How much did you pay for your last two-litre carton of Lactancia lactose-Free 0%? No clue, right? How about the dozen x-large organic eggs? No problem, those are trivial, so no wonder you’ve forgotten. So, how about those extra-special Mizuno Wave Prophecy joggers you’re going to don tonight for your after-work five klicks? Yes, I know you know they were over $200, but exactly how much over 200 large were they? Can’t remember, can you.
OK, now tell me the price of gas the last time you filled up.
Aha, I bet you know that. In fact, not only do you probably know the exact price of a litre of high-test last night, but, if you’re a typical Canadian, you’ve committed to memory how much your local retailer was gouging you for yesterday, the day before that, and, most probably, again if you’ve got any maple syrup in your veins at all, the month before as well.
It seems that everyone north of the 49th parallel is similarly tormented. My dear old dad — may he finally find some peace — kept a running tab, his 89-year-old mind still a razor sharp database of comparative pricing some 15 years after he surrendered his driver’s license. My neighbours, sensible folk, scour local stations for cheap fossil fuels with the fervor of a coupon clipper at Walmart. Hell, in the VIP change room of my local YMCA the other night, I overheard a lawyer — with almost assuredly the partnership income that comes with the ability to craft unreadable English — bragging about buying a hybrid, not to save the environment but because it was saving him 10 whole dollars a week on gas.
Indeed, any explanation of this Canadian obsession meets a quick rational roadblock. In most vehicles, a five cent a litre increase at the pump works out to a total of about four bucks, and only then if the tank was completely empty. That will barely buy you a double espresso at Starbucks which, considering the lineup I endured this morning, no one is giving up. Some people postulate it’s because it is Big Oil that is screwing us out of our hard-earned dollars, but Big Government has been doing that to use for eons and, as much as we complain about them, we do not pay nearly as much attention to the real cost of social programs as we do a litre of 89 octane.