Thursday, March 20, 2003
Ten Miles Per Gallon is No Way to Go Through Life, But It's Great Way to Go Through L.A. Section
The night began like any other. Bad Company was feeling like makin' love on the radio, my gas tank was perilously empty, and we had just started bombing the holy living shit out of Iraq.
I pull into my favorite gas station just as The President began a little speech letting everyone know that someway, somehow, Saddam Hussein had neglected to accept his polite invitation to exile himself to avoid very large bombs raining on his head.
I look up at the prices above the gas pump. $2.25 a gallon for the 89-octane. The oil companies are really holding a a machete to the underside of our balls here in Los Angeles. I'm still deep on the wait-list for an electric-hybrid car (running at 375 miles per gallon), even though I let Ted Danson's clingy assistant tie me up and she's supposedly pulling some strings for me. In the meantime I'm forced to feed the 35-gallon tank of my extremely thirsty Expedition.
On the radio, Bush tells us that we're at war. I remember all the CNN smart-bomb footage from the first go-around in the Gulf, remember being impressed. I wonder if now, a decade later, we have bombs that sneak in through the mail-slot, creep around in the shadows, and tap a soldier on the shoulder before blowing his regiment into fleshy confetti while simultaneously building new schools in the slums of Baghdad.
I look back at the gas prices. The 89's up to six bucks a gallon. And we're only at code orange.
But as I reach into my wallet to deal a serious deficit to my debit card, I notice something. There's a gold card behind it, blank but for a magentic stripe on one side. And then it all floods back: the Cheetos, innumerable Red Bull and vodka cocktails with the President, an unequivocal victory at Indian leg-wrestling on the Oval Office's fine Persian rug. Bush had told me that he'd left his bankroll in his other suit, so instead he handed me this gold card. I'd asked what it was, but he pressed a finger across my lips. You'll know what it is in time, he'd told me.
I slide the card through the reader on the pump. Remove nozzle, lift lever. I fill the tank.
Total sale: $0.02.
An attendant approaches me. I hand him two pennies. He gives me a plastic bag full of Slim Jims and instant-win scratch-off cards.
I take another coin and scrape the silver box off a card with a cartoon of a slot machine on it and instantly win a hundred bucks.
The attendant returns with a c-note and I hand him the spent card. He winks at me. I notice for the first time that he is not of Middle Eastern abstraction. In fact, he's a little Waspy for this part of town. And what's with the ascot?
Back in the car, the President is wrapping up his address. May God continue to bless America, he says.
I paw through the bag of scratch-offs and Slim Jims, wondering what mystery the suddenly-discovered V.I.P. pass to Hooters holds for me. The radio rejoins Bad Company rocking on with their bad selves, the smell of gasoline on my hands as I start the car.