Arguments are being advanced for and against the proposal to shut down gasoline stations on weekends.
Disagreement is widespread, and people with firm views can be found on both sides of the issue. Some are licensed by the suggestion that they be denied gasoline on weekends; others are incensed that some people are so selfish they refuse to limit their pleasure driving in the national interest. As usual, much depends on how each individual would be affected.
I seem to be the only person in American who doesn't have an inflexible opinion. This may qualify me to pass along an impartial report on what readers have been saying.
The don't-close group says things like these:
"Weekend closing would be futile. People would just buy their gas the day before. You can't stop the American people from using their pleasure cars for pleasure."
"A tremendous amount of commercial highway traffic would grind to a halt if no fuel was available on weekends. What would be accomplished by forcing seven days of trucking activity into five days?"
"Have any of these ban-the-gas people considered the need for gasoline to keep all sorts of vital services going on weekends? Have they thought about the dozens of emergencies can arise?"
"What about those of us who live in rural areas and must drive into the city to work on Saturday and Sunday? If the government rationed the total amount of gas we use, I could understand that. But it is stupid to think that everybody who drives on the weekend is wasting gasoline on a pleasure trip."
The do-close-'em-up group says things like these:
"Pleasure driving accounts for a significant percentage of our gasoline consumption. It will not be diminished much through patriotic appeals. Depending on voluntarism is an exercise in self-delusion."
"It is the selfishness of the average American that has made us hostage to the oil producing countries. Some of my best friends refuse to believe there is an energy shortage, and they insist on continuing to enjoy their pleasure as usual."
"The need to keep trucks and vital services going does present a serious problem, and it cannot be ignored. I think a few service stations would have to be kept open on weekends, perhaps on a rotating basis, but their sales would have to be limited to customers certified as legitimate weekend consumers. If we can devise nationwide rationing schemes we can certainly handle the much smaller task of providing for a few exceptions to a general closing rule."
"The biggest drain is caused by people who takes off on rather lengthy trips on most weekends during good weather. It is true that some might be able to fill up their tanks the day before and go 'there and back' without a refill until Monday morning. But if every gas station were closed over the weekend, many of these people migh hesitate to go as far as they do now, and some might even go less frequently."
My own inclination is for weekend closings, although as one who works on Saturdays and Sundays I might be adversely affected. However, It seems obvious to me that there is much to be said on both sides of this argument, and that it is therefore unseemly for any person to assume that he alone is the possessor of ultimate wisdom on the matter.
The postmark is Prince George's, Md, and the signature appears to be Bob Crammer. The postal card reads:
"You are a good man, but what is your explanation for using 10-plus gallons of gasoline unnecessarily for a round trip to Richmond as related in your column this morning" It is likely either train or bus service would have gotten you there and back. Write more on saving gasoline, please."
My 1-hour meeting in Richmond was business, not pleasure. To attend it and return to Washington in time to write a column and earn a day's pay, I left at 9 a.m. and returned at 2 p.m. By bus, the trip would have taken 13 hours. I would have had to be downtown in time to catch a bust at 5:30 a.m., and I would not have gotten back to Washington until 6:25 p.m. In Richmond, I would have had to take a cab from the bus terminal to the meeting place near the city limits, and then a cab back from the city limits to the bus terminal. On the whole, Bob, I think you, too, would have elected to drive.