Price of gas makes us figure

Editor’s column

The price of gas has islanders doing more figuring than they used to, even though most of us couldn’t pass the math WASL any better than we pass a football.

Going to the store to pick up a gallon of milk is no longer a simple task, determined by the mood you’re in and the scenery of the route. Sunday, for example, I opted for the short, four-mile trip to the store rather than the more relaxed seven-mile trip to a different store. The eight-mile roundtrip took about a third of a gallon of gas, or roughly $1.50, which boosted the cost of the milk to over $5. But we needed milk, and while the store seven- miles away sells milk cheaper, the resulting 14-mile round trip would have taken roughly half a gallon of gas, or $2.25, which far outweighed the slight price differential of the milk. I used to prefer the longer trip to the larger store, because the scenery was more varied, but priorities change with the cost of gas. On this particular day, the view of Saratoga Passage wasn’t worth 75 cents, which proves that the views on Whidbey Island are not priceless regardless of what the Realtors say.

I felt badly about having to make a special run to the store for milk, which revealed poor planning. We’re reverting back to pre-auto times, when market day occurred once a week, and anything you forgot could be done without until next week. There wasn’t time or money for another steamship ride to the store. Today, there’s not enough money for gas.

A lot of parents this summer are figuring that putting their kids on the free Island Transit bus is a lot cheaper than driving them to the island’s major cities, where they can hang out all day and take the free bus home at night, swiping seats from the working people who figure it’s cheaper to ride the bus than drive by $5 to $10 a day. The working people chat about how nice it is that Island Transit is fare-free, but how there should be a minimum age. Anyone under 21, for example, should have to pay $100 to get on the bus. But when they reach their destination, loitering and otherwise wasting time is still absolutely free.

There could be a silver lining in the high price of gas, in that people shop closer to home on a regular basis. A roundtrip to Burlington from Oak Harbor now costs about $8 in gas, a figure which no doubt cancels numerous trips to the mainland stores. On the South End, it’s $8 for gas to Seattle plus $21 for ferry tickets for two people, which makes shopping locally look more appealing. Perhaps it’s time for local stores to stock up on more items.

Better yet, we could see the return of the neighborhood store, which is virtually extinct on Whidbey Island. In the past, each community had its little grocery store stocked with the basics, and people simply walked there. I would gladly have walked a mile to get my gallon of milk and left the car sitting in the driveway.

Believe it or not, high gas prices could make Whidbey Island an even better place to live, once we get the kids off the buses.

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