Biff America: Gas and boredom
Because I don’t have teenage children of my own, I’m not used to being treated as if I’m invisible.
The kid who looked at me over the gas pump didn’t bother to pretend that he thought my astute observation was the least bit interesting.
Keeping with my policy when dealing with those who don’t speak my language or, worse yet, are not interested in my opinions, I repeated myself and spoke loudly.
“It just dawned on me, I just paid more to fill up my truck with gas than I spent for my first car. That’s amazing.”
But the expression on his face suggested that “amazing” was not the first word that came to his mind.
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One of the beauties of getting older: You care less about what people think of you. Or perhaps you just don’t remember. So, I tried again.
“My first car, which I bought in 1969, was a ’57 Rambler. I paid about $55 for that car. Today, I just paid over $60 to fill up my truck. Can you imagine that?”
I had a grandfather who would bore me to death by recounting every automobile he ever owned: the cost, mileage, when he bought and sold it.
He had an idiot-savant-like memory of every vehicle he ever drove. When he was over 80 he often forgot my name and to zip up his fly, but he could recall that in 1942 his ‘39 Dodge Coupe was blowing oil by the seals at 63,000 miles.
He would corner me just as I was about to leave the house. I wanted to escape his monologues so badly my feet itched.
But my granddad’s tedious ramblings were totally different than the important message I was trying impart to the kid pumping gas next to me.
What I was saying was really interesting.
Luckily there was another middle-aged guy across the gas island, he walked over and weighed in on the matter. I guessed he was a little older than I am. He wore work clothing, had gray hair, a ponytail and an earring.
“That sounds about right,” he said. “In 1969 the average home price in America was about 19,000 bucks, I bet that same house now would go for about a half million at least; that’s an appreciation of almost 2,000%.”
Now, granted, I had no way of knowing if the old dude’s numbers were correct, but he said them with such conviction I gave him the benefit of the doubt. More importantly, he was interested in the same stuff that bored the young kid.
Admittedly, I’ve always found anyone who agreed with me to be scintillating. I was ready to move on, but this guy was far from finished.
He added, “OK, how about this. In 1969 the price of gas was about 30 cents. Now we just paid $2.69. That’s about an 800% increase. So the price of gas has inflated about half the amount of real estate.”
But I hadn’t said anything about the price of gas. It seemed like he was trying to hijack my message.
My mind began to wander and I took a quick glance at my watch; I had stuff I needed to do.
Unfortunately, the self pay option was not working at my pump so I had to walk into the store to pay and collect my credit card. The old guy followed me inside, “Those old Ramblers were cool cars,” he said. “Some of them had a push-button transmission.”
He just kept talking and wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise.
I walked back to my truck and he followed. “How about this,” he said again. “I just paid $150 for these work boots which is more than I paid for my first car, which was about $100 — about twice what you paid for your Rambler — that makes sense; I think I’m a little younger than you.”
That guy was beginning to tick me off.
“One of the good things about getting older is you find you’re more interesting than most of the people you meet.”
I think Lee Marvin said that.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have to wait to reach middle age to find myself fascinating. Now that I’m older, I’m even more interesting, because I’ve gotten more adept at telling the same stories and jokes over and over again to a point where I’ve fine-tuned my delivery.
Young people might find me a bore, but my granddad would be proud.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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