"No," I replied. "I don't think you paid enough."
"You should have paid much, much more."
Mike looked at me like I was nuts. So did others in the bar who were eavesdropping on our conversation. I'm not nuts -- I'm realistic.
I know it's a hard pill to swallow, paying more for gas. It's made headlines lately. Many Americans just like Mike are fed up with the high cost of filling up their tanks. Many are asking for our politicians to take action.
Republican Sen. Bill Frist came up with the goofy idea of sending millions of us $100 rebate checks. Some Democrats want a 60 day tax holiday. I'm scratching my head.
Screw all that. Let's make gasoline $8 a gallon. Let's tax the hell out of it just like we do with cigarettes.
My friend who thinks I'm nuts drives a badass Ford SUV. It drinks gasoline like it's Kool-Aid. As far as I'm concerned, if he wants to drive one of these things or a Hummer or a big old Cadillac, get ready to pay dearly for it at the pump.
I tried to reason with Mike. We can take that extra money we get from the tax and put it to good use. Let's start looking into alternative fuels seriously, like ethanol and biodiesel -- and the top priority has to be cleaning up the environment that automobiles have helped pollute.
Mike thinks that's nonsense. He, like many of you, loves his "boatmobile" and doesn't want to face up to the truth: Emissions from gas-powered vehicles contribute to global warming.
President Bush has explained this might simply be a "natural" process. Yeah, right. And I gotta a bridge to sell ya.
His talk is simply self-serving bullshit. I'd rather put my faith in scientists who truly realize global warming is a real threat than Bush and his pal Dick Cheney, who sleep with the big oil companies.
What's more important, driving your SUV or helping save the Earth? Arctic and Antarctic ice caps are melting. Greenland is slowly oozing into the sea. The atmosphere is polluted with greenhouse gases blocking heat from escaping.
This is serious business. For all of you like Mike who don't think it is, you have your head stuck up your ass.
This planet still might be around a while for us older folks, but think about your children and their children. Isn't protecting our planet for them more important than filling up your Jeep Grand Cherokee or your Buick Rainier?
I like to think I take the environment seriously. I don't own a car. I walk to where I want to go. If it's too far, I use public transportation. When I told my friend Mike this, again, he looked at me like I was crazy.
"Don't you miss having wheels?" he asked. "I mean, I gotta have a way to get from point 'A' to point 'B.' "
"You make a lot of money, Mike," I said. "Why don't you get yourself a hybrid car?"
"It's a cross between a gasoline-powered car and an electric one."
"Hey, I don't have time to be plugging in no damn car," Mike replied.
And on that uneducated note, I gave up. There ain't no changing him, and he's not going to buy into my "radical" $8 a gallon logic.
If I can't get Mike and some of you reading this angry about what's happening with our environment, I'll try getting you pissed off thinking about your wallet.
Do you know who's profiting when you fill up your tank and shell out that money? It's not the guy you're handing it to at the station -- it's the people he's buying it from, the big oil companies.
When you fill up your tank at an Exxon Mobil station, think of their net profit for the first quarter of this year: $8.4 billion. Think of retiring CEO Lee "Count My Chins" Raymond, who just got a $400 million retirement package.
Don't you think Exxon Mobil and the other big oil companies are using you a little bit? Wouldn't it feel good to sock it to these fat bastards and use less of what they're selling?
Alright, I'm off my soapbox.
Mike, if you're reading this: Sorry I've picked on you. I know you just want to keep on doing things the way you always have -- buying gas guzzler vehicles and taking the environment for granted.
You don't want things to change. For you and others like you, I wish the rest of us on this planet a lot of luck.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: lgross(at)citybeat.com. Living Out Loud runs every week at citybeat.com and the second issue of each month in the paper.