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They messed with our minds

They messed with our minds

Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 9:34 pm
By: Lisa Smartt

  Like most American families, we continued to drive both our cars even when gas was $4 a gallon. We didn’t like it. We complained about it. But in a strange way, the high gas prices gave us a topic of conversation everywhere we went. While walking into a gas station or convenience store, I would comment to someone I didn’t even know, “Whew! They’re killin’ us with these gas prices. I think I need to buy a horse. Don’t you?”

Even people I didn’t know were quick to engage in the conversation, “Yeah. It’s really bad for me ’cause I work an hour away from home. Oh, and what about those grocery prices?”

“Yeah. It’s time to buy a horse AND a milk cow. Maybe we should share a family farm.”  

There was a strange sense of community camaraderie which developed around the $4 gas. But I always felt sorry for people who worked at the gas stations. One day I heard an older lady say to the gas station clerk, “Good Night! What are you people doin’ to us? How in the heck are we supposed to pay for gas at these ridiculous prices? I can hardly afford to drive to the grocery store!” The clerk, who incidentally makes a low hourly wage herself, just shrugged and said, “Lady, ain’t nothin’ I can do about it. Trust me. I don’t set the prices.”

But one day something happened. Something miraculous. Gas went down. $3.50. $3. Then there was the glorious day it dropped below $3. That’s when I knew they had messed with our minds. I don’t really know who “they” are. Maybe it’s the same “they” who tell us not to eat red meat or not to wear white shoes after Labor Day. Nevertheless, “they” were clever enough to make gas so high that when it dropped to below $3, most Americans were as giddy as a pig in slop. I eagerly began networking with friends and fellow citizens. “Hey! Did you see that gas is $2.79 over at such and such place?” Cheerily a friend would respond, “Are you kidding? I saw it for $2.69! Can you believe it is SO low??”

Low? That’s when I knew they had us where they wanted us. Clearly, “they” had used the $4 gas prices to conquer our innate sense of decency and intelligence. We began shouting and celebrating the idea of paying $2.50 for a gallon of gas. Now that it’s close to $2 a gallon, the same people who had cussed the local gas station clerk are naming their newborn babies after her. And the people who sold their SUV six months ago for the price of a bologna sandwich are kicking themselves.

As I ponder our current gratefulness regarding gas prices, it’s made me think about my two boys. I should get them up at 5 a.m. every morning for a week. Think how they would PRAISE me for the 6:30 wake-up call the next week! I should limit their television time to 10 minutes a day … just to get the accolades and cheers when I tell them they can have an hour! Yep! I learned a lot from paying $4 for a gallon of gas. But I’ve learned my lesson. So, if “they” are reading this column, go ahead and drop it to $1 a gallon. We can handle it.

Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View:  Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for  $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at
Published in The Messenger 11.5.08

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