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Monday, November 20, 2006

An uphill struggle...

So I promised you adventures in diesel. The first thing you need to know is, while those Euros all nip around their cities in diesel Renaults and Fiats, no one in America drives a diesel car. When we were looking to buy one ourselves (the lovely vintage Jeep Wagoneer was costing us $40 for a one-way trip from NYC to Milanville and had a habit of breaking down on deserted roads in -20F snowstorms), we discovered that's because no one - besides VW - sells them.

[Now you might think this is no big deal - after all, diesel is nasty dirty stuff, right? Well, acutally, on the highway (where we mostly drive), diesel cars are as fuel-efficient as Hybrids, and these days diesel has been cleaned up so it has far fewer emissions than of old. (When I tell my husband's friends this, they raise their eyebrows and say 'really?!' in a tone of voice which means "yes dear, I don't want to contradict you in front of your husband but clearly you have no idea what you're talking about (and anyway, they don't make diesel Porsches so la la la I can't hear you)". So for them - and you know who you are - here's a link to prove it). You might also ask yourself why no one sells diesel cars, and I'm pretty sure all gas-guzzling roads would lead back to GWB and friends.]

Anyway, because of this, lots of garages don't sell diesel and when they do, it's usually from a clapped out old pump somewhere out the back with grass growing through the tarmac, a lever you have to swing from 'off' to 'on' and those numbers that flip round like a really old digital clock. But we don't care, because we now get upwards of 45 miles to the gallon and given that gas prices just went up again today, we can feel double smug - our new car (a diesel VW Golf) might not draw admiring glances from East Village hipsters but we're saving the planet and pennies at the same time - hurrah!

So we were driving back from collecting Emily on Thursday and we were running late (my fault) which meant Dot was hungry and screaming and we got caught in a rainstorm of monsoon-like proportions. We pulled up to the one diesel pump on the whole of the Palisades Parkway and while the hubby waited for the 4Runner (huge ugly SUV) parked at the pump to move along, I ran through the rain into the store to pay.

Dripping, I asked the girl behind the counter for $30 of diesel. "Diesel?" she said looking at me like I was a moron. Me: "Yes, please." Her "You do know what diesel is, right?". Me: "Er yes, thank you." (She'd clearly never sold diesel to anyone before. This reminded me of the labour nurse who, as I was having a baby without drugs, kept looking at me saying, 'wow, I've never seen this before', which as you can imagine was not very reassuring, but anyway, I digress). So I paid up and ran back through the rain to find the hubby still waiting for the 4Runner driver to return. He didn't look happy.

So I ran back through the rain to the store and said to the girl, "There's someone still on the diesel pump." She said "Oh" and went back to her magazine. I shouted to to the store in general, "Anyone got a 4Runner on the diesel pump?" No one answered. Eventually the girl looked up, shrugged slowly as if to say 'silly old me' and mumbled "Oh, that's mine." Gah. I ran back to the car. Five minutes later she turned up and moved it. By this point, my marriage was hanging by a thread. We filled up and turned back into the rainy night (though not before we discovered she'd put $13 on the pump instead of $30 - I mean who buys $13 of gas?).

The good news is, I think this episode helped turn my husband from a resistor into a militant diesel driver. As we drove off he muttered that we should have known the 4Runner was an unneccessarily large, gas-guzzling SUV and as such could only have been driven by a woman dumb enough to use the diesel pump as a parking spot and not to remember that fact when her customer wanted to pay her to buy diesel fuel.

Just goes to show you the uphill battle we've got to turn the good ole US of A from red, white and blue (especially Red) to green.

PS in case you're about to suggest I try biodiesel, I did look into it and it would have meant adding a heater into the engine and driving 200 miles in the wrong direction to fuel up and I'm not up to converting fat from the local chippie. But I love the idea and it's on the back burner.

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