Friday, July 1, 2011
I was running late getting to Brian Feldman's "The Most Expensive Gas in America." When I piled my art supplies into my truck I realized I was low on gas. Driving out of my subdivision, my bright yellow gas light flickered on. It is shaped like a gas pump to further remind me that I needed to fill the tank. To save time I pulled into a 7-Eleven where the gas was a bit more expensive than my usual gas station. The regular gas cost me $3.39/gal. The $50 plus price tag hurts each week, but I need to get places to sketch them.
Sun Gas, located just north of Orlando International Airport (5600 Butler National Dr., off of S. Semoran Blvd.) charges unsuspecting tourists up to $5.99 a gallon for gas. The gas station is now being fined $250 a day by the City of Orlando for not posting their prices. The gas station has a huge sign that announces airport valet parking, an Arby's and 24 hour convenience store. There is plenty of room on the huge two story high sign to list the gas prices. A sign was placed in the parking lot behind the store (where no one will see it) but again no prices were listed. On the day of Brian's performance, Sun Gas was in court challenging the city ordinance to display their prices.
Brian Feldman decided to take the issue to the streets by standing at the intersection and announcing the prices to passing motorists.
Current prices (as of June 30th 2011)
Regular (87) $5.799/gal.
Plus (89) $5.899/gal.
Super Premium (93) $5.999/gal.
Brian arrived a bit late saying, "I had to go and get more nines for the sign." He had his portable theater marquee around his neck. That thing is made of metal and it is heavy. His sign had all three prices listed and he waved to passing cars. I was shocked when cars pulled into the station. Brian's small sign probably isn't easy to read from a passing car. A news photographer arrived and started shooting photos of Brian. The photographer spoke to me briefly stating, "You picked a strange day to be sketching. Look behind you. Those steel blue clouds will be here in 20 minutes." I started to sketch faster. Shortly thereafter, a car pulled up to the corner and the driver started screaming at the photographer. "Are you reporting the news or creating the news!?" He was livid, thinking the photographer was staging the public service of showing consumers the gas prices. The photographer tried to explain that it was a conceptual art performance but that made the man's face get redder. His wheels screeched as he sped off onto Semoran when the light changed.
Later, a leggy blond woman approached Brian from the gas station. After she left he shouted out to me, "Incident!" My drawing was just about done so I walked over to see what was up. She had made indications to Brian that she knew where he was parked. The implication being that she would arrange to tow his car. Brian handed me his car keys and asked me to move his father's Ford Focus to the restaurant across the street where I had parked. I half expected to find his car gone, but I found it and drove over to my truck. I then drove over to where Brian stood and returned his keys. He had many hours to go, as he planned to announce the prices for 5.999 hours which is an hour for each dollar charged for the gas. As I drove north the rain pounded my truck. Is price gouging the American way?