A lot of people are starting to get suspicious that the price of gasoline and oil in this country bears no relation to what is really going on in the OPEC countries.

This, of course, is not true. The oil companies have a very scientific method of computing fuel costs and are extremely careful in justifying every price increase in their fuel.

This is how one oil com pany does it, and I'm sure the others follow similar guidlines.

Every morning at exactly 9 the "Executive Committee for Price Raises" meets in the private dining room for breakfast.

A typical session goes like this:

There are 12 men in the room laughing and joking.

Halberstam walks in and Middlecoff says, "You're late."

"Sorry about that," Halberstam says, "I just had a new grandchild."

"Congratulations. This calls for a celebration. What do you say, gentlemen, in honor of Halberstam's new grandchild, we raise the price of regular gasoline by 1 cent?"

"Since it's his first grandchild, I say we should raise it 2 cents." "No objections. So, done."

"That's damn decent of you. Wait until I tell Ella, she'll be thrilled. Where's Walker?"

"Walker's in the hospital with a kidney stone. We're praying he passes it."

"Maybe we should send him flowers."

"We thought we'd raise the price of heating oil 3 cents. That would do more for his morale than flowers."

"Great idea. Where's Burnside?"

"He's in New York getting the Advertising Man of the Year Award for his brilliant commercials proving the Windfall Oil Co. makes less profits than the Public Television Network."

"Hey, let's surprise Burnside when he comes back by adding 2 cents a gallon to diesel fuel. We'll call it the Burnside Raise."

"It's done."

"I have a joke. If you guys laugh, you have to promise to up motor oil 5 cents a can."

"Okay, Kelly. But if anyone has heard it, you only get a 2-cent raise."

"It's a deal. Guy goes in to a doctor and the doctor says, "You're very sick. I'm going to have to operate.' The guy says, 'I want a second opinion.' So the doctor says, 'Okay, you're ugly too.'"

Everyone slaps his thigh, and Kelly gets the 5-cents increase.

"Say, did we put up the price of airline fuel when the U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the Soviets?"

"Yeh, I think we did by 20 cents a gallon."

"Well, I don't know about you guys, but I think those kids played one helluva game, and I believe we should add another 5 cents to show those Russians what this country is really all about."

"You won't get any resistance from us."

"We're moving right along."

"I wish we could figure out one more reason to boost the price at the gas pumps this morning. Don't forget Monday is a holiday, and we won't be meeting until Tuesday."

"Hey, look out the window, everybody. There's a red robin -- the first one I've seen this year."

"That's good luck. What do you say we add 3 cents on unleaded super premium in honor of Jeremy seeing his first red robin?"

"All in favor say aye. Opposed? The ayes have it. Well, it looks like we've had a good morning."

"Hey, we forgot the natural-gas division."

"Didn't we give them a 5 percent increase last Friday?"

"Yeh, but that was just to tide them over the weekend."