Scenes From the Gas-Price Spike, Part 1

Filling his gas tank on Monday, Chatterbox gawked at the price and then whined about it to a motorist filling up nearby. The other fellow concluded the conversation by saying, “Jeez, if prices get much higher, I’ll have to start taking the Metro,” which is what Washingtonians call the local subway system.

Chatterbox was too polite to say anything, but several thoughts occurred to him at once:

  1. The nearest Metro stop was only five or six blocks from the gas station we were standing in;
  2. In all likelihood the other motorist, like Chatterbox, lived nearby;
  3. Chatterbox rides the subway to work every day, and doesn’t consider it a sacrifice–indeed, he considers it a pleasant way to catch up on reading or to socialize with neighbors and work acquaintances;
  4. The Washington subway system is heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, most of whom don’t live in a city that has a good mass-transit system like the Metro (and almost none of whom live in Washington, D.C.). Much of the Metro system wasn’t available 20 years ago, during the real energy crisis.


  1. Chatterbox’s fellow motorist was an ungrateful twit who had no right to complain about gas prices. Indeed, the whole problem of rising gas prices will be impossible to take seriously until people feel too embarrassed to complain that they may have to start riding the subway. (Maybe we deserve a recession.)

Click here to read Ted Rose’s Slate “Explainer” column on why, in the great scheme of things, gas prices aren’t all that high right now.

Do you have a scene from the gas-price spike that you’d like to share with Chatterbox? If so, write him at As the foregoing example demonstrates, babyish complaints such as “It costs too much to fill up my gas-guzzling SUV” risk being subjected to ridicule.