Saturday, April 7, 2012

Day 7: Pobject's receipt for gas

Every summer for five straight years we’d road-trip back west, four times from Nashville and once from Urbana, Illinois. Some summers we’d hit the Denver area, and others Montana. Once or twice we hit both, making a sweeping arc that took us over a dozen states in a few weeks’ time. We came to know the highways through Saint Louis and Kansas City, and we got a chance to spend a night or two in exotic destinations like Chamberlain, South Dakota (Missouri River fly-fishing mecca) and Forrest (as in “Nathan Bedford Forrest,” co-founder of the Ku Klux Klan) City, Arkansas.

The first trip we made in a white Oldsmobile Achieva, a hand-me-down from Maggie’s grandmother. By the second summer we were driving a nearly-new Camry that managed considerably better gas mileage, especially over the stretch in the Grand Tetons where we never topped 50 and got stuck behind a hay truck for a few dozen miles of winding mountain roads.

We kept close watch on our fuel efficiency, scribbling the last leg’s mileage on the receipt each time we’d gas up. Once we were underway again, I’d set to computing our miles-per-gallon, ritualistically carrying out the long division on the back of the receipt itself.

“…33.4! Rock!...”

“…29.2…? Well, we were climbing most of the way…”

“…27.0?! Damned headwinds…”

The hybrid Honda Civic we drive now computes real-time gas mileage. It’s handy. It encourages its own rituals (“I bet we can make it to Greenville in over 50 miles a gallon…”). It saves time, and mental wear and tear. But I miss the intentionality, the awareness, that we got from our gleeful computations. We went out of our way to do them, to learn, to find out. Now there’s no seeking, no searching. There’s just instantaneous finding out. There’s no journey, just destination. I think back then we knew better where we were, and where we’d been.

1 comment:

  1. "There’s no journey, just destination. I think back then we knew better where we were, and where we’d been." Yes! I love it! :)