(NB: lest you find me a hypocrite extraordinaire after reading what follows, please know that it covers every instance of me getting behind the wheel since Superstorm Sandy hit — so, thrice in two weeks — and, by choice and because my tank’s not empty, I have not gotten gas since October).
It’s now a common sight to those of us in the storm struck region of late: long lines of traffic you later discover are people waiting to get gas. Today’s news is that NYC will be instituting gas rationing New Jersey style, with eligibility for gas corresponding to the oddness or evenness of your license plate. It’s definitely time. I hadn’t seen a gas line so long since the 70s but then, last Friday on my way to dropping off my kid at school, I saw a line that ran about eight blocks long. It took me a minute before I realized they were all waiting for gas. I’d seen news coverage of long gas lines in New Jersey and other such faraway places, but from what I saw on TV, it looked like long lines of people with their red plastic gas cans waiting to fill up to keep their generators going. Since the line I was seeing Friday morning was in my own hood, which was spared serious power outages, I doubted these folks were all waiting in their cars to fill up a plastic can to take home for their generators. The more I saw, and the more I heard, taking into consideration what I know of this little town called Brooklyn I’ve been in for a decade and change, it became sadly apparent to me that my neighbors had fallen victim to the big Gas Panic.
Public transportation is running full tilt, except possibly for the G, which isn’t in high demand anyway. When I started seeing the gas lines, many people did not have open offices or stores to go to work in. Sure, there are those whose livelihoods really do depend on fuel: pizza and restaurant delivery people (although at least some have gotten around on bikes without any problem since time immemorial – or at least since the happy coinciding of food delivery and wheels). There are also the car services (livery/cab equivalent, for the out of towners). In celebration of a very important person’s birthday late last Friday night, we ventured out to Park Slope but no car service would pick up us or their phone. To my amazement, parking was abundant … on a Friday night. On Fifth Avenue. Even in front of Prospect Bar, a new spacious and inviting bar between 14th and 15th. And it was available down in front of Ginger’s Bar too (where my 65 year old mother got the whole sloshy crowd of friendly lesbians going in a rousing verse of happy birthday to our VIP). Parking at home was harder but not impossible, so very early Saturday morning, I pulled our Dodge caravan (usually designated for the family business) into a spot just a block away.
Over the course of the next several days, everywhere I looked there was evidence of few cars on the road but more than plenty in the gas lines. Throwing caution to the wind (and grateful I had gassed up before Sandy’s arrival), the next night we drove up to Long Island City for the launch party of see.me (formerly Artists Wanted and currently a powerful democratizing force in the art industry). It was then that I saw lower Manhattan, dark. It was eerie. Fog curling its tail around Gotham’s tip. The quiet of the tallest skyscrapers, every window dark, no hint of life anywhere. The stillness of the Hudson, like it stood still, in disbelief and anticipation. I dared not even look at Lady Liberty. Too spooky. So we pulled around that corner of the BQE where it looks like a swim over to the financial district wouldn’t be terribly taxing on a sunny enough day. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road, and I’m surprised there haven’t been reports of many accidents at that site, front row to the financial capitol of the world, playing kabuki on a Saturday night. Across the water you could almost hear the tall buildings creaking as they leaned in to hear what the audience was saying.
Once in LIC, parking was surprisingly easy. We were up by PS1. I’m not there often enough to know if the parking is usually more scarce, but we found a spot in front there and again at Court Square Diner (highly recommended — get a burger, you order the chocolate shake and have the person across from you get vanilla) where we stopped before heading to our home borough. Every gas station we passed that didn’t have yellow tape around the pumps (which I’ve come to understand means not a crime scene but just no gas) had miles snaking down and around many blocks, and had cop cars with siren lights on, and had on the ground officers keeping the peace and making sure people waited their turn. It amazed me (then and now) that people know where traffic ends and the gas line begins. One friend’s family member took their car to Jersey yesterday where there were no lines, turned around and went home then proceeded to take his girlfriend’s car to Jersey to gas up and back to Brooklyn again. I guess the rationing works to keep the lines shorter at least. Now if there was just something that could be done about the gas fanatics who need to fill up just to keep their street parking warm.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts on the great Gas Panic? Am I overstating it and not giving people enough credit? Are there really greater (and legitimate) gas needs than I know? Or is it that people simply want what they are afraid they very soon may not have? Have you waited in line for gas lately? Or are you, like most of us, using this grand system of public transportation that’s gotten most New Yorkers around sans problem since time immemorial (or at least the happy pairing of underground tunnels and trains). Go ahead … gimme the dirt!
I think people panic was a big part of the gas lines. I could be wrong, but if so I would like to hear a believable explanation of why there is not enough gas to go around yet. I suspect all those red gas cans that used to be on store shelves are now in garages full of gas. That’s not to say I don’t keep some extra gas, I just had it from before the storm hit.
I filled my car prior to Sandy, and was home for 4 days after so my car was pretty full. I decided it was better to delay filling up as long as possible rather than wait on a long line. When I finally did fill up, I did it in NJ around midnight. The line wasn’t too bad and it moved pretty quick. Since then (in NJ) I have seen little if any lines. Without going out of my way I’ve been paying $3.55 a gallon. A couple stations right over the Goethals rose to the occasion and raised their price to $3.99. My second fillup post Sandy had a $40 limit, which was fine since $35 was all it took. Since then the same station has no lines and no limits.
Now I’m seeing no lines anywhere anymore, and it doesn’t seem like it was the rationing that did it. I think it’s the focus of attention away from it. My guess is seeing others in line caused longer lines from people seeing them and freaking out that they wouldn’t be able to get theirs, regardless whether they needed it.
I also had gassed up shortly before Sandy, and didn’t need to take the car very far because there wasn’t much going on anyway. I generally follow a practice I saw my father do when I was a kid — unless the prices are particularly high, he will not let the tank drop below a quarter-tank, in the event the gauge is off, and temps drop very low, or if you ever just end up taking the long way home — the very long long way, and end up on a country road with the only two gas stations being Few and the other one, Far Between.
Same here, not knowing exactly when the storm would hit I had previously planned to go away that weekend. I filled the car early Saturday then decided it best to stay home. I had scheduled that Monday off from work weeks before, then Sandy hit, and I didn’t go into work until Friday. Although I did have some gasoline stored there was no way it was going into the car so I could go to work- that gas was for the generator. It turned out I probably didn’t even use one gallon in the generator, but myself and family come way before anything to do with work and there was no way of knowing if the power would go out again.
The gas lines on Staten Island and New Jersey, at least where I did travel were quite real, but as the days went by they slowly got back to normal. By Tuesday things were not too bad and I waited on a short line to fill up. I also think people realized, after the fact, that they should have full tanks. Although I don’t do it, the host of one of the shows I listen to never lets his gas tank get below 1/2 tank, and always carries enough extra fuel in a can to get him 100 miles. I understand the reasoning, lots of people have run out of gas just waiting in traffic. That is something I don’t worry about too much- and hopefully my luck will hold out. I just try my best to avoid getting into that situation. Keeping a ‘get home bag’ in the car is part of my being prepared for that. Some water, food, and an assortment of other items would make getting stranded in the car, or having to leave it and travel on foot somewhat less of an ordeal. Like an insurance policy, you hope you never need it, but if you do you’re glad it’s there.