The Carpool Lane: Rising gas prices: an inconvenience or a change of lifestyle

Pulling up at my favorite gas station after yet another week of late night production, I run through my usual routine at the pump. Put it in park, turn it off, sit in an endless silence, step out of my car, open the gas cap. 

Recently, however, I’ve added an additional step to my routine before any of this ever goes down: cry and wipe my tears. Frankly, that step can really appear any where during that aforementioned process, but more often than not comes before or after the “sit in an endless silence.” 

Many of those who have cars or know someone who drives under stand the struggle, more so now than ever before. It’s like I’m getting gas at Erewhon with prices topping the $6 mark. I might as well snag some $40 tea while I’m there. 

I realize that I am in a position where working a handful of jobs makes standing at the pump more of an inconvenience in my life. Realistically, my entire check from the Daily Trojan goes straight to two weeks of gas, so not too bad. But for many, watching the numbers soar on the panel can induce a great deal of anxiety and worry about whether it’ll be enough to get home or if it’s even worth the charge. 

A native Californian and Angeleno at that, I have heard time and time again from friends across all 50 states (except Wyoming, still haven’t met anyone from there) about how cheap their gas prices are. A bane for all drivers, California’s gas prices have more often than not been above that of the national average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

A rise in gas prices can be attributed to a handful of things: a touting war criminal, detached politicians, power outages, protests. The national drop and a California rise in prices, however, just goes to show that the west coast is the best coast — to lose all of your money at least. Apparently, having nine dollars to your name is much cooler on a beach than in a snowstorm. 

Let’s cut to some groups who actually may bite the bullet here.

Uber, Lyft and other ride sharers, most of whom take up the job as a source of extra income, may just as well end up losing money considering the price of gas. Tote around the five-star rating all you want, but no amount of stars can make up for what is slowly becoming an unsustainable hustle. Surcharges for fuel, especially when only at half a dollar, from the titans of ridesharing certainly don’t make ends meet, either. 

Most Californians who rely on their vehicle for long distance commutes are also in a tight spot. Apart from the bumper- to- bumper traffic that slowly drains life force away from our bodies, the stress of the commute seems to only be compounded by the increasing cost of it. 

Student commuters, however long their commute, must also account for higher prices alongside parking costs, car insurance, car maintenance. Oh! And their tuition. So, apart from me worrying about how to calculate the amount of hours I need to spend catching up on lectures I missed out on, now I must also calculate the amount of gas my car needs. 

My friend, Lois, who used to write a column called “Back in my Day,” would add that older adults who may not produce a high income and still rely on their vehicle will also take a loss in this system. Working less hours than the average employee or relying on Social Security benefits, older adults may end up putting the keys aside to avoid running through the fuel in the tank.

Public transportation seems like a pretty plausible alternative, but not everyone can really just opt from an hour-long commute to what can end up being a three hour extravaganza of switching from train to bus and vice versa. And don’t get me started on the “just buy an electric car” argument unless you want to purchase it on my behalf. 

So let’s try and throw around some solutions. For one, I’m not too sure if throwing cash at the problem will solve it in the long run, but it’s a nice gesture. I can’t necessarily speak on solutions for the world or California at that. However, it would be nice if the University provided some semblance of assistance to its commuter students — a space to rest, a temporary discount on parking prices or a lowered cost on USC gas. I’m sure the University can afford it, wink wink. 

Drive safe, if at all, besties.