“Are we stopping here?” Susanne asked, stirring from her sleep as I slowed down for the approaching gas station.
“What’s going on?” she asked, as I just as quickly sped back up, leaving the station behind.
“We’ll have to go on to Fayetteville. That place is closed.”
I had just fallen victim to something that I want to warn you about today. As a conscientious and concerned citizen I feel it is my duty to call your attention to a grave concern of mine. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt. You see, gas stations around the country are going out of business and leaving behind the signs advertising their price as of the date they closed.
Maybe you don’t understand why this is such a big deal. Well I’m telling you, it is a safety concern. I first noticed it a while back when my wife and daughter and I were returning from a trip to Branson, Missouri. We were winding our way along an unfamiliar two-lane highway in Arkansas. We needed to fill up, but I was intent on making it to Fayetteville, where I was sure we would find the cheapest gas in the area. We were on this little highway approaching a small town, really just a wide spot in the road, as we used to say about my Kansas hometown. There, about a half mile ahead was one of those tall gas station signs, and glory halleluiah, the price was at least sixty cents cheaper than any place we’d found on our trip.
Boy was I excited! I was slowing down and getting ready to pull in, jubilant about the price I was going to brag about later to my family and friends. And then I noticed it. There were no other cars around taking advantage of this amazing price. There were no lights on in the building. The place had gone belly up. It took awhile to get the ol’ ticker settled back down to its normal pace after all the excitement I’d felt.
And several weeks later it happened to me again, this time in McKinney. I was heading north on McDonald when I noticed cheap gas advertised and nearly broke my neck jerking my head around to recheck the sign. Again, a closed business. No cheap gas.
None of this would have happened, I suppose, if I was driving a SMART car. But I will get to that later.
This brings me to my proposal: we need a law requiring gas station proprietors to take the numbers down when they close their business. Violators should be subject to a hefty fine. You see, someone is going to get hurt one of these days. A few heart palpitations or a sore neck, like I experienced is no big deal. But someone is going to stare in disbelief at a sign and get so focused on it that they stop paying attention to their driving, and then, big problems. Someone else might do one of those cross-three-lanes-in-fifty-feet maneuvers Dallas drivers seem to specialize in trying to get into the station and wind up hitting someone.
We cannot stand idly by and let this happen. Now is the time to act before it is too late. Especially now. Gas prices were down for a while but they’re creeping up again. As they climb higher there will be stations that go out of business. We should act now to make them take down their signs when they close. It may save a life.
But as I said, I suppose none of this would be a problem if everyone drove the SMART car. You’ve seen one, right? The itty bitty car that looks like someone wrapped a grocery cart with metal and added a motor. I’m not sure how handy they are for a road trip because I can’t see any place to put luggage, although I suppose I could tow it in the child carrier I usually cart my daughter in behind my bicycle.
The point is, though, that a car this small is bound to get such great gas mileage that their owners aren’t prone to things like old gas station price signs. For a trip to the grocery store the SMART car is probably just the thing. And the really cool thing is, most grocery stores will let the SMART cars drive right on into the store, not that there’s room in it for much more than a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.
But at least no one’s getting hurt.