Feeling robbed at the gas pump? You are not alone

Scott Hilyard

Think the endlessly escalating cost of a gallon of gasoline isn’t having a profound effect on the everyday lives and everyday psyches of everyday Americans? Spend some time talking to people as they pump liquid gold into their cars, vans, trucks and SUVs on the day of another seemingly unexplainable gas hike.

People, and this takes about a minute to discern, are angry.

"It’s an abomination," said Jim Simkins of Peoria as he dropped twenty bucks for gas for his Toyota Corolla on Tuesday. It bought him one-third of a tank of gas. "(Gas price increases) have made me completely change the way I think about driving my car."

The cost of gas jumped between 10 cents and 15 cents a gallon locally on Tuesday, a day after the national average topped $3.50 a gallon for the first time ever. In the Peoria area, prices ranged from $3.56 to $3.64 for a gallon of regular gas. Six months ago, the average cost in the Peoria area was $2.83 a gallon, a price that at the time — remember those days? — seemed outrageous.

"You experience a hike and you think ‘this HAS to be the peak,’" Simkins said. "It’s amazing what you get used to." Last fall, Simkins purposely bought his new Toyota with the small 4-cylinder engine with money-saving fuel efficiency in mind. Even so, he now plots errand runs as multiple-stop linear excursions with no wasted double-backs, no wasted gas.

"You’re really starting to feel it in the grocery stores now too, with transportation costs escalating, and you hear about truckers filling their tanks for $1,000," Simkins said. "Consumers are really being pushed. It’s a double whammy. You’ve got to drive. You’ve got to eat. All of this makes you wonder what’s coming next?"

Jennifer Roe of Peoria filled up early Tuesday, but not in time to escape $3.60-a-gallon gas. Roe, who works 30 hours a week for minimum wage and is due to have a baby in July, said gas prices are keeping her home.

"I go back and forth to work and I go to the grocery store," Roe said. "Other than that, I don’t really go anywhere."

Anna Nabhan of Peoria works in sales and is in her car a lot.

"We’ve restructured our routes to maximize our efficiency and to cut down on unnecessary trips," Nabhan said while filling up Tuesday for $3.64 a gallon.

She used to drive to Chicago every other month but hasn’t been there yet in 2008 because even casual trips have become prohibitively expensive.

"It’s frustrating," she said. "I work hard so that I can have extra money to be able to spend on myself. I don’t want to have to spend any extra money on gas."

"We’re getting robbed," said Carol Gutierrez of Peoria, a driver for the Buehler Memorial Home. All day she drives elderly residents to medical appointments. Lately, she’s been putting more residents in the Buehler car at once so she can make fewer trips.

"Some of them are wondering why they are getting to their appointments so early, but they don’t seem to mind," she said. "Personally, I’m driving less and losing the lead foot. I’m also not taking a vacation this year to Michigan like I usually do."

For Simkins, the feeling of helplessness is as discouraging as the money drain on his wallet.

"This is having and is going to continue to have a major impact on our society," Simkins said. "It’s something that needs to be addressed and it appears our government is not willing to address it."

Scott Hilyard can be reached at (309) 686-3244 or at