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 Texas : Features : Columns : Letters From North America :
Gasoline Prices

by Peary Perry

Peary Perry
One of the more puzzling aspects of life for me is how the gasoline prices seem to change in unison all across the nation within minutes of each other. Itís sort of like those birds and fish you see traveling in the same direction and then all of the sudden change and head out another way. Who tells them to do this and how do they know? Who gives the order? The same goes with the gas price signs.

I have narrowed my investigative research down to a rather obscure part of the world. According to the information I have received, a fellow by the name of Malcolm Frizbo in Langendorf, Maine runs an independent service station. Heís been there for some fifty-five years. Each morning he goes out, checks the mail, reads the paper and then goes back inside and tries to figure out how much money he will need that day to pay for whatever it is that his wife wants to buy. For this humble perspective, he adjusts his sign out front to reflect those needs. On the days and weeks that she is contented and doesnít need much, then his prices either stay the same or actually go down a few cents per gallon. On the weeks that she wants to buy something special for their grandkids, or if she needs to stock up on soup supplies for the upcoming church social, then he adjusts the prices per gallon upward to reflect the need for more money that week. Once he goes out in front of his station and steps on that ladder, the entire country and its economic benchmark is poised to move once Malcolm changes those numbers.

After he has made his move, the station across the street adjusts his prices to reflect the change, then the station down the street follows suit. Itís kind of a giant domino effect on the service stations across the nation. Before an hour goes by, the entire state of Maine has updated their gasoline pricing in accordance with what Mr. Frisbo has decreed. Later on in the day, the pricing structure has swept across the country and reached the far corners of every state. As you can imagine the actions of this one man has far reaching implications for almost the entire country. Perhaps the world. I wonder if OPEC knows how this works in this county?

I am reminded of a story I once heard about the gold miners in the deepest part of South America. It seems those hard working individuals are not to be taken by ruthless persons thinking they donít know or arenít aware of the daily spot price of gold on the world market. It seems that the prices of gold as fixed each day is untimely transmitted throughout the entire jungle by way of drums. So, it would probably surprise one of us if we were visiting, to hear jungle drum beats on a tree log and then later learn that this is the daily price for gold as just received from Switzerland or wherever it comes from. And we tend tot think of these folks as living in some other century. Not hardly.

I suppose this shouldnít come as any big surprise since locals have been sending information in strange ways for years. I havenít done a study of Indian smoke signals, but when I get the time I just might do so. In the movies, you would see the smoke rising from some distant mountaintop to give some information as to what the wagon train or the soldiers might be doing at the time. I could never see more than one or two distinct patterns to any of their signals. How could you pass along a message of any sort if you on had a couple of words to do so? I need to look into this a little further. As a kid I tried making signals, but they all ended up being one giant blob and couldnít be read by anyone that I could tell. At least no one ever showed up with the ice cream that I ordered. My Mother certainly wasnít happy with me starting a fire in our back yard, so I suppose she did see the signals and could read them in some way or another.

I suppose we all have one thing to be thankful for, at least Mr. Frisbo doesnít have any children left to send to college, if he did we could expect prices to go much higher.

I wonder if all of his daughters are married? Iíll check on it and get back to you.


© Peary Perry
Comments go to pperry@austin.rr.com

Letters From North America
September 16, 2004
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