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LIFE ON WHEELS

Some Look for Gas Prices, Just in the Knick of Time

August 17, 1989|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

My gas tank may be nearly empty, as usual, but at least my mailbox is full.

Orange County drivers still have plenty to say on several subjects that we've discussed in this column recently, including fueling up: when, where and how we do it, and what can happen if we don't.

"I hate spending time waiting in gas lines, so I drive until I'm almost on empty," writes Ping Gee of Anaheim, a woman after my own heart. Since she traded in her old car for a new--and unfamiliar--one a couple of months ago, she says: "I'm not too sure where 'empty' actually is. The manual says 15 gallons, but the most I have put in is 14.08 gallons." (If that's true, Ms. Gee, then I would say that you run it down way below "almost empty.")

"I use the trip odometer," Gee continues, "to gauge how far I actually drive between fill-ups, so fortunately I won't really run out of gas." (Hey, my philosophy is, if you've still got .92 of a gallon stashed away, you're good for a week.)

Gee says she always pays cash, pumps her own gas and usually sticks to one brand because "they tend to have the cheapest name-brand gasoline." However, she has found price variations of several cents per gallon even within that same brand, so she tries to avoid the pricier ones, unless she's desperate.

"My husband just rolls his eyes when I point out which gas station we should go to when we're out and about, but I figure, why should we pay up to 10 cents more per gallon of gas, when one of the cheaper stations is in the vicinity that we're headed to? Of course, he always points out that the most I'm going to save anyway is about 60 cents. Big deal! But 60 cents per fill-up is a big deal when I'm filling up once every 10 days. Since my work commute is only six miles, most people would save a lot more than I do, since they commute further."

But Marilyn Vanderwarf of Garden Grove points out that not everyone has the choice of saving with self-serve. "It is impossible for me to use self-service due to rheumatoid arthritis. Prices per gallon of gas for full-service are much higher; the difference between full- and self-service is as much as 10 to 30 cents per gallon. Consequently, the customer who cannot use self-service is penalized by the high cost of full-service.

Good point. We make spaces for people with handicaps to park their cars, so why couldn't some gas stations offer assistance and/or a price break when they fill up?

Several readers wrote about the times when they tried to keep going on nothing but fumes. Henry C. Meyer of Laguna Beach remembered the time that he and his friends, Howie and Stu, were on the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles, climbing up Sepulveda Pass.

"About a hundred feet from the crest . . . the big car began to buck and stutter. 'I forgot to get gas!' Howie exclaimed. Stu let out a long wail. 'Howie,' I yelled, 'put her in neutral; maybe we can coast over the top.'

"That's what he did and pulled over to the far right lane. Slower and slower the overpass approached. Would we make it? 50 . . . 45 . . . 40 . . . 35. We all hunched over forward, like cutting down the wind resistance. At 25, we groaned. Would we make it, already in the shadow of the overpass? 25 . . . 20 . . . 15. We were over!"

Fortunately, there was a gas station at the bottom of the hill, and they coasted--"neat as you please"--right up to the pump.

After enduring my lecture on seat belts, Jeff Draugelis of Newport Beach wrote to say that he's a true believer in buckling up. Draugelis says that he believes that "driving with seat belts can make one a better driver. Not to insist that there is an absence of a threat of harm, but to declare a different, assured attitude toward the art of driving. I feel more confident and certain of my actions and reactions."

Draugelis says he comes from a family of bucklers. "I do believe it is a genuine example of both intelligence and concern for one's self and for others with whom one shares the highways."

He says he began to appreciate seat belts about 10 years ago when he delivered cars all over Southern California for a leasing company. Buckling up, he says, gave him a "relaxed assuredness" whether he was behind the wheel of a Fiesta or a Ferrari.

"I have owned three automobiles. . . . I tend to keep them quite a while and maintain them well. Just as each car was unique in its road manners, each had a different type of seat-belt system," Draugelis says. His first, a 1970 Cutlass Supreme, had a three-point, two-strap setup. "I really liked this one. A driver truly got the impression he was buckling up for a 'race' for sheer survival. Though the belts hampered freedom of normal movement, they made up for that deficiency by making their presence absolutely known."

His two other cars have had passive restraint systems, which Draugelis prefers. "I have yet to drive a vehicle with the new, motorized belts that 'entrap' you--not my terminology or sentiment. But I'm looking forward to such an encounter."

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