Too busy. Zeke is taking driver’s ed. Her friends are in and out of the house all day, sacked out on the couch or on mats in her bedroom at night. I drive an average of 60 miles a day, I realize. In less than five years I have put 100,000 miles on my car. And those miles are costing me. I get about 22 miles to the gallon with city driving. A drive out to the canyon and back is about 20 miles. So at $4.24 a gallon at the cheap stations, using the lowest quality unleaded, my trip to the canyon to walk the dogs costs close enough to $4 to make it untenable. I have begun cutting back. “I’ll go to the canyon,” I think, seeking solitude and sacred ground. And then I don’t go, but put leashes on the dogs and walk them out my door to the city walkway, which is a disappointing compromise for all of us.
Yesterday, when I drove Zeke across town to meet a friend of hers on his work break, I reminded her that the trip was costing three dollars in gas. I’m so used to just getting in my car to pick up her friends and bring them home, or to drop them off, or to take them to the mall or a matinee, that this new stinginess sits on me awkwardly. But I have no choice. And really it’s a necessary shift in attitude. Despite my environmentally conscious tendencies, my recycling, refusal to buy over-packaged products, and attempt to buy a compact car with decent gas mileage (why is it that the promised MPG is never the actual MPG? No, don’t answer that question. I know!), I have tended to be willing to drive Zeke where she’s wanted to go — and her retinue of friends, too, whose parents wouldn’t or couldn’t take the time or the gas to do so.
But things are changing. I can’t afford it. And the carbon footprint my indiscriminate driving of the past has left hovering over me troubles me. I am more willing to tell Zeke no, when she asks for a ride for her friends now. Luckily, more and more of them are driving, so she asks less and less often!
A harder cutback is the need to tell my father I can’t come see him every two weeks as I used to. For four years after Mum died, I made the trek over the mountains every couple of weeks. In the winter, it was sometimes less often, depending on pass conditions. But in the summer, it was often every weekend. Last winter, the poor weather and frequent pass closures made winter travel less appealing. I begged off more often than not, and now, with gas prices soaring, I find myself hesitating. Even Fourth of July has lost its appeal. I don’t really want to go, though it has been a tradition for 13 years. I tried to tempt my father and sister to come over here instead, as they almost never come to visit (it’s been two or three years since Ruth May has come over this direction, and my father makes it maybe once a year), but they declined. I suppose I will go, but I’d rather stay home, and work on my little garden, and try to resurrect my retrospective, which simmers in the back of my head, flashing quick images at me at unexpected moments.