This is a story about burritos and gas. Wait . . . that came out wrong. This is a story about burritos and gasoline.
Back in the late 2000s, I would often treat myself to lunch at my favorite fast-food restaurant, Baja Fresh. Boy, how I loved their fat burritos, stuffed with such pleasures as black beans, jack cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. At the salsa bar, I’d smear the tortilla with fresh lime, then pour tangy, sweet sauce into a plastic container. Before each bite, I’d dunk my Baja bad boy into that juice and then ready myself for a taste-bud fiesta. Mmmmm . . . tasty fat burrito . . . .
Getting to Baja Fresh was never a problem—it was just down the road from both my office and my house. But on one summer day in 2010, my world came crashing down on me. It was supposed to be my best lunch day ever. My Baja Fresh punch card was all punched out, and on this day I was entitled to a free burrito! But when I arrived for lunch, the restaurant was closed. I mean, closed closed. Out of business. Devastated, I stuck the punch card into my pocket and sulked back to my car.
Of the Baja Freshes still in business, the one in Deerfield was the closest one to my house. But it was 14 miles away. “Why don’t you just take time for yourself one day and drive out there?” my wife would tell me. “You know you wanna go.”
Yes, I longed for my Baja Fresh burrito (I still kept the punch card in my wallet), but I am a practical person and I couldn’t justify the drive. Twenty-eight miles of driving meant about $4 in gas. And what if they didn’t accept the punch card? I’d be looking at the equivalent of $10 for a burrito. Heck, I’d rather spend $6 at the Chipotle on the corner.
Like most Americans, I suffer from gas anxiety. I’m cursed with the chronic awareness that I’m bleeding money every time I press the accelerator. Nationwide, gas anxiety has soared in recent months. According to CNN poll data released last week, the number of Americans who said gasoline prices are the most important economic problem facing the country has more than tripled since December.
When gasoline hit $3 a gallon in 2005, gas anxiety swept the nation. “How will we survive? It’s a threat to lifestyle,” psychiatrist Robert Trestman said at the time. In one disturbing story from 2008, a 77-year-old Florida man who was arrested for beating his wife blamed his rage in part on the rising cost of gasoline, which gnawed at him every time he drove her to dialysis.
I have never been at that stage, of course, but for two years I couldn’t bring myself to driving to Deerfield for a burrito. Until yesterday. After grabbing the keys to Consumer Guide’s 2012 Mitsubishi i test car, one of the first things I did was drive 14 miles to Baja Fresh.
People talk about range anxiety with electric cars—the fear that the car will run out of charge and leave you stranded on the road. Range anxiety doesn’t bother me. A gauge on the i tells me how many miles I have left before recharging is needed, and I can plan my trips accordingly.
To me, the range anxiety that an EV causes is nothing compared to the gas anxiety that it alleviates.
Driving out to Deerfield in my electric car, I felt a freedom that I hadn’t experienced since the late 1990s, when gas was barely over $1 a gallon. Instead of suffering chest pains every time I saw a $4.59 gas station sign, I breathed easy and enjoyed the drive.
There was just one problem. When I arrived at 110 S. Waukegan Rd. in Deerfield, the Baja Fresh was no longer there, for it too had gone out of business.
I tossed my punch card into the trash. There would be no gas anxiety on the way home . . . any way you looked at it.