Ask Ceil – Gassy and Alone

Dear Ceil,

How do I save money on gas?

—Combustible in Central Jersey

Well, there are several things you can do.

You can sell your car and walk everywhere or get a bike. Summer’s coming, and everyone has been telling me that exercise is good for me! I’m not sure if that’s because people think I should be more green, or people think I could stand to lose a few pounds. Either way, you’ll be in training for two-thirds of a triathlon, and if you get really good, you could go on to win sponsorships, maybe participate in the Tour de France, be loved the world over and go on to raise money for several worthy charity organizations. Or you could just get mugged on the way to work. Let’s face it, life’s a crapshoot.

You can buy a horse. A horse makes a wonderful pet. On the plus side, they’re good-looking animals who like humans most of the time. I’m told some of them talk, which makes the commute much more pleasant. And many of them are sturdy enough for you to bring a friend, or several sacks of goods. You can also use them to pull covered wagons, which will be helpful should you ever go grocery shopping during a rain storm, or if you need to film a Chuck Wagon commercial. On the minus side, they’re enormous and they shit everywhere.

Carpooling is also an option, if you know people who work near you and live near you, whom you can tolerate for more than a few minutes, and if you don’t ever have to go anywhere before, after or during work. As a matter of fact, you can save a lot if you just go ahead and start living with a co-worker. And don’t worry if you’re both in a relationship — just look at it like an extended double-date. Because those are always fun.

You can start working from home. That’s what I do. I never spend any money in gas, and my car is literally used once a week to buy groceries. Of course you have no one to talk to all day except for the plants, and when you get a really, really bad idea, there’s no one there to stop you. Did you know that you should only heat up Reddi Whip, for example, after it comes OUT of the can? In fact, trying to heat it up before it comes out of the can saves no time at all.

Finally, You can buy an oil refinery, buy oil wholesale and refine your own gas. You also have the extra benefit of having a tidy side business if you can stand the smell, water pollution, noise and propensity for explosions. Of course, if you’re given to heating up whipped cream in a can, you are already running a lot of these risks.

Dear Ceil,

I want to get away from everyone. Where should I go? Someplace warm and sandy?

—Antisocial in Appalachia

Dear Antisocial,

Everyone? Absolutely everyone?

If you need to be alone on a budget, here’s what you do: First, go out to the liquor store and buy a case of wine. Then, go back home and assemble a comfortable quilt, several large pillows, a chunk of cheese, a loaf of bread, a bag of chocolate, an iPod and several of those diapers that the astronauts use. Clean your house. Of people. And pets. If you have to push them out on the curb, that’s fine. People are resilient, and animals are meant to live in nature. Pick up the phone. Call the locksmith and have all the locks changed. Then find the largest closet in your house, throw everything in it on the bed, gather the items you’ve assembled, stuff them in the closet, pull the cord on the phone and head inside. After two days, you’ll be right as rain. (Note: do not do this.)

If you have a little bit of money to spend, I have always been a fan of getting in my car and driving about six hours in any direction. If you live on the coast, try not to actually drive into the ocean. On your way, you will invariably come across an attraction that absolutely no one will go to. My personal favorite is the world’s largest hand-dug well, which you can find in western Kansas. Not that anyone is in western Kansas, which makes it ideal.

If you have a little more money, you can buy your own island. This is really the perfect solution for the long-term Xenophobe. It’s probably best if you stay away from places where there are a lot of pirates. And the creature comforts of food and clothing can be a little cost-prohibitive, since they rarely open a Starbucks or Old Navy on secluded islands.

But the true perfect solution, as found in any after-school special, is to lose yourself in a book. It costs very little money, no one gets hurt except for imaginary characters, and you don’t have to leave your couch. On the other hand, if you’re not much of a reader, pornography will also do nicely, though it’s best to read it in the bathroom instead of on the couch. Good luck!

In a life marked by crippling indecision, Ceil Kessler has worked too many types of jobs to count, and is finally in her own business, consulting on business intelligence software. Ceil also markets and publishes the magazine “Business Perks”. Like everyone else in the world, she is working on a couple of novels. She also runs the Laurel Highlands Vegetarian Society, plays pool in her increasingly rare free time, and is an appreciator of fine wines and single-malt scotches.

If you have questions for Ceil, please send them to, along with all hate mail.


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