OPINION: Spare tire. Everybody has a spare tire

Jun. 8—As I was taking my walk Tuesday morning with my dog, Sparty, I kept thinking to myself one thing: I should have listened to my wife.

Jody always tells me when bad weather is in the forecast that I should take my raincoat with me.

I did not listen to her. And I did not listen to Hollie Strano, who does the early-morning weather reports for WKYC-3 in Cleveland.

It was a mistake not listening to my two favorite weather watchers.

As Sparty and I got about halfway around Veterans Memorial Lake Park, the rain started coming down pretty good. And by then, you have no choice but to keep going.

By the time we finished we were both soaked — but not wet enough not to stop at Circle K to get my morning Polar Pop.

When I pulled in I saw this poor guy trying to put air in his tires.

I don't know what hit me harder, the fact he was having trouble getting his credit card to work to pay for air, or the fact the price of gas officially passed the $5 a gallon mark.

Let's start with the air. Somewhere along the line somebody figured out you could charge for air. That was probably the same guy who figured out you could charge for water.

Back when I was growing up — in the good old days — air and water were free. We used to go to the gas station and fill up our bike tires with the air hose that was free. Then we went to the water fountain to get a drink of water.

For free.

So this poor guy I was watching was trying to get his credit card to work in the rain. He tried to slide it in. He tried to swipe it. Neither worked. He kept trying to dry his card off and using it again.

By the time I came out with my Polar Pop he was filling his tires. He was paying for air — success.

Let's go back to the good old days.

Remember when you would drive into a gas station and pull up to a pump. Some nice guy would come out, fill your tank, wash your windows and check your oil.

Check your oil. With these new cars you are lucky if you can check your own oil.

Last month when I was pulling my van out of work, I realized I had a flat tire.

I have AAA services just for this reason. It is a whole lot easier calling the guy to change your tire than it is to get down and do it yourself.

Being on Main Street in Norwalk, it didn't take long for the AAA guy to come. The first thing he said to me was this: 'do you have a spare tire?'

Of course I have a spare tire, I told him. This is a 2018 van. Every car comes with a spare tire.

Not so fast, my friend.

He got down on his hands and knees to look for my spare tire. He said if I had a spare it would be under the van.

Nope. No spare tire, he told me.

I didn't know some new cars and vans don't come with a spare tire. I guess that wasn't figured into the $28,000 price tag.

I wonder of that $78,000 SUV I saw parked on Main Street during the Strawberry Festival comes with a spare tire. At that price, it should come with its own mechanic.

Now that I've got all of that off my chest, let's get to these gas prices, which officially topped the $5 a gallon mark in Norwalk on Monday.

Over the years that is one of the most common questions I have been asked — why is the price of gas so high? People want me to do an in-depth story about what drives the price of gas.

I just don't know. Is it the war in Ukraine? Is is the weather? Is it a hurricane? Is it Wall Street? Is it the switch to the summer blend of gas?

I don't know. All I know is it costs me a whole heck of a lot more money to fill up my van.

The good news is I am getting a little better mileage with this van because I am not hauling around a spare tire.

I heard a guy on the radio the other morning and he did say one interesting thing. As much as we complain about the high prices, nobody is really changing their driving habits.

What will it take? $6 a gallon? $7 a gallon?

I remember in the late 1970s and early 1980s when gas topped the $1 a gallon mark. We thought the world was coming to an end.

Now this.

I miss those days of free air and free water and gas under a buck a gallon.

And a guy who would wash your windows and check your oil.

For free.

Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at jcenters@norwalkreflector.com.