I'm losing friends fast.

It's because I believe that there's really an energy crisis. Not just a plot by big oil; not just a matter of coming up with enough petrodollars to satisfy those greedy oil-sheiks.

The news hasn't reached the suburbs yet. During the recent gasoline nightmare, the only change in life style here was that the housewives spent their mornings filling up the tank of the second car or the family van.

We've been conserving for years now. We moved to within five miles of my husband's employment despite the higher cost of real estate, bought a very compact car (and share it) and fly instead of drive on long vacations. What originated as a desire for convenience or economy has been tempered with the realization that energy is becoming increasingly scarce. I can't honestly say we were motived by patriotism, since I hadn't thought seriously about that since the eighth grade.

When the gas supplies here were at their lowest, we cut our use to less than 20 gallons a month. It hurt: Our entertainment was a trip to the local shopping center; we shopped at the nearest supermarket (much more expensive than the store I used to shop at); I did less freelancing to avoid long drives to pick up work. It also felt good; it was a cleansing pain, a diet, a cathartic beginning on the road to the new life style we'll all eventually be adopting.

Since I'm a believer, the crisis crops up in my conversation a lot; and I get the most amazed, and amazing, reactions. Recently one neighbor confessed that she sometimes takes the car out "just to ride around"; another is planning a 2,000 mile van trip. They are not the exception. It begins to make my rigorously planned shopping excursions look silly. It also begins to make me feel like the voice crying out in the wilderness.

Whether or not big oil is at fault for this summer's crunch is irrelevant. The fact is, the world is running out of oil.

The statistics showing Americans used less gas this June than they did last year are laughable. You can't use what you can't get. Consumption always swells to meet availability, and not a drop of gas goes unsold. And people still sit in Cadiliacs, engines running, while the wife runs in to get a loaf of bread.

So I've been thinking about patriotism a lot lately. Patriotism freed from all the biased connotations that those flag lapel-pins carried; our survival as a nation. It's more than distressing to think that we could so quickly be brought to our knees on the whim of the small, oil-producing nations.

During the weeks of the gas lines I ardently hopes for rationing. Even under the plans that favored big users (and most of them did), we would receive about three times as much as we normally use.I selfishly fantasized a cross-country trip in which we would cruise past oceans of abandoned, gasless LTDS, the pay-back for our scaled down life style.

But the concern that we have an energy future has to transcent parochial concerns.I'm not changing my life so that you can drive to Florida.