Petrol Patrol

The Smell of Gasoline in the Morning

Ah, a busy gas station. The perfume of high-octane fuel in the air, the steady ding-ding-ding of the pumps, and the profane mutterings of motorists lined up at the curb. This is Tailpipe's favorite hangout. There's no spot more auto-addictive than the BP station at Oakland Park Boulevard and NW 21st Avenue in Oakland Park.

Of course, like everybody else, the 'Pipe has watched the rising cost of gasoline with a twinge of regret. In retrospect, was it rash to snap up a 12-miles-per-gallon Hummer H2 in the triumphant days after Dubya's "Mission Accomplished" proclamation three years ago? Maybe. But wasn't a liberated Iraq supposed to be a cheap-gas Iraq? Whose bright idea is $3 a gallon?

Still, there's that rush — with the clean, fragrant, flammable brew pouring out of the pumps, like water in a desert, at a station that's rumored to be the cheapest in the neighborhood.

The 'Pipe's favorite BP seems almost impervious to whatever obscure capitalistic forces govern the worth of sweet crude. If a gallon of regular costs $2.99 in nearby Wilton Manors, it's likely coming out of the BP's 16 pumps for a dime or so cheaper. Whims of the day or hour notwithstanding, the station's gas is either the cheapest in Broward or it's damned close. (Tailpipe isn't about to quote any prices in this febrile gas-pricing environment. Run your own analysis at miamigasprices.com or gaspricewatch.com.)

With the heroic 2 to 3 percent discount come hordes. The 'Pipe watched amazed on a recent weekday afternoon when 20 vehicles wedged into lines for gas. On Oakland Park Boulevard, where drivers are used to zipping along at 40 and 50 mph, cars slooooowed to squeeze their way into the lot, which is so small it doesn't include any actual parking spaces. Some customers walk the few steps to the trailer-sized food shop to buy roadmaps and Parliaments from attendants in a bulletproof booth. Most, though, simply roll up, swipe a debit card, and suckle from the petrol teat before backing out past the next Explorer in line.

The pace of activity puts the owner, Jay Weinstock, on edge. Sure, he wants to sell his product, but he's not happy about the mob. When the 'Pipe reached him, he asked that any coverage not sound as though he's looking for publicity.

"I've never advertised," he says. "The only advertisement I have is a gas-price sign." The traffic has caught the attention of nearby residents, who just want a little peace and quiet. Praising Weinstock might entice more drivers... and more snarls. "Just say, 'The gentleman's trying to be the fairest he can be. He's trying to do the public a service. '"

Tailpipe hears now that experts are predicting a downtick in gas prices this week, after the U.S. Energy Department reported a mysterious increase in the gasoline supply (following talk on Capitol Hill of a strict new anti-gouging law). So it goes, at least until this little muddle in the Middle East clears up, and we go back to gas-guzzling, buck-a-gallon bliss.

Hiya Who?

The Miami Herald's star columnist, Carl Hiaasen, has worked for the paper for 30 years. Since the early '80s, he has also published 17 fiction and nonfiction books, including Hoot, which was just adapted for the big screen. On the day it hit theaters last week, the Herald ran this hangdog correction for a story the previous day:

"A story about Florida's film industry misspelled the name of author Carl Hiaasen. An accompanying photo caption misspelled the name of singer Jimmy Buffett."

It sounded a bit like a correction that appeared just a month earlier, in the April 4 paper: "A photo caption misspelled author Carl Hiaasen's name on Page 4A in some editions on Monday."

Apparently it's a problem that goes back a few years. A database search also turned up this nugget, labeled an Editor's Note, from the Herald's feature section in June 1996:

"We wondered: How many times have we misspelled Carl Hiaasen's name? Thirty-five times since 1983, when The Heraldput in a computer database. The most common misspellings: Hiassen and Hiasen."

Even Dave Barry once wrote it as Hiaassen. He's a big name, that Hiaasen, but not that big.

The Way We Were

Way out west, where only hordes of blood-thirsty mosquitoes and scaly alligators once frolicked, the Weston Historical Society dug deep to come up with a back story celebrating the city's tenth anniversary. For a town that's still wet behind the ears, Broward County's farthest-flung neighbor has little in the way of "old" or "quaint." But that hasn't derailed plans for the society's dedication ceremony next month.

The ghost of Arthur Vining Davis, founder of the Arvida Corp., which eventually cleared enough land for hundreds of big, bulky, indistinguishable homes, will be on hand for ribbon-cutting.

Don't miss the interactive exhibit called "Weston's First Starbucks," which details the perilous, ill-fated missions to bring beans and baristas to the Everglades frontier town. It culminates with a diorama depicting the final, triumphant arrival of a franchise in 1998, plus a free venti decaf latte. Heirlooms and artifacts, like Jebediah J. Weston's first riding mower and pioneer-village landmarks like Ye Olde Circle K, await visitors. There's a full-scale replica of a bathroom of the Marino House, which was the first McMansion designed with an active DSL port in — literally — every room.

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