TO DRIVE, OR
NOT TO DRIVE
We were gliding along Interstate 5 last week, heading down to
San Diego for a short vacation. My wife was beside me in the passenger
seat, eagerly criticizing my driving while staring at the barren scenery.
"Only 320 miles to go," I chirped. "At 75
miles per hour, how long do you think it will take to get to San
By the silence that ensued, it was clear that either 1) she
didn't know, or, more likely, 2) she didn't want to think about it.
I was probably not the most popular person in the car at that
point. There had been much discussion about whether to fly or drive to San
Diego and back, and I won. Since we booked the vacation at a late date,
the airfare was about $800 round trip for two, plus car rental. Not only
would there be cost savings, but driving would only take a little over
seven hours door to door (assuming no traffic, which is a fairly
ridiculous assumption), while flying would take at least four hours door
"That's a difference of only three hours!" I had
cried. "Now try and argue your time is worth more than about $250 per
Argument over. We loaded the car and headed towards I-5. As
we passed by the Oakland Airport, I happily noted that we were already 40
minutes into our seven-hour trip. And while the airline passengers were in
line to check baggage at least an hour before the flight, we'd be rolling
That's when the little rock hit the windshield.
"There goes $200 of your savings," my wife said, much too
happily, as we inspected the crack. "I just had it replaced a few
months ago and that's what it cost."
I was undeterred. "A minor setback," I said.
"We're still way ahead of where we'd be if we were flying."
And we were. Two hours later, by the time our plane would
have taken off, we were on I-5 and she was refusing to answer my question
about how much longer the drive would take.
"We'd be in the air by now," she casually mentioned.
"And we'd be there in an hour."
"How do you know the plane left on time?" I asked,
throwing a wrench into her reasoning. "And even if it did, once we
got to San Diego we'd have to collect our baggage, rent a car, and then
drive about 40 minutes to our destination, which happens to be north of
San Diego, which happens to be right on our driving route. If we flew,
we'd be backtracking."
That quieted her, for the moment. In fact, it was pretty darn
quiet for the next three hours, which got us to the outskirts of Los
Angeles, about five hours into our trip.
This is where we stopped for gas. She filed out for the
bathrooms and a snack while I placed the nozzle in our gas tank and then
joined her inside.
Snacks in hand, we bounded back into the car, ready for the
final assault to San Diego. The end was in sight, and the momentum was
swinging my way.
Until, that is, I drove off with the nozzle still in our gas
"It's about $400 to put in a new pump," said the
gas station manager as I sheepishly inspected the gas line and nozzle that
had followed me for about 20 yards. "We can try
billing your insurance first."
I was losing my enthusiasm and the snickering from the
passenger seat wasn't helping. "He said it happens all the
time," I said, very weakly.
Whatever. We were still about a hundred dollars ahead of the
game, and the only thing that that stood in our way of San Diego was Los
Angeles. At rush hour. On a Thursday night.
Three hours later, with the help of Google Maps and Waze, Los
Angeles was behind us. And the last six or seven miles of our trip we
actually were going the speed limit.
As we lugged our baggage out of our car, about 11 hours after
we'd left home, my wife couldn't resist.
" I don't know about you," she said, wearily. But I think
I'm worth a lot more than 67 cents an hour."