Oh, how our nation has changed in recent years. We have lost more than a million people to a disease that some said would go away in a matter of weeks. We started wearing masks and stopped eating out, shaking hands, and hugging. We no longer consider good character or intellect to be important when electing our leaders.

And now comes our latest life-changer: inflation. I’ll leave it up to the economists to debate how we got here, but we can all agree on where we are. Due to some combination of the pandemic, supply chain issues, greed, government policies, and foreign conflicts, everything we buy costs considerably more than it did a few years ago.

Those carefree, “Let’s take a road trip” days are behind us. And if they’re not, when we return home we realize we are suddenly out of cash.

The only surefire way to lower gas prices is to drive less, so that oil companies will have a glut of supply. Evidently, we have not yet reached that point as summer travel is only slightly below that of years past.

Still, some of us have started to pay attention. I no longer start my car without a plan. “How many things can I take care of once, along this same route? Since I’m getting a haircut tomorrow, can I wait until then to buy groceries, and go to the post office? And as much as I love those milk shakes just past the mall, do I really want to drive five more miles to get one?” (Believe me, in the past, driving an extra five miles for a milk shake was an easy decision to make.)

My friend Meg Quigley is among those who is adjusting to life on a tighter budget. She said, “No more late night Taco Bell runs!” (Upon further review, that could be interpreted in a number of ways.)

Many of us are canceling beach vacations, planting gardens, dining out less frequently, carpooling, ordering items from Amazon (at the expense of our local businesses), and working from home.

It has also affected our quality of life, and our comfort, both physically and emotionally. Karen Gaynon told me, “I used to just go for a ride by myself on the weekends. No destination in particular, just enjoying music and solitude. I’ve cut way back on that. I just can’t justify the expense.”

Others tell me they are cutting back on their visits to out-of-town relatives, and I don’t need to tell you, you can’t get that time back. Lawns that used to be mowed weekly are growing high and weedy. That little mower gas tank used to be satisfied with four dollars worth of fuel. It seems thirstier now, costing ten bucks to fill. I’m seeing fewer campers at our state parks, once a thrifty place for relaxation.

I will think twice before ever buying another car that only uses premium fuel. Thankfully, I have an option, so the “high-test” car is pretty much sitting out the summer of ‘22. As my friend Michael Green said, “Don’t buy a Ford F-350 and then complain that it costs $175 to fill it up.”

Can anything good come from this? My longtime readers may know I like to look at the bright side, which is strangely out of fashion during these difficult times.

But maybe, just maybe, this inflation crisis is encouraging some of us to sit on the porch and listen to the birds, who could care less how much profit Exxon is making. Perhaps we are rediscovering our board games, and the joys of home cooking.

The pandemic reminded us of the importance of good hygiene, and washing our hands. Maybe the high gas prices will discourage us from making unnecessary car trips.

The wisest words of all come from my friend David Lang. He said, “I think it’s a wake up call. When my grandchildren see my mother saving and washing disposable aluminum trays, they say, ‘Meemaw just throw them away.’ But she is a product of the Great Depression when everybody had to save. Maybe it’s time we all learn from them and realize our resources are not endless.” As usual, Meemaw knows best.

David Carroll is a Chattanooga news anchor, and his new book “Hello Chattanooga: Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley” is available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, or at RadioTV2020@yahoo.com.

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