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Monday, September 29, 2008

No Gas for You!

You may have heard about the gas shortage in the Southeast following Hurricane Ike. What you may not realize is just how ridiculous it has gotten here in Atlanta. In my part of town, at least, more than ninety percent of the stations I pass are out of gas. You heard me right: nine out of every ten stations simply don't have any gasoline. None. And mid grade or premium gas? Well, if you find stations that have it, it's pure luck.

Dorkelf and I were supposed to go camping at Amicolola Falls over the weekend, with a visit to Dahlonega (site of the first major U.S. gold rush and a beautiful town). Um, that would require enough gas to get us there and back, and half a tank won't do it.

My husband had passed an open station on his way to pick me up, so we headed over there. We wait in a fairly short line (that means there were only five cars in line waiting for each pump) and pull up. No gas. Seriously: while we watch, an employee walks over and removes the prices from the sign. As we learned over the past week, that's the universal symbol for "no gas left." The person before us had gotten the last of the gas!

So we drove around and around, unable to find another station with gas. The only one we found was a QuikTrip up the street from our apartment, and the line was so long that we wouldn't be able to go camping if we waited. It was already 6:45; wait an hour for gas, and it would be 7:45 or 8:00 when we finished. That would put us arriving at the campground at 10:00. Our tent is very easy to set up, but at 10 pm, in the dark, trying not to disturb everyone else? Not my idea of fun. (As we found out the next day, it's just as well we didn't wait. They ran out of gas shortly thereafter; there was also a scenic fistfight in the parking lot…not the usual sort of thing for our neighborhood!)

Friday night we drove the five miles to a very pleasant shopping center and spent my husband's Barnes and Noble gift card on Heroes season Two. To our way of thinking, if our plans were going to be spoiled, we were at least going to have some fun! Saturday, we drove all the way to IHOP, four miles from the house, which allowed us to do our grocery and pet shopping all in the same shopping center.

Sunday we splurged. After church, we drove a few minutes down the road to the Duluth Fall Festival. We met my sister (driving on a nearly empty tank of gas) and had a great lunch. Then I hung around and did birthday and anniversary shopping while Dorkelf ran back to the church for his student's recital.

After he picked me up, I told him about an open gas station a woman from church said had gas that morning. It was only a couple of blocks out of the way, so we took a chance and drove over. Yay gas! We were in line for forty minutes, which isn't bad considering that the line you see in the photo was one of three lines just like it going into the one station. But we got ten gallons of gas, and QuikTrip was only charging $3.89, the lowest I've seen in Northeast Atlanta! Plus, the employees were doing a great job directing traffic. (QuikTrip has handled this better than any other company I've seen.)

Of course, many inconsiderate people are only making it worse. Ridership on public transportation was up last week (according to drivers; I know my bus was more crowded!), but this morning the bus was nearly empty. Many other people aren't cutting back on their driving, especially in upper middle class and upper class areas. People all over the city are topping up the tank every time they pass an open station, instead of waiting until they get to a quarter tank or so. That means the gas runs out faster, and our supply is already low in the wake of Gustav and Ike.

I feel like my husband and I are already acting responsibly on this front. We live fairly close to my husband's job now, so his commute is short, even with a short detour to take me to the bus center. I take public transportation to work every day, and home every day except Wednesday and Thursday. (Wednesday, public transportation would make me late to church; Thursday, I take it to dance class, but get out of class too late for the bus.) On those days, he picks me up.

Anyway, next time you pass two gas stations in a row with gas and no waiting, think about all of us in Atlanta and be thankful!

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