It’s Not Just The Fumes That Are Noxious

With the current cost of regular unleaded sky-high, a road trip from one side of the county to the other has become as desirable as picking up a friend of a friend at LaGuardia. So what are your neighbors doing to counteract the hikes?

For starters, they’re paying cash for gas. Why pay a surcharge for using your credit card when you’re already paying through the nose? “I’ve noticed more people with cash at the pumps,” reports Jeffrey Boettigheimer, a Valhalla-based mechanic. “A lot of it is guys in their work trucks trying to avoid getting hit with the unnecessary fees.

”Some are trying to get rid of their gas-guzzlers—or holding on to them longer. Jerry Giglio of White Plains tried selling his Jeep Grand Cherokee while still owing $13,000 on it, and was offered only $7,000.

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“It’s not worth it,” says Giglio. According to Augie DiFeo, the owner of White Plains Chrysler Jeep, the positive trend of buying hybrids and other small, gas-efficient cars has been offset by a slump in sales—not just in gas-guzzlers but in cars overall. As a consequence, “the service department is picking up,” says DiFeo. “As people are keeping their cars longer, they have to maintain them.”

Others are staying home—often with their bosses’ consent. North of Westchester, Fishkill has recently permitted its municipal workers to switch to four-day work weeks and 10-hour days. Their Westchester counterparts are in favor of the same system. The concept is being entertained among the private sector, too, though few businesses have revamped their calendars—yet. Meanwhile, the county’s largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, has pushed for dropping the fifth day for the 4,000 employees it represents, arguing that it would help the environment while also allowing union workers to save hard-earned dollars in commuting costs. “Such a move will save thousands of workers one round-trip to work, thereby reducing gas consumption and pollution,” says Jack McPhillips, president of the Civil Service Employees Association.

And, some are eating less—unwittingly. In the dining industry, a world that depends on gas-fueled deliveries and gas-driven patrons, rising prices are causing some restaurants to cut down on portions. “You shouldn’t be surprised if you notice less on the plate and fewer staff members working harder,” concedes an Elmsford restaurant manager, who wished to remain anonymous. “People will always have to eat, but they don’t always have to eat out.” Most restaurants in the county would not fess up to any portion adjustments, though their pleading of the Fifth is understandable in an already volatile industry.

According to restaurant patrons along Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains, the new economy of skimping is noted, but welcome. “It’s good; portions were too big,” says Paula Soohoo of Chappaqua.“Maybe people will go home to their kitchens and cook for a change.”

With the American obesity rate busting through the 25-percent barrier in the last three years, smaller portions, more cooking at home, and increased walking may have an unintended upside: sleeker and healthier physiques.

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// Marty MacLean

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