Friday, April 22

Price of gas? That's nothing, try buying cornflakes

THERE'S AN E-MAIL bumping around cyberspace that, because gas prices are approaching $3 per gallon, tries to put things in perspective on your next trip to the pump. In an effort to soothe your angst, the missive points out that Lipton Iced Tea costs $9.52 per gallon, and Gatorade costs $10.17 per gallon. Diet Snapple? $10.32 per gallon. Great. But what exactly does this have to do with filling a gas tank? I don't fill my tank with iced tea. Or Gatorade. I don't even fill it with Diet Snapple though I have noticed my car might be developing a Buddha belly. So, hey, you. The guy who started forwarding this stupid mass e-mail. These are items we DRINK. They do not make cars run, they make bodies run. What you should do is talk about the ludicrous prices of making bodies run, because that's what we're going to have to do because it costs too much to drive. See, last weekend, on a trip to the wine country, I witnessed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich being sold for $6.50. I repeat, SIX DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS. The deli was not hand-crunching the peanuts. The deli was not growing the berries for the jelly from scratch. I don't even think the ingredients were organic, because believe me, in a place like this they would have said they were, if only to justify the absurd cost of the childhood staple. The straight-faced moxie of the deli selling the $6.50 PB&J had me slack-jawed. So I returned to work and regaled my colleagues with the horror I had witnessed. I even put it in perspective. A kid who wanted to eat that deli's peanut butter and jelly sandwich at school every lunchtime would spend $32.50 a week. That's some cash cow for the school bully. My colleagues were not impressed. One even quoted David Brent from the BBC's "The Office" by saying in a British accent, "Been there. Done that. BOUGHT THE T-SHIRT." Why? Because she'd seen a plain old grilled cheese sandwich, sans any religious icons (Shameless plug: Please read extremely interesting story about grilled cheese sandwiches and capitalism elsewhere in this section by yours truly), for a price of $7. But that wasn't even the worst of it. The topper was my pal in the photo department who went to brunch in San Francisco's Mission District last weekend. Her retinas were nearly seared by the sight of a bowl of Corn Flakes on the menu for $7.50. No fruit. Just naked Corn Flakes. SEVEN DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS. What is the deal? Gas is one thing. Wars, other people having more oil than we do, too many people driving gas-sucking, battle-ready vehicles only to visit a Bed Bath & Beyond — things such as that tend to drive the price of gas up. But peanut butter? The natural kind has oil on the top that's impossible to ever fully blend into the crushed peanuts, but not the kind of oil that's going to make a car run. And Corn Flakes? Is there gold in them thar boxes? If a bowl costs $7.50, that makes the price of an 11-ounce boxequal to $135. That's perspective. To think people complain about the price of beer at a baseball game. If the Oakland A's want to fund a sexy new ballpark on the water's edge like the black and orange across the Bay, maybe Corn Flakes at the concession stand are the answer. Geez, just thinking about that bowl of Corn Flakes is making me so angry that I want to get in my car and drive it through a plate glass window. But I can't afford to waste the gas, and I'm pretty sure that even though I'm writing about it, my employer wouldn't allow me to expense the fuel. But I digress. Of course, the real kicker is that we're talking about relatively healthy food here. Sure, there's some fat going on in that peanut butter and cheese, but eaten in moderation, it's just fine. At least it's real food, not some super-processed patty of beef that came from 170 different cows. And that, of course, brings me to my next point. A family of four ordering off the "Dollar Menu" (aka: Trans-Fat Menu) at McDonald's can be fully sated for the price of a bowl of naked Corn Flakes. And we wonder why America is getting fat? I'm not breaking news here, but America is getting fat because America can't afford to be thin. But wait. Maybe America can. Using incredibly convoluted thinking, I have suddenly rationalized all of this insanity. The price of gas will get America out of its cars, get it moving, get it more exercise. Therefore America can calorically AFFORD to eat off the dollar menu. It's a win-win! Wait. I forgot about the $7.50 bowl of Corn Flakes. It doesn't fit anywhere in that rationalization. Oy. Pass the Pepto-Bismol. I hear it's $123.30 per gallon. You can e-mail Candace Murphy at or call (925) 416-4814.

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