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Rivenbark: Lessons learned from panic at the Citgo

Celia Rivenbark new (copy) (copy) (copy) (copy) (copy)

Celia Rivenbark

The scrawny li’l redneck girl held up the line at the convenience store pumps ahead of me as she filled her tank and a few gas cans in the trunk of her car.

She was greedy but prepared, unlike the Documented Idiots who pumped gas into Ziplock bags during “Panic at the Citgo,” as our imaginary gas crisis came to be known here in the Southeast.

By now everyone knows there wasn’t a gas shortage, so much as a major slowdown after the main pipeline supplying Southeastern states was hacked and it took a few days to fix the problem. This caused many of us to, in fancy psychological terms, lose our poo.

For nearly a week, Southerners were triggered to the point of not just hoarding gas but also toilet paper and bread once governors declared a “state of emergency.” We have a Pavlovian response to that ominous phrase after too many hurricanes. We can’t help it.

Amused transplant: Why are you buying toilet paper for a gas shortage?

Us: Shut up.

Once the “state of emergency” was declared, the gas shortage that wasn’t became real because of all the panic buying. (See scrawny redneck referenced.)

You might ask why I was in line at 10:30 p.m. at only one of two service stations with any gas in town. It’s a legitimate question since I’m clearly bashing the gas hoarders. That’s easy. With just a quarter tank, I had a 200-mile drive to attend my daughter’s graduation and I was nervous as a hen on a hot griddle.

So here I sat watching Honey Boo Boo Lite trying to drain every last drop from one of two pumps still working. Bless her heart. After a solid 12 minutes of no movement at all, I bailed and drove to the only other store with gas according to my newly acquired Gas Buddy app.

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In case you don’t know, Gas Buddy is like Tinder, but for gas. It shows you what’s available and where in real time.

For instance, if you’re usually a premium girl but you don’t mind slumming with regular if you have to, Gas Buddy is there for you.

There’s even a little icon for those stuck in a “diesel-only” rut, unable to even flirt with the notion of regular or premium.

Long story, short. I got gas much easier at the second stop and made my trip with no problem. When I needed to drive home, Gas Buddy was my Shell sherpa and now the app will live on my phone forever because, like many people my age, I have NO IDEA HOW TO REMOVE IT. Who knew ibeer and Super Monkeyball wouldn’t always be a thing?

Now that we’ve all survived the gas shortage that wasn’t, we should maybe take a sec to rethink how we will respond in the future because, of course, this nonsense will happen again. I think we should just agree on this one thing: I should always have a full tank of gas so, the rest of y’all, do the best you can.

No! That’s the exact mindset that gets us in trouble. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it should’ve taught us we’re all in this together. But, to tell the truth, I’m not sure I trust that.

For instance, can I be certain the maskless folks at Walmart, etc., are fully vaccinated? Using an honor system approach is delightfully retro, but this isn’t a rusty coffee can left at the unmanned fresh produce stand out in the country.

There is honor among people who brake for fresh turnip greens, maybe not so much among folks who believe the vaccine would alter their DNA and transform them into Satan-worshipping elites who listen to NPR and drive electric cars. That’s just a fact.

Celia Rivenbark is a New York Times best-selling author and columnist. Write her at celiarivenbark@gmail.com

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