I would have never thought that the experience of pumping gas would be an occasion for deep personal reflection. But as the weeks of high gas prices have dragged on, the Spiegel grocery cart has been “freed” of more and more luxury items. (My friends Ben and Jerry feel quite abandoned and the kids have noticed that their cereal now comes in “dog food bags” rather than the more traditional and chic toy filled box.) I have been surprised to see how something so seemingly mundane can reveal a great deal about myself and the way I see the world. As a political science grad and concerned citizen, I have pondered the various theories for relief. I don’t want to reveal my ignorance by putting forth any concrete solutions to this eco-political quandary. At times, it has made me feel so small and helpless I have been tempted to humbly kneel down before the almighty gas station and admit defeat. On other occasions, I feel disposed to raise my fist in defiance, pack up the van and move to the country, build a windmill and thumb my nose at society in general. (These moods could be brought on by watching too much of “The Wilderness Family” with my kids.)
What I have noticed most, though, is my own sense of entitlement and my frustration at having limits placed on my freedoms. Jim and I certainly have never been wealthy and have gone through seasons of lean and leaner, but recently, with each new trip to the pump, I find that portion of our budget dedicated to gas growing resentfully larger. As a matter of logic, that portion of our budget dedicated to other things grows smaller. (Again my friends Ben and Jerry come to mind-after all, they have bills to pay as well). We aren’t what you would call big spenders but as trips out to dinner and babysitting fall to the wayside, I have been shocked by the depth of my bitterness.
When I finally stopped to analyze the true source of my grumbling, I realized I was squirming under this new limitation of movement, desperate to go wherever the heck I pleased. In this country we are simply not accustomed to limiting our mobility. Miles of interstate, relatively well-maintained, beckon us to new and exciting destinations. There are times when I am so weary of this house that a trip to the pet store seems like a vacation. There is an upside to being forced to retrench (a word I have always wanted to use, thank you Jane Austen and Persuasion). It has given me an opportunity to test my ingenuity. Need new sleeveless shirts for watching the kids in the yard? Just cut off the sleeves of your stretched out old ones. Nothing to eat for dinner? Make breakfast-pancakes taste good any time of day. But if prices continue to rise and you happen upon an abandoned house where the Spiegels used to live, just head for the open country and look for the windmill.