage or when their next-door neighbor is paying 20 cents less per-gallon for gas.
Well, it’s just a common man’s observation. I’ve got to sign off now and turn my attention to determining the slugging percentages of left-handed, Dominican-born batters in the AL West over the age of 24 during the month of June when Virgo is in the 7th House with Pisces waning.


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