If you are anxious to relive the good old days - the days about two months ago when you could still get all the gasoline your V-8 could guzzle, at a halfway reasonable price, any time of the day or night - there remain a few places that can accommodate you.
Boise, Idaho, for example, reports that its gas supply is satisfactory, although a few stations will shorten their house this weekend. There is an Exxon station in Henry County, Ga., that says it has "more gas than we can sell." Drivers in Juneau and Anchorage can fill up around the clock without a wait.
Aside from those spots and a few other isolated regions, though, the entire country is in the grip of the gas shortage, and this first weekend of summer will see Americans almost everywhere adjusting to some new facts of automotive life.
Having paved the land with freeway lanes from sea to shining sea, the nation is now being told not to use its $70-billion interstate highway system. Government officials and auto clubs everywhere are urging people not to drive more than one gas tank's distance from home. The Automobile Club of New York advised its members, for the first time in History, to stay home for the weekend.
The region hit worst at the moment is the Washington-Boston corridor along the East Coast, where every state from Virginia to Rhode Island has an odd-even sales restriction in force and where gas lines are standard in urban areas.
But several other cities, too, have experienced gas lines in the past two days, including St. Louis, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Charlotte, N.C. The Miami metropolitan area is currently facing long lines and severe sales restrictions, but this seems to be a result more of the truckers' strike impairing deliveries than of inadequate supply.
Some of the longest lines outside of the East can be found in Dallas, Fort Worth and even Houston, the nation's energy capital and home of four of the world's largest oil companies.[*] "Houston is best known for oil and its traffic, and now the two are becoming one," reported The Post's Houston correspondent, Bill Curry. "Some people sit, as I did this morning, in a gas line for three cycles of a traffic light before realizing it was a gas line and not regular horrendous traffic (the non-gas lines move a little faster)."
In California which led the nation, as it so often does, to this year's gas shortage, the odd-even rationing scheme and general conservation efforts have eliminated the gas lines that appeared there in late May as a precursor to problems elsewhere.
The odd-even system has a tendency to spread. Rhode Island had been coping with its shortages through volutary efforts until Thursday, when its neighbor, Connecticut, mandated odd-even rationing. So many cars seeped across the state line to Rhode Island gas stations that Rhode Island had to establish odd-even in self defense.
Elsewhere, the shortage shows up in the form of sharply reduced hours at gas stations and weekend closings. A national survey of 6,286 stations by the Automobile Association of America showed that 58 percent will be closed today; 70 percent will close tomorrow. Normally, virtually all would operate Saturday and more than half on Sunday.
Officials in areas that have not seen gasoline lines have explained their good fortune with a degree of smugness. "I expect gasoline supply is not significantly different here than in D.C.," said Samuel Van Vactor of Oregon's Department of Energy. "But people here acted more sensibly."
Georgia Gov. George Busbee agreed, saying that gasoline lines are chiefly the result of "hysteria."
While the overall gas shortage has become a national phenomenon, the needle continues to stick deeper in some places than in others. While St. Louis began to see gas lines and the town of Boonville, Mo., reported that all its 24 gas stations had run dry, other spots in the state were pumping at almost normal rates.
Stations closed early and imposed sales limits in Atlanta, but 20 miles south, in Henry County, Exxon dealer Bob Stokes said he had excess supply even with extended hours.
These regional disparities result from federal gas allocation rules, which generally prohibit oil companies from shipping gas from places where supplies are adequate to points of acute shortage.
The shortages prompted differing reactions, but there was no doubt that the lack of fuel was seriously disconcerting to many residents of this motor-minded nation. "This gas problem," said Dick Hoover of the Boston office of AAA, "it's a far bigger situation than Watergate."