You used to could buy a Coca-Cola in one of those little green bottles for a nickel. You can't anymore, but you used to could. And if you were real lucky, you could get one with the slightest little crust of ice on the top - not enough ice to make it watery, understand - just enough to make it, well - ice cold. You talk about the real thing - that was it!
I remember when Co-Colas went up to 6 cents. Sometimes that extra penny was hard to come by. And then they introduced "King-sized" Cokes and started charging a dime, and the world hasn't been the same since. The last Coke I bought out of a machine cost $1, and I have spent as much as 4 bucks for one at a sporting event.
You have to want a Coke bad to pay 4 bucks.
You used to could buy penny candy for a penny. You can't anymore, but you used to could. Remember those days? You could take 15 cents to the store and come home with enough Mary Janes and jaw breakers to cause a half-dozen cavities.
The last time I bought 15 cents worth of penny candy, it cost me $3.50.
You used to could go to the show for 50 cents. You can't anymore, but you used to could. And I know that way back yonder the show was probably a dime - and then a quarter - but when I started buying my own movie tickets, it was 50 cents. I took my wife and three kids to the show recently.
It was $47.50. Without popcorn or Cokes.
I ain't making this up, y'all. It costs $9.50 to get in the door at the movies.
Times change and prices go up - and up and up and up. We all know that, and understand it and accept it. We may grumble a little bit, but if we want something badly enough, we just grit our teeth and pay the price, and if we don't want it badly enough, we do without or stay home.
You might already know where this is going.
You used to could buy gasoline for 30 cents a gallon. You can't anymore, but you used to could.
I'm not talking about the dark ages. I'm talking about when I was in high school and begging my mama to let me use her car on Saturday night to take Kim Puckett to the show. Every now and then it might shoot up to 36 cents, but there would be occasional "gas wars," too - and the price would drop to 28 cents. We're talking back in the '60s, y'all - not a hundred years ago.
The last time I filled up my tank, the price was $3.56 a gallon when I started pumping. I think it had climbed to 3.62 by the time I had finished.
I understand the law of supply and demand and, until now, I haven't been all that hard on the big oil companies, despite their soaring profits. I understand the concept of risk and reward in business and all of that - but they are just messing with us now, people.
By "they," I mean the Arabs and other oil producers who are holding us hostage at the pumps and the oil companies who are making a gazillion dollars a month in windfall profits and the environmentalists who are keeping us from using the crude oil we have at our disposal and the labor unions who have made it too expensive to gather and refine oil domestically and the government who just sits on their hands and watches the price of fuel drive every other commodity in our economy beyond affordability.
Enough is enough!
So the price of a Coke has increased 20 fold. We don't have to drink Cokes. They are a luxury. And if a piece of penny candy is a quarter - well, we can do without that, too. And the movies haven't been the same since John Wayne died, anyway. But we haven't been able, yet, to wean ourselves off gas. We have to drive to work and most other places we go - especially here in the Atlanta suburbs. We don't have extensive public transportation and most places we need to get to are too far to walk.
It is time for the average American to do something. I don't know what, exactly, but I know that we need to do something. We have solved every other problem we've ever had as a nation, and I believe we can solve this one.
For starters, we can cut back on usage. The Arabs can't drink that stuff, and India and China can't buy it all. If we have anything the wonderful folks at OPEC need, we can quit letting them have it until they start behaving with their prices.
And we can go to Alaska and North Dakota and the Gulf Coast and start pumping oil out of the earth's core. And the government can use the money they are spending on biofuel subsidies to build refineries and experiment with energy sources that don't raise the price of corn so high that we all starve to death.
Or we can just sit here and wring our hands and watch gas go above the $4 a gallon mark. I don't know if we can still pull together and make a difference as a nation - but we used to could.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.