Ash lamented, “$3.29 a gallon, I can remember my dad putting gas in the Buick for twenty-five cents a gallon. Now, I’m glad my wife talked me into getting a Honda four years ago.”
“I feel your pain,” replied Pastor Walter Mitty. “The car allowance from the church really doesn’t cover what it costs to fuel and maintain my Corolla any more.”
“That’s because it’s an antique. Coffee, hon?” The waitress at the Mainstreet Cafe was on top of her game.
“We’re discussing weighty problems here, Alice.” Eric grinned as he jumped into the banter. “This is serious business.”
“What? The price of gas?” shot back the waitress as she finished pouring coffee to the three members of the Wednesday Morning Men’s Fellowship. “At least you guys can afford cars to put that expensive gas into. Me and my two boys have enough trouble paying the rent and buying food. At the end of the month there’s no money left for a car or health insurance or any of the other things you think of as necessities. I’d like to see you guys try to get around on public transportation.”
Eric, Ash and Pastor Walt stared into their cups. Alice turned to walk away, hesitated and turned back to the silent booth. “Hey,” she said, “I know it’s not your fault. It’s just that sometimes it gets to me. . .you know. . .struggling so hard to make ends meet.”
Alice liked the three men she was serving. At least they treated her as a real person even though they were lousy tippers. “Say,” she said, breaking another ten second silence. “Where is Mr. Brooks Brothers?”
“You mean Dominique?” answered Pastor Mitty. “He left me a voice mail saying that he. . .”
“Pinch me so I know I’m not dreaming!” Alice cut Mitty off as she stared out the window. “Is that Dominique getting out of. . .”
“A Prius?” Ash stared in disbelief.
“Miracles really do happen,” was all Eric could say.
“Like my new hybrid?” asked Dominique as he slid into the booth next to Mitty. “That’s why I’m late. Had to pick up my new car at the dealer over on LaGrange Road.”
Eric, Ash and Pastor Walt were still staring out the window.
“State of the art technology,” Dominique continued. “A computer screen on the dash tells you how many miles to the gallon you’re getting. One time when I was slowing down for a traffic light, the electric motor kicked in and the monitor said I was getting 99 miles to the gallon!”
“Wha. . .what happened to your Lexus?” Ash stammered.
“Oh, you mean did I trade it in? No, I kept it. There’s a retired lady in the townhouse next to mine who doesn’t drive any more, and she’s renting her garage space to me. I’ll drive it on special occasions.”
“But, what made you decide. . . .” Pastor Walt was trying to choose his words carefully so he wouldn’t offend one of his favorite parishioners with stereotypes.”
Dominique laughed. “You mean what made a Republican banker who likes to dress in style and have nice things buy the kind of little car that Eric here would buy?”
Eric smiled weakly, not fully believing what he thought he was hearing and seeing.
“The answer is simple,” continued Dominique. “I saw Inconvenient Truth.“
“You mean the Al Gore movie?” Ash asked.
“Yeh,” replied Dominique. “I had heard all the scientific stuff about global warming before, and I have to confess I was starting to disagree with the President’s scientific advisors. But that’s not what tipped the balance for me. What got me was when Gore showed a bar graph which showed that Honda and Toyota were making money and that Ford and GM were losing money. And Gore said, ‘Which ones are known formaking quality, small, fuel efficient cars?'”
Eric was coming out of his daze. “So you’re saying that being green can also be good business? That you haven’t seen the light and left the Republican Party after all?”
Dominique smiled at the guy right out of an Eddie Bauer catalogue sitting across the table from him. “You know why I took Al Gore seriously?” he began. “First of all because he didn’t take self-righteous cheap shots against people who stand for things I believe in like Michael Moore did. And second, because he showed how a thinking conservative could buy into what he was saying.”
Mitty broke the silence. “It’s sort of symbolic when you think of it.”
“Say again, Pastor,” said Dominique.
“You kept the Lexus,” Mitty said, “and you added a Prius.”
When Pastor Mitty got back to the office, he called his neighbor Michael Rosenthal. “Michael, what time you want to leave for the Sox game tonight?”
“How about 4:30?” Michael answered. “Taking the el?”
“Do you think it’s safe taking the Green Line back at 11 at night?”
Michael paused. “Well, I supposed the chance of getting mugged increases a little bit at night, but when I’ve taken the el after Sox games in the past, the cars have been almost full of people. It sure is cheaper than paying for parking and. . . .”
Mitty smiled to himself. “And it saves energy. I’ll see you at 4:30.”