Barry Saunders

Navigating the great gas war of 2016 – Saunders

My street-fightin’ days are long gone, and the reasons are many.

First, I’m now too fat to fight.

Second, fighting is foolish, and the fiery-tempered bloke in the other car might be armed with more than just his fists. Even if he is armed only with his fists, I don’t know if I can still take a punch. I can throw one, but the punching bag in the garage doesn’t bob and weave and punch back.

Anyone with a punch-throwing temperament would’ve been tempted to come out swinging Monday at the motorists who tried to bogart them out of the way and into traffic at an Exxon gas station in Durham.

An SUV with a man, a woman and several small kids tried to nudge me out of the way, then a shiny, new Audi pulled to within three inches of my old car’s bumper and demanded that I go around him after the light turned green.

There was no way to do so without hitting him – he was blocking traffic on Roxboro Street and blocking me on Latta Street – or the car to my right.

He had, with one mindless maneuver, blocked traffic in three directions for two light-change cycles.

Drivers of the cars lined up behind me – thinking I was the culprit keeping them from getting home to their Rice-a-Roni, Beanie Weenies and fish sticks – honked their horns.

I, of course, did what motorists have always done in such situations: I turned up the radio and ignored them.

The two obviously gas-starved motorists were eager to get to the pumps, yet were about 10 cars away from them. One seemed incensed that I was not backing up to let her turn into the gas line. The other was giving me the fisheye and mouthing something – I’d like to think he was inviting me to Bible study – because I didn’t pull up out of his way.

I invited him to Bible study, too – or some place – and didn’t bother to tell him that pulling up any farther would’ve meant that both of our cars would’ve been in the middle of Roxboro Street.

The really troubling thing about all of this is that I wasn’t even in line.

For one of the few times in life since getting kicked out of the Boy Scouts after 45 minutes by Scoutmaster Hunter Horton of Troop 113, I was prepared. A friend from Alabama had texted me last week and told me about the oil pipeline that had burst and how it was going to result in higher gas prices, so I might want to go fill up before then.

I did, and was headed to Chapel Hill to see the premiere of a documentary on the 1936 Olympics when I realized there was enough gas left to get there but possibly not enough to get back.

If the three gas stations I’d passed were any indication – one was closed and the others 10-cars deep at all pumps – I might’ve found myself having to pole vault or long jump back home.

That’s why I was congratulating myself on my foresight at avoiding the gas lines when I got caught in one anyway.

Fortunately for us all, most drivers have kept their cool as they waited in line. Of the 46 disturbance calls Raleigh police responded to between midnight Sunday and Tuesday evening, police spokesman Jim Sughrue told me, only one involved a gaseous gas hound.

Police, Sughrue said, were called to a gas station on Western Boulevard around 6 p.m. Tuesday after receiving “a report of a driver being irate and aggressive and skipping the line to get gas. That driver left the scene before police arrived.”


Durham police spokesman Wil Glenn said he was aware of no such disturbances.

You know how, whenever Dr. Sawbones tells you to refrain from eating something like, say, chitlins, and you suddenly develop a powerful hankering for them? Never mind that you haven’t et a chitlin in 25 years – at least not when another human being was watching – and don’t plan to eat one for at least another 25. Just being commanded to eschew them seems like a challenge to chow down on those bad boys with some hot sauce, doesn’t it?

The same psychological dynamic may be in play when it comes to gas – and milk and bread when it snows. I could’ve sworn the newspaper and Gov. Pat McCrory on TV had just urged us not to panic or rush out to the gas stations and top off our tanks.

What people heard, apparently, was “Y’all freak out and fill up.”

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer