It said: Regular unleaded, $2.60.
There's now clearly measurable evidence that Americans are altering their lives because of fuel prices, subtly so far but still a first in a generation since shortages forced drivers to sit in line for hours to get their turn at the pump. And after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina last week, oil prices have risen even more, pushing gasoline costs and consumer behavior to new heights.
The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline - which has topped $3 in many places, including most parts of Baltimore - is up by about $1 in the past month. It's the unwanted icing on the cake after two years of steady increases.
"If you talk to anybody about the economy today, ... they'll tell you that these high gas prices are a real pain in the butt and that they're having to change their behavior in some way to cope," said Mark Vitner, an economist for financial services company Wachovia Corp.
There were examples of this in Baltimore on Friday when rumors of the hurricane's effect on oil supplies began to spread. Across the region, many drivers panicked after believing incorrectly that gas stations would close at 4 p.m. because of supply shortages. Long lines of cars formed around several gas stations as motorists tried to top off their tanks before state and local officials moved to quell the anxiety. And before Friday's rumors, many drivers were filling up frequently to beat the higher prices they knew were coming.
But for weeks before the hurricane, there were signs that gasoline prices were pushing people to change their habits.
"People are getting more and more angry and frustrated," said Jeff Martini, vice president of the Polk Center, who thinks these sorts of changes are just the start as prices continue to climb. "The theme coming through is, ... 'Enough is enough - we're going to take action.'"
Some unaffectedOf course, examples of people not changing aren't hard to find. The spike in prices this summer hasn't increased use of public transportation, the Maryland Transit Administration said. It hasn't stopped boaters, the Marine Trades Association of Maryland found. Although it predicted that fewer people would travel over the Labor Day weekend because of higher gas prices, AAA Mid-Atlantic said the rising costs did not stop families from hitting the road in large numbers for vacations earlier this summer.
But even here, in one of the most affluent states in the nation, motorists are looking for ways to economize or cover the difference.
For Woodring, a 20-cent increase in a single week last month was the turning point. She originally planned to quit her job as a bank teller, which brings in $80 a month for two Saturdays of work, because she wanted more time this semester to study for two graduate classes in economics. Now she's expecting to stay on until the winter. She's even thinking about increasing her hours.