Gas ready for swarm of petro-stalkers

May 20, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

WITH GAS prices here surging above two bucks a gallon, this is fast becoming the season of the petro-stalkers.

You know what I'm talking about here.

The petro-stalkers are those motorists who are driven by an uncontrollable urge to always find the cheapest gas prices.

All day long, wherever their driving takes them, their beady little eyes are busy scanning the signboards of every gas station they pass.

Over time, they develop an encyclopedic knowledge of gas price fluctuations, and are able to rattle off the current prices for regular, mid-grade and premium fuels at every station within a 20-mile radius.

If you mention that you just paid $2.06 a gallon at the Shell station, they'll snort derisively.

"Boy, did you get taken to the cleaners," they'll say.

"I can't believe anyone would pay that," they'll say.

"Two-oh-six? I wouldn't pay that in a million years!" they'll say.

Then they'll regale you with the story of how they only paid $1.96 at some Hess station in Carroll County, suggesting that your life now has far less meaning than it once did.

Oh, yes, especially in times like these, the petro-stalkers exude a sense of superiority.

What I've discovered, though, is that fiscal common sense really does not seem to matter to most petro-stalkers.

For instance, your average petro-stalker will drive 10 miles out of his way to save 40 cents on a gas fill-up.

Does this make any sense to you?

Or he'll sit in a long line of cars at a gas station, burning gallons of gas in his big SUV, just for the chance to buy more gas at a slightly cheaper price.

Yet this is generally the same someone who thinks nothing of plunking down $2,700 for a big-screen TV.

Or forking over $5,000 for a new super-slim laptop that connects to an orbiting satellite.

But if Roy's Sunoco is three cents cheaper than Beltway Shell, then, by God, he will drive to Roy's Sunoco - even if Beltway Shell is a half-mile down the road and Roy's Sunoco is near the Delaware border.

It would be one thing, of course, if these petro-stalkers kept their obsession to themselves and left the rest of us alone.

Unfortunately, that rarely happens.

Most petro-stalkers are convinced that everyone else is as fascinated by gasoline prices as they are.

Therefore, at the office, they will sidle up to you and, in a tone that suggests the sharing of a great confidence, will whisper: "The Citgo on Belair Road? Only $1.95 for regular."

You, of course, being of sound mind, do not care what the price of regular is at the Citgo on Belair Road.

After all, you don't live anywhere near Belair Road.

And your travels never take you to Belair Road.

And you have a life.

So why should you care?

In fact, your natural reaction to hearing about the price of regular at the Citgo on Belair Road will be to bark: "Go away."

At this, the petro-stalker will appear to be surprised, and then offended.

"Just trying to do a favor," they'll say.

Then they'll stomp away in a huff.

Sadly, the huff rarely lasts long enough.

In fact, the very next time you see the petro-stalker, he's back whispering another state secret.

"One-ninety-four at the Amoco in Glen Burnie," he'll say. "Just passed it this morning."

Thanks, pal.

I probably won't get over to Glen Burnie for another, oh, 10 years or so.

But I'll keep that in mind.

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