I come from a long line of cheap bastards and petty thieves. It’s a good thing for you. Times are going to get tough and you’re going to need some advice on how to survive.
The most important thing you have to understand in these days of rising prices at the pump is how to siphon gasoline. Some of you who grew up in farm country probably need no help. There are those, however, who are suburban or city products and have never had to suck the hose.
I am here to help.
My cousin, who never collected a paycheck, never paid taxes, and to my knowledge is still wanted in several states, explained siphoning to me when I was barely old enough to shoplift. Sitting me on his knee, his breath smelling slightly of Sunoco 260, he said, “Scotty? It might not seem like it now, but there will come a time in your life when you will be forced to use your wits to survive. Here’s one thing to remember. Although you may be without a spare gallon of gas or a dollar in your pocket, as long as you have a ten-foot long section of garden hose, you will never be without transportation.”
Worldly words spoken by a true petty thief and original cheap bastard.
It may seem unkind, heartless or crude to some of you to think that I would so easily confess to being part of left-of-the-law behavior at an early age. Not to make excuses, but what you have to take into consideration is that I am a child of the recession.
Those were dark hard days, back in the seventies. Take it from a veteran who fought in the last high test war, which ran from just after the Nixon resignation to just before the Reagan shooting, encompassing the horrible Carter years and the bucktoothed daughter. I was there when they rationed gas. I waited in line. I wore a “Whip Inflation Now” button. I shifted into neutral at stoplights.
I know the horror.
Although we’ve lived in relative safety these past several years (other than the occasional terrorist attack that kills thousands), times are quickly changing. Soon, if all follows history, we’ll be fighting in the streets with our children at our feets and the morals that we worshipped will be gone.
That’s the sort of thing that happens when the price of gas rises higher than the price of beer.
Take some advice from a veteran. Soon, someone (perhaps a relative of mine) is going to try to steal your gasoline. Find thee a gas cap lock. If you haven’t made a trip to the local auto parts store to buy a chastity belt for the holiest of holies that lies virginal and unprotected behind your fuel filler door, it’s time to consider what cheap bastards like the folks who wear my last name are up to these days.
They’re stealing gas.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. At the end of the last high-test war, promises were made. We’d complete the Alaska pipeline, bringing us all the cheap oil we ever needed. It would flow freely down through Canada. There would be plenty of alternative fuel sources out there to help us heat our homes, including nuclear energy, safe and clean, posing no risk whatsoever. I distinctly remember someone in a suit promising chocolate bunnies hopping to and fro, tossing fairy dust on all our woes.
Instead, let’s learn to siphon.
With a ten-foot length of garden hose, a set of tobacco-infected lungs and fifty-eight cents in his pocket, my cousin could fill the tank on his Buick deuce and a quarter in about an hour.
He used to tell my parents the reason he smelled of gasoline was that he had been “working on his car”. That was true. The details left out were mostly the list of tools involved and that he was not alone when fixing his automobile’s problems.
“It’s so nice,” my Mom would say to him. “It’s so nice that you’re teaching your cousin how to work on cars. It’s something he’ll be able to use the rest of his life.”
She was right.
Thanks to that long lost (and probably incarcerated by now) relative, I have a skill, a craft that I can use to get me through the lean times that are certainly ahead. I’m not going to be able to tell funny stories on the radio my whole life. There will come a day when people won’t want to hear them. There will come a day when nothing in the streets looks any different to me and the slogans are replaced by and by.
On that day, my friend, it will be all suckers for themselves.
Not to brag, but I can suck.
If you think my nicotine-addicted cousin (a man who was never without a borrowed or filched Marlboro between his lips) could suck gasoline through a garden hose, you haven’t seen anything until you see my lungs at work. While I never did get used to the taste, the power of sucking was nearly addictive.
There is taste.
It’s a normal occurrence.
It comes with the job.
Once you’ve sucked hard and long (and you know who you are) the golden liquid will reach your lips. Unlike your possible past experiences with similar situations, now is not the time to decide whether to swallow or spit. Spitting is your only option. Repeatedly. The flow begun, it is now time to crimp that hose and find the hole.
Don’t act like you haven’t been there.
Although you are a cheap bastard and technically breaking the law, it is always smart to remain a courteous thief. Do not drain the donor’s tank dry. Leave the guy a little something. Let him think his son took the car and didn’t tell him. And please, above all else, clean up after yourself. Mop up any spills with a rag, a handful of parking tickets or a shirt. Who needs to be clothed? You’ve got gasoline, man! You’re free! You’re on the road, like Kerouac!
Until you run that sucker dry.
Pucker up and suck my hose.
And, in the words of my cousin, see if there’s a pack of smokes on the front seat, would ya?