Gas Pump Blues: Our Adaptability is Our Greatest Weapon Yet!

May 20, 2008

“…It’s amusing to read the hard-done American stories. I wonder if [Americans] realise that the price difference from one side of the Pond to the other is 300%? Two bucks a gallon in the US; well over 6 bucks a gallon in the UK…”

–“Bennett” from Cambridge, England…
BBC News Blog

May 24, 2004


We’re catching up to you, “Bennett”. And we don’t find it amusing at all.

Wo! The honeymoon is so completely over, as if I need to point that out! Yes, the American love affair with cheap gasoline has come to an abrupt, very unromantic close due to our sudden exposure to some devastating political, economic, and environmental realities—the kinds of issues that have been affecting other parts of the world for some time, as our man Bennett would attest.

These realities have snatched from us the rose-colored glasses that made crude oil seem a commodity whose supply was endless, whose availability was universal. The fat lady’s now hailing a cab outside the concert hall;  the barman’s turning over that last chair before dragging out the ol’ broom, mop and pail. Finito; The End; g’night, John-Boy… ubbidy-ubbidy-ubbidy, that’s all, folks!

Did I mention it’s over?

It’s true that we’ve had the wind knocked out of us by the shock of these ghastly price hikes and their immediate aftermath. But now it’s time for us all to right ourselves, brush ourselves off, and start exercising some of the world-famed “true grit” and “steely resolve” that brought us through two world wars, the Great Depression, and a single day of unprecedented terror in 2001—largely of one mind and one heart as a people.

As Americans, we seldom move or believe—even briefly—as a single people. It is exceptionally rare that we hear a call—or perceive a threat—in response to which we will all rally because of a common conviction that we must…perhaps for our collective survival. We are, for better or worse, a nation with a very individualist character about it. A loose confederation of sovereign Mini-Me’s, if you will.

Now, as someone who lived and traveled in Asia for years, I can tell you that we are indeed famous for our so-called “rugged individualism”: Most people who mentioned it to me found it a very admirable trait, suggesting that they themselves would be reluctant to simply pick up and settle down in a foreign country on their own, just to see what that place might be like.

But as impressive as our deeply-ingrained individualism might be in some respects, it may prove the greatest obstacle we face in our struggle to confront the reality of skyrocketing gasoline costs.

See, there’s what I call a “frontier-freedom gene” that served people well at one point early in our history as a nation. The compulsion toward unfettered, self-directed action is actually universal, and still has its positive applications in our own time and place.

But now, its most readily-seen manifestation in everyday U.S. life is impractically self-centered in nature. And so, regarding something like regular transport from Point A to Point B, we Americans are often at a loss regarding how to cooperate; to arrange; to serve; to share.

And never must anyone, anywhere, ever ask us to wait! Not for anybody, not anything, not on any day of the week!

In fact, never mind driving; it’s hard for most of us to voluntarily coordinate any activity with others that doesn’t promise wall-to-wall thrills—you know, Oscar-worthy entertainment from start to finish!

Getting to work every day is not a glamorous affair like the movies. But in 2008, we’d do well to start thinking of it in a whole new light…our remaining resources and our wallets depend on it.

Our future is waiting! Time to get ready for our close-up!


On Thursday, Part II of Gas Pump Blues!

* * * * * *