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2007 03 02
Gettin’ Gassed
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Gas prices back to normal yet? Under 80 cents, at least? Not sure what normal is, for gas prices. Don’t drive so much. Weeks can pass between times I step foot to gas. Months can pass between nozzle insertions in the gas tank.

Nothing wrong with the car. Just isn’t green. Feels better not driving, most days. Not that I’m fanatic about colour. Being green isn’t a fundamental principle for me. Avoiding driving feels nowhere near as good as, say, avoiding killing whenever feasible. Might be more of a policy than a principle.

Best be clear on this. I don’t go thinking we’d all better become bicycle couriers. But should a bicycle courier fly banners declaring: “Saving the World, one delivery at a time” – now, that would be righteous. I knew a fellow did just that, four years back. Didn’t much speak to him. Didn’t personally like him. But absolutely I thought he was righteous. What better principle declaring where one’s at – particularly when some those internal combusting motor vehicle folk try running you off the road?

So. Bias admitted, back to subject. Gas prices normal yet? Needed gas last I drove – Monday, I think. Got some, too. Not enough, though. Probably need more today. Shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. Not at over a buck per litre.

I’d had no clue what was up with gas prices. Found out tuning to the Motts on CFRB 1010. Strike at the railways highly compounded by fire at some oil refinery. Old news, no doubt. Still volatile, though. Oil’s like that. More volatile than spilled milk.

I was shocked – just slightly – listening to the Motts' talk-show. Been tuning to them for years when driving. More than long enough to get the formula. A he said/she said sort of thing. Paul leans a little right. Carol leans a little left. Gives them plenty to bicker over. Never hear them get genuinely upset with each other, though. It’s for our benefit. It’s for the listeners to get upset – get sufficiently agitated to keep listening and to call in.

For instance, should the subject involve terrorism, Paul might say: “What? They go around killing non-combatants, they say it’s no mistake, that’s what they’re out to do – and then they come looking for sympathy and support from Canadian taxpayers? Well, I pay my taxes like any good and decent non-combatant. But what’s the point if that’s where my taxes are going? What’s the point paying taxes like a good decent non-combatant if it goes to support them out to kill you for it? Might just have to change my mind about that. Might just have to change my mind paying taxes like a good little non-combatant. Mm-hmm. Just might have to.”

And then Carol will say, “Oh, Paul.” This can be counted on. Not the exact terminology – she might say, “Listen, Paul.” Or, she might say, “Oh, come on now.” Whatever exact terminology, her inflection can be counted on good as or better than any best friend one might wish to have. And so many volumes in it. Some scolding, some nagging. Patience, but also impatience. Exasperation, amusement, affection. Intimacy. As if she were saying, “Oh, you Neanderthal. Hasn’t anyone told you? No one does it like that any more. Really, you can let go my hair. Let me show you how it’s done nowadays.”

Terrific formula. Absolutely works on me. Gets me itching to call in more often than any other CFRB talk-show. And it isn’t just me it works on. I know because I’ve had no trouble getting through to other CFRB talk-shows. But not with the Motts – whom I would often rather have succeeded getting through to. No way. Always busy. Terrific formula. No doubt it’s terrific, at least in part, due to Carol’s “Oh, Paul.” That’s totally genuine, I think. And nothing inconsistent my thinking so. No reason for formulas to not have natural ingredients.

Often enough, when Carol says it, I’m just coming down to Black Creek Drive off the 400. Nodding my head, thinking, yeah, makes sense – Paul’s not wrong. Even if not entirely right, feels like he’s going the right way. Then, when Carol articulates the day’s version of “Oh, Paul,” I gaze out the window, roll my eyes a bit and think, alright, let’s hear it. Except, something happens when I’m gazing out the window after Carol says it. It’s not just highway traffic out there any more. It’s past, over and beyond traffic. It becomes Toronto. Not because I’m expecting Carol to make sense to me. Mostly I tend to agreeing with Paul. Fairly rare, me feeling Carol goes the right way. But her articulating some version of “Oh, Paul,” – that’s what’s dependable. That’s the landmark. Reminds me where I’m at – even where I’m going. Might be I’m going the right way myself. For me, it’s far more a Toronto landmark than that long, merging, bridging curve off the 400.

What might Carol say next – should the subject involve terrorism, for instance? Not too clear on that. She does make sense sometimes. Other times, though, she seems to wind up contradicting herself. Perhaps something like this: “These people, we can’t just lock them up and throw away the key. Maybe the reason they hate us so much is because they’ve suffered so terribly. So maybe what we really need to do is find out why they hate us so much to want to destroy our way of life.” Something like that, perhaps. Even if not, though – it’s that moderating “Oh, Paul,” (not only) I can count on. Moderating reliably as the lake effect.

That’s why I was shocked listening to the Motts talking gas prices. First, Paul speculated whether gas suppliers are stupid or something. Shouldn’t they ensure some redundancy getting gas to market? They are in that business, right? Supplying gas? Well, I thought, sure they are. Hopefully they’ll learn from mistakes. Bit lame of an argument coming from Paul, though. And then Carol waded in. Without any “Oh, Paul,” – neither hint nor trace of it. Nothing moderating how she waded in, either. There was tension, anger – seemed like even some fear in her voice. What if this had been a terrorist attack? Where would we all be now, if it had? What’s wrong with these people – civil authorities, business leaders, them as got voted most likely in charge? If they can’t handle some confusion, some negligence, some corruption – then what’s to become of us when terrorists actually strike?

Took me a couple days realizing I was shocked. Not terribly, of course – just slightly. Still. It was like a landmark gone missing – whatever happened to the moderating “Oh, Paul.” Were they changing up the formula? Don’t think so. Not what I heard in Carol’s voice. Sounded like tension, anger – maybe even fear. That’s how it sounded to me. But, if so – why? Is that all it takes? For inconvenience, conceivably some danger affecting us personally – and it’s adieu, farewell to moderation? Hope not.

I miss that “Oh, Paul,” moderating. And though my leaning isn’t left – nor right, come to thinkin’ – I do have some greenish bias. Admitted that right up front. Regardless all else, I miss that landmark moderating. So I’m going to try restoring it.

So. Oh, Carol. We mustn’t forget the biochemical, economic and socio-cultural volatility of oil. Lest we forget and neglect consequences flowing from our dependence on such volatility. Even as we curse inconvenience, let’s be a little glad for small reminders. For if we bury our heads in oil-sands whenever reminded by inconvenience, all that shall remain in the end to remind us will be those consequences most dire. Like terrorist attacks. Like global climatic catastrophe.

Let’s welcome such small reminders. Let’s heed and make the most of them. Make the least of oil. Before oil makes nothing but ashes of us, the creatures of the earth and the earth we walk.

[1991 Kuwait oil well fire image by timandheike and used under a Creative Commons license.]
[email this story] Posted by Peter Fruchter on 03/02 at 01:01 PM

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