Friday 21 Oct 2016

Paying at the Pump
Sjef Frenken

"So," said Jack, as we sat down for our lunch, "have you been keeping an eye on the price of gas?"

I said: "Two things, Jack -- first, yes, I have; two, what do you care, you don't have a car!"

Jack said: "The reason I'm interested is that I'm sick and tired of hearing people around me complain about the high price of gas. Especially a while back, when it was somewhere around a dollar-twenty a litre."

I said: "It sure looks expensive, doesn't it, at that price. Still, people pay as much for a litre of bottled water."

Jack said: "When I was in Europe last year, people there kept complaining about the gas too, but they were paying almost twice what people were paying here. And it didn't seem to make a dent on the number of cars and trucks on the road."

I said: "Jack, I'll let you in on a little secret: even at a buck twenty, gas is a good deal."

"How do you mean," said Jack.

I said: "I've been doing a little figuring. When I came to Canada in August of 1951, the price of a cup of coffee at a greasy spoon was 5 cents. Shortly after it went up to 10 cents.

Nowadays you pay anywhere from a loonie to a dollar-twenty-five for that same cup of coffee. A litre of milk cost about 20 cents in 1951; it now costs about 2 dollars -- ten times more expensive. A loaf of bread was about 12 cents then, it costs 16 times more now. I figure that most things are anywhere from ten to 13 times more expensive now than they were in the early fifties."

"But salaries have gone up too," said Jack.

"Sure," I said, but compared to everything else you have to buy, gas is still cheap. In 1951 the price for an imperial gallon was about 40 cents. That works out to about 9 cents per litre. Multiply that by 10 to 13 to account for inflation, and the price of gas should be somewhere between 90 cents to a dollar-seventeen per litre. I think the price at the pump this morning was 80 cents. That means we're paying considerable less for gas right now than we did in the fifties, when people didn't complain."

"Hard to believe." said Jack, "Especially about the not complaining."

"And what is even more amazing," I continued, "is that cars nowadays are a lot more efficient, and can get one hell of a lot more mileage out of a litre of gas that cars could in the fifties."

"Jeez," said Jack, "you've almost convinced me to go out and buy a car."

"You're not serious," I said.

"Damn right, I'm not!" said Jack. "I get even better mileage out of my bus pass than you get out of your Honda. And no upkeep, no insurance payments, no depreciation."

"Ah," I said, "but there are things I can do in my Honda, that you can't do in your bus."

"At your age!" said Jack, "You should be ashamed of yourself. Don't let the cops catch you."

Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.

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