During one of our cold snaps we’ve endured this winter, I was working in Columbus, and the icon on the dashboard lit up, indicating I had under-inflated tires.
Now, as far as what happens to the 35 psi’s worth of air when the temperatures drop, that’s a discussion for a much smarter fellow than I. I’ve been told by a couple of my scientific bar patrons at the Knights of Columbus that it has something to do with the molecules redistributing themselves. I suppose I could Google the exact explanation or, perhaps, ask my Alexa, but I’m pretty certain I’d have zero chance of understanding, so why bother? Science and I really haven’t been on close speaking terms going all the way back to Mr. Ireland’s physics class at Lima Central Catholic in the late 1960s.
At any rate, I pulled into a gas station and discovered that, unlike the way I remember as a far younger motorist, air now costs 50 cents for four minutes worth. That gave rise to my running around the car in frigid temperatures fiddling with valve caps and trying to get to all four tires before time ran out, similar to what I’ve done at the carwash when feeding the coins in to begin using the wash wand in another version of that popular game show “Beat the Clock.” Of course, I didn’t make it on my first 50 cents and needed an extra round to bring the reading up to 35 for each tire.
Over a two-day period of time, that icon came on two more times, causing me to go through the same silly dash ritual to bring the tires up to proper inflation again and yet again.
Afterward, when stewing over the $5 I had to spend to feel safe, I got to thinking about the absurdity of our present world where, air, once upon a time, the freest of all commodities, now is sold four minutes at a time.
While there are a few stations around, I’ve been told, that still offer free air, those stations are getting harder and harder to find. In almost every instance, if you need air, you’re plugging in quarters or sliding in your Chase Freedom card.
Of course, I suppose that follows the trend that started long ago when the service end of what used to be called service stations went away. Once upon a time, an attendant would pop out when you drove over the bell hose to check your oil, clean your windshield, and fill your tank. Now, the bell hoses have long departed along with anyone who has any more knowledge about cars than you do.
In my growing up days in the 1950s and ’60s, so much was complimentary that isn’t today. From the luggage those who fly check in, now on most airlines no longer free, to the in-flight meals of olden times that have now been replaced by a two-ounce bag of salted nuts and a soft drink to the free checks that banks used to offer and on to those free fabric inserts in my father’s suit jacket breast pocket provided by the dry cleaner, it just seems people got better deals.
Additionally, in many restaurants, an extra basket of rolls often comes with an upcharge. Oh, and what about an extra soufflé cup of bleu cheese for your wings and celery at Fricker’s? That’ll be an upcharge as well.
Throw in the increasing scarcity of all those free ballpoint pens for the taking in cups in places like Superior Credit Union, and it’s getting pretty disheartening for all those out there who prescribe to the motto, “If it’s free, it’s for me.”
So, it very well may be time to start looking at changing that old bromide about those two certainties in life, death and taxes, to include a third certainty, and that is whatever used to be free will eventually cease to be.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.