Sunday, October 7, 2012

Market Forces

Ordinarily I don't gripe too much about gas prices. Throughout the summer I almost never drive a car, and even in the winter only barely. I’m not interested in cars for their own sake and I hate driving. The minute someone starts talking about their automobile, my brain waves flatline and I have to think about more exciting things in order to avoid slipping into a coma, like baseball or the history the US Postal Service. For the record, I drive a 1989 Toyota Camry with a broken muffler ( it’s really sexy girls. Chat me up.)

Some people have looked at me askance because of this, you know, what kind of real man doesn't like cars? What are you, some kind of homo? But that’s always struck me as silly.  Why should a car be linked to masculinity? Does this mean that every male who lived the during the thousands and thousands of years of history before the invention of the internal combustion engine wasn’t a real man?

Of course not. Back then real men were into horses. Well, what do we think about men who are overly fond of horses these days, huh? And what flashes through your mind when you read something like this: “Mommy, Daddy, when I grow up I want to be a dressage jockey.” Uh huh. Res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself.

Anyway, cars have nothing to do with masculinity and masculinity has nothing to do with sexual preference. Richard the Lion-Hearted was gay, and nobody ever accused him of being a sissy. He had over two thousand Muslims slaughtered in a single day. Suck on that, car lovers.

The car as a symbol of masculinity.  It’s dumb and illogical but it’s not the worst we’ve ever done. As Bob Slocum, the narrator in Joseph Heller’s novel Something Happened points out, it’s the penis that is the all time most pathetic symbol of manhood: its primary function is pissing and it’s limp ninety-nine percent of the time. The more I think about that, though, the more fitting that seems.

But I wanted to break my rule about never bitching about gas prices so that I could bitch about gas prices (consistancy is the hobgoblin of little minds, saith Emerson). Normally I only do this at the barber shop or some other place where you have to make small talk with old men whom you don’t know. But these days I’ve been driving quite a lot, and this is causing me to view things in a new way, which means quite simply that I’m discovering brand new things to bitch about almost every day. For example, gas prices. Anyway,  I was passing a Union 76 station this morning and I noticed that gas was $4.89 a gallon. Not two blocks later, a little podunk place was selling it for $4.79. About a half a mile later, the Seven Eleven was selling it for $4.35. Not for the first time, I found myself marveling at the inscrutable peregrinations of the invisible hand.

The same guy runs two of those places. Why charge $4.79 at one location and jack it up to $4.89 at the other? I dunno. Maybe sales on Lil’ Debbie snack cakes and Natural Ice  are down at one of his outfits so he has to make it up somehow. Maybe the Internet has robbed him of his regular porno customers. Nobody comes in to buy Buttman, Cherry and Leg Show in the mylar bags anymore. There’s better stuff to be had for free nowadays, and it moves! Times are changing, and not for the better.

But I don’t care about those guys. They’re just greasy little shysters trying to make a buck (They really are. I know them). I can’t blame them for that. Their faces are being ground down by the the one percent just the same as ours. What I care about is who’s responsible for the rise in the first place. Who or what is the first cause of this scourge? Not big oil. Whenever the big oil execs are hauled before a congressional committee they shrug their shoulders. It’ts not their fault. They cite forces that are beyond their control. There was a solar flare in the Crab Nebula that caused a ripple in the space-time continuum that momentarily knocked the earth off its axis which somehow led to an outbreak of malarial tsetse flies that disrupted our drilling operations in Nigeria. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.

No, it’s not big oil’s fault. They’re just obeying the market. Those iron men of business, those John Galtian Robinson Crusoe types who build eveything themselves and never depend on anyone for anything and even turned away their mama’s nipples when they were babies because it was a form of welfare that would make them dependent, well, they’re just helpless, just absolutely helpless when it comes to the invisible hand, so don’t blame them.

Blame the black Muslim in the White House instead.

[Badtux informs me in the comments that the discrepancy between prices is due to a nifty trick the oil companies play called zone pricing. They basically place every gas station in a “zone” and set the price according to certain economic factors, imaginary or otherwise. They decide. If zone A is deemed more affluent that zone B, the gas prices will be higher there, even if the zones are only a block apart. Isn't that nice? They collect the profit and the little gas station owner who has to play ball gets to face the angry mob. Makes me love big oil even more.]


BadTux said...

Here's something you don't know, apparently: The reason why gasoline is different prices in those two different locations owned by the same guy is because the oil company that provides his gasoline charges according to zone. The same gallon of gas sells for X in the poor zones, and X+Y in zones deemed "richer" or "more attractive." Furthermore, the company stores get gas cheaper than the independents who fly the company logo on their masthead.

In short, the little weasel who owns those two stores is charging different prices because the oil company that sells him gas has decided that one store is in a place where people will pay more for gas, and thus mark the gas up more *before he even sees a penny*. So of course he has to pass that higher price through -- but he gets no extra profit at all from that extra price. What a unique way of ripping off profits that should go to the little guy!

- Badtux the Oil&Gas Penguin

O’Hollern said...

For the record, this guy usually sells the cheapest gas in town.

(He's not that bad really)