WHY I'M BUYING NEW GLASSES AND HOARDING COINS
The reels on the gas pumps spin so fast these days that it's become almost impossible to stop them on an even dollar figure. I hate it when a mosquito buzzes my ear. I flick it away and then look back at the pump--which I was monitoring fiercely until that moment--and see the colossal, untidy sum: $40.03. Luckily, most service stations now have LEAVE A PENNY, TAKE A PENNY dishes that are meant to help customers who come up short, but sadly there's often nothing in them because so many other people share my problem. What's worse, because my eyes are aging, I usually exceed my round number by 2¢, minimum, forcing me, when there is money in the dish, to take more than one coin as the cashier looks on in disapproval. With gas prices still rising, expect those penny dishes to be replaced by Susan B. Anthony--dollar dishes.
IT'S NOT THE HIGHWAY PATROL I FEAR
They make it sound almost like Lent: "the summer driving season." It sounds compulsory or something, as though I might lose my citizenship if I haven't clocked at least 1,200 miles of continuous interstate travel by June 30 and finalized plans to double that number by Labor Day. This shouldn't be a problem for me, fortunately, because I love taking road trips in any season, but what if sometime around the end of May, say, I'm physically incapacitated? Will my absence on the roads be noticed?
I am worried that it will--by the watchful AAA. Before every summer and major holiday, the AAA makes uncanny, exact predictions about the total number of vehicles that are about to flood the highways as well as about the average distance per trip. How does it do that? Computers? Spies? Wiretaps? "Hi, honey, I'll be coming on Aug. 5, driving straight through from Denver ... What's that clicking noise?"
THE TRUTH DETROIT WON'T TELL YOU
General Motors bit the bullet in April and finally shut down its Oldsmobile division, freeing me to share a secret: despite the assertions of the famous ad campaign, it was always your father's Oldsmobile. The body styles were boring, the engines ho-hum, the seats fairly comfortable but blandly upholstered, and the radios seemed to be preset at the factory to play only stations called "the Breeze." Plus, most of them smelled like Pall Malls and cherry cough drops.
THE ROMANCE OF IT ALL
America's love affair with the automobile actually ended when we decided to marry the car, forsaking all other nonairborne forms of transport. We tore up the streetcar tracks, stopped building sidewalks and federalized the major passenger rail lines, thereby rendering them largely useless. Our passion for the car still burned hot at times, but it gradually cooled as traffic congestion worsened, fuel prices soared, and the theory of global warming became the 110° reality. Then came the wars in the desert, culminating in our current one.