GAS PAINS: One reporter’s quest for petrol


| aaltman@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Maggie Hayes
THE COURIER/Maggie Hayes

Long lines persist at the few Queens gas stations still stocked with gas.

Every time that little yellow light goes on, I panic.

“I need to find a gas station,” I think, completely overblown, imagining the dial suddenly dropping and leaving me stranded. I ran out of gas once, not long after getting my driver’s license. At 16, I reluctantly called my mom for help – utter defeat for a teenager — and waited as she brought me a can of fuel. That was never going to happen again.

The Sandy-fueled gas shortage did more than slow traffic – it slashed our tires. At the gas station where I used to get my coffee every morning before getting on the Grand Central Parkway, a fuming gas-getter pulled a gun on someone out of frustration. Thousands formerly behind the wheel turned to public transit, turning already overcrowded subways into cattle cars. The platform at Queensboro Plaza was unnavigable, filled with disheartened travelers who had waited for 35 minutes just to catch a No. 7 train. Gasbuddy.com ousted Facebook as our laptop’s most visited website. At a time when we should have come together, we fought over the last droplet of petrol.

For anyone who ever disagreed with the notion that our reliance on oil has exceeded healthy, here is the proof.

I wasted the last few drops of gas in my tank searching for more gas. Instead of my typical route home, I opted to take Northern Boulevard from Bayside to my apartment in Long Island City. Flushing — nothing. Corona — nothing. Elmhurst — nothing. Woodside — nothing. Every station with their lights shut off like the scene of a zombie movie right before they attack. The gaslight went on just as I crossed into Long Island City – my signal that it was time to abandon the hunt and I chortled home on fumes.

The week-late gas rationing plans instated on Friday morning, November 9 gave me hope that somehow, somewhere gas awaited. After a quick surveillance on foot, I discovered the station around the corner from my place was stocked. While the queue trailed five blocks long, I made the jump and put my gasless car in line, contemplating the strength it would take to push it to the station if it sputtered out.

The scene seemed post-apocalyptic. I imagined what it would be like if this were food instead of gas.

“People would be dead.”

The gurgle of a thirsty engine grew louder. A man banged on my car window, furious that he couldn’t park his van because of the traffic and became irate when I couldn’t move more than a few inches forward without smacking the car in front of me. In a city where patience runs notoriously thin, it was obvious that this was some kind of test to see if we really all were as un-altruistic as the rest of the world believed us to be. I think we lived up to our reputation.

Finally, with my car sucking down the last few gasps of fuel, I reached the pump. While the attendant capped everyone at a fair, sharing-is-caring $40, it was a relief to know that if there was an emergency, I could get where I needed to go. Since travelling to Breezy Point last week, my co-workers and I have wanted to return to take people who were hit hard by the storm some essentials. The lack of fuel precluded us from travelling where public transit is nonexistent. We’re looking forward to revisiting the area soon.