By Robert Lalah
I could scarcely believe my eyes. The sign outside the gas station near Ocho Rios, St Ann, had the price of a litre of 90 octane gas as $135. Surely, this was a mistake. I mean, gas prices are high, and they seem to be rising faster than ever, but there's no way anyone could be selling it for that much money.
I continued driving along the same roadway, amused at the gas station's error and wondering how long it would take for them to discover the misdeed. Poor fools, I thought.
Then, my stomach sank. About 100 yards to my left was another gas station, a different company entirely, and looming over the property was a billboard of sorts, ominously displaying the price of a litre of 90 octane gas - $139.
I was stunned.
This happened a couple of weeks ago while I was in St Ann for just a day. In Kingston, a litre of the same gas averages somewhere around the mid to high 120s. St Ann clearly has it a lot worse, but I suspect that no matter where in the country you are, filling up at a gas station these days is more painful than root canal.
I remember when the price of a litre of gas hit triple digits for the first time. Something told me that despite the usual fluctuations in prices, we would never again return to sub-$100 days. I fear I was right.
Everyone hates high gas prices. You could be driving a Corolla or a Range Rover, it really doesn't matter. We all have things we'd rather do with our money.
Same lousy gas
The most vexing part of it is that whether you're paying $39 or $139, all you're getting is the same lousy gas that will only take you from here to there and no further. What's so great about over there anyway? I'm seriously contemplating just staying here permanently.
But I know I'll probably have to go to the grocery store at some point, so I need to come up with some sort of low-budget transportation plan. I was near South Camp Road the other day and saw two policemen standing on a sidewalk behind some shrubs while two large brown horses grazed nearby. I used to think it was silly for policemen to be riding around the city on horses in this day and age.
It always seemed awkward, like the horses weren't sure how to manoeuvre the paved areas and the policemen were just hanging on for dear life, hoping they'd figure it out. But now I see the genius of it. Horses don't run out of gas. And when they need a top-up on energy, all you have to do is pull up to the nearest grassy area and let them have a go at it.
They are messy, though, and it would likely be a real chore parking one in a garage.
I guess I could always get a scooter. They run on very little gas, can zip through traffic and are a breeze to park. The trouble, though, is that it's impossible to look cool on a scooter. There's something about the tiny wheels and perky horn that make them appear less than sophisticated.
Walking is an option, but only within reason. I can't promise anyone that I'll be trekking miles-long distances, but perhaps for everyday tasks, this plan could work. Instead of driving around town paying bills and buying this and that, at places relatively close to each other, maybe I could just walk. I certainly wouldn't have to worry about parking, and refuelling would require little more than a tall glass of water.
But consider how time-consuming this would be. And what if I want to see a late movie at Carib? I don't want to be walking home near midnight. There are enough crazies in the city during the day.
Hmm. Foiled again. This needs some more thought, but I won't stop trying. Better to find a way out now than to wait till gas gets to the dreaded $200-per-litre mark which, at the current rate, could be only a few months away.
Robert Lalah is assistant editor - features, and author of the popular 'Roving with Lalah'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com