The NEWS with Tim O'Callaghan

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Gas prices change family's fun

This first published May 29, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

What used to be relatively cheap entertainment is no longer so.

For years, we have enjoyed less expensive gasoline in our Northwest Arizona getaway, primarily because there are fewer local taxes added on than in Clark County, which has plenty.

This was true until this past Memorial Day weekend, when the gouging began. The week before, I had checked our only local gasoline retailer in Arizona, and the price was $3.67 per gallon. Imagine my shock over the weekend when I went to fill two 5-gallon gas containers and the price had jumped to $4.19 per gallon. Heck, that’s 10 cents more than the notoriously high-priced Chevron station across from the Hacienda Hotel between Boulder City and the Hoover Dam.

That is a 52-cent jump in price with no explanation. It is taking advantage of unsuspecting visitors and tourists, who quickly realize the nearest pump is at least 30 miles away.

It has always been my habit to spend money at the combination gas station-grocery store to help the local economy by purchasing odds and ends like milk, eggs, bread and filling up with gas before heading home. Although I’m miffed about the weekend price hike, I’ll probably continue to add to the local economy. After all, they bake the best bread around. But I’ll think twice about purchasing gas before heading home.

The days of tossing $25 into the boat tank for a day’s worth of fun whipping the kids around on a towable are quickly fading, along with $20 to spend a day quad riding. The challenge for me isn’t in the price of gas so much as it is the challenge of planning our excursions with better purpose.

This concept makes my bride giddy with excitement, because for her this is an opportunity for families to get back together to spend quality time with each other. This may include shorter boat rides and more family games on the beach or shorter distances on the quads with longer hikes and picnics while out exploring.

Her excitement over quality family time has been resonating with me lately, causing me to rethink how we’ve spent time with our children. Although it has always been our intention to engage our children, it seems I have spent plenty of time entertaining them probably more than I should have.

For example, we have a vacation home with a boat and a few quads. Granted the boat is small and 13 years old, but it has provided us special opportunities to engage our children by experiencing nature in ways not available to most Americans.

Are our children any worse off being entertained? I would say probably not.
The real question is would they be better off without the material stuff and spending more time playing board games?

Maybe so. Or maybe a modified combination would be better to build interpersonal communication skills.

Suppose for a moment that gas is $8 per gallon, you live in an urban city, work within a mile of home, you have no big toys and no car. How concerned are you about the price of gas?

Now suppose for a moment that gas is $8 per gallon and your situation is the same as today. How concerned are you?

It’s not out of the question to consider these situations, because gas is $8.93 per gallon in Germany. Why could it not happen here?

What adjustments would you make to your lifestyle? How would you entertain your children? Would you use the opportunity to engage your children? These are all interesting questions to ponder if you have a moment.

As the economy slumps and the price gougers gouge, look for opportunities to endure by bringing family and friends closer together. Throw a simple barbecue, listen to music and play a few games.

Why wait for the price of gas to go up in order to engage your family in healthy communication and board games?

My bride loves board games. I’m less than enthusiastic about them but willing to play.

So what about you?

Tim O’Callaghan, co-publisher of the Home News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com. He writes a regular blog at tocomv.blogspot.com.