Battle for Heartland Starts at Gas Pump
They go to visit her parents, who have been living in their own version of a small apartment since her father lost his job after the factory he'd worked at for 25 years suddenly closed and they had to sell their house. They go to visit his father, who hunts, fishes and drives a Chevy Silverado that now costs more than $50 to fill. They go to a park called Petrifying Springs and to a particular McDonald's in Kenosha, where he says the food is better, and she says, "McDonald's. Big whoop."
They go with the windows down, unless it's freezing, and the radio on no matter what.
"Sometimes I'm just staring off into space by myself," she says.
They go, and the gas gauge drops, and eventually Stich will notice it and say to Poquette, who might have an elbow out the window, off on his own somewhere, "We need to go home now."
That's what happened this day. The drive was an hour and a half. They went wherever. The babies dozed, and instead of fighting they got to daydream.
"I want a Grand Am. A red Grand Am," Stich says. "A red Grand Am with four doors. And I want a house. Our own house with a yard, and a swing set, and they each have their own rooms."
The Neon takes in 7.632 gallons.
"It doesn't have to be a Grand Am," Poquette says. "But a newer car."
The total is $14.80 -- enough for them to both realize that as much as they need these drives, they can't afford them, at least for now.
Life at $1.939 a gallon:
"This isn't Bush's fault," Poquette says, getting in the car. The children are awake now. Stich turns the key. As a Ford Ranger approaches, they head home with a gas tank momentarily full.
Measuring Tenths of a Mile
In comes Jim Pietsch, just as the price changes to $1.999.
All day, the owners of the three stations have been eyeing one another to see who would raise prices first, risking the chance that the others wouldn't follow. "A penny is important for these people," says Dominic Kalappuracka, who owns the Marathon station, explaining his reluctance. "Two weeks ago, they changed the price. I didn't. They were $1.89. I was $1.85. We were full. They were empty."
On the other hand, the gas that the stations are selling for $1.939 cost them more than $1.95 when it was delivered this morning, so at 5 p.m., the Shell station goes first. A few minutes later, the Marathon sees the new prices at Shell and follows, and a few minutes after that, just as the Neon pulls away and Pietsch arrives in his Ranger, the Village Mart follows as well.
Everywhere in Sturtevant, regular gas is now $1.999.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Dena Stich, with daughter Dakotah, and Shawn Poquette rely on his salary to cover necessities for their family of four.
(Photos David Finkel -- The Washington Post)