Cylinder Index Machismo

We moved into that new-to-us house in a southern Twin Cities suburb back in 1999. It was early spring, in between slush and mud, and the time when suburbanites emerge from their ivory and taupe four-bedroom igloos. On that sunny day, a neighborhood envoy of two gentlemen caught me washing my Taurus in the driveway. By professions they were a carpenter and a deputy sheriff, so good people to know, I figured. We chatted over all the usual Minnesotan middle-class male bonding topics: fishing, ice fishing, hunting and something called Garage Logic. Garage Logic or "GL" is the radio show creation of Twin Cities personality Joe Soucheray. I wasn't a GL devotee, but was familiar with Soucheray, his sidekick Rookie, and their macho shtick of mocking modern life. GL fans claim no problem is ever so great that it cannot be solved in the garage.

Having gained enough intel on the new guy in the neighborhood, ‘Carpenter and Deputy’ stated it was time to let me get back to washing the Ford. As they walked away, Deputy stopped and pointed to the tattered yellow "Fuel Your Passion" decal on the tongue of my boat trailer. He mocked, "Uh-oh! We have an ethanol lover! Gonna need to see verification of your CI!"

I laughed it off. But, wait…What? CI? Oh, right. CI, or "Cylinder Index" is the GL measurement of a man's worth based on the number of internal combustion engine cylinders he owns. A man’s CI is the foundation from which all maleness springs forth. In the make-believe radio world of GL, a man reaching a CI greater than his age is held in highest esteem.

Deputy's comment continued to gnaw at me while I went about organizing my suburban garage with the detritus of modern living. What was my CI? Did I measure up? Mentally, I calculated cylinders: Two vehicles (14), the old ‘78 International Scout inherited from my father-in-law (8), three outboard motors (8), trimmer (1), rider and push mowers (3), motorcycle (2), snowblower (1), the old jet ski stored at my parents' (3), chainsaw (1), an all-terrain four-wheeler (1), two snowmobiles (4). That's an impressive CI of 46!

Granted, I had moved to this suburb from northern Minnesota where I presume the average CI is even higher, but my CI exceeded my age by an impressive eleven. Forty-six in a single suburban household! Is it any wonder the oil business has been so prosperous...and powerful?

Yes, I had reached revered status in Soucheray's hallowed halls of manhood. My CI was higher than those of my neighbors, too. But there was still Deputy’s negative perception of ethanol that lingered with me. I wondered if he understood E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) had been the standard gasoline throughout Minnesota since October 1997–back then, 2.3 billion gallons were consumed annually. Even before that, E10 had been required for a decade in Minnesota’s and other U.S. urban centers to combat worsening air pollution. It's no wonder more and more retail locations are adding E15 all around the Twin Cities.

Since the late 1970s my family had used E10 in all our vehicles and small engines‒with the exception of that flex-fuel Ford Taurus in the driveway, which it pained me to fuel with anything but E85. In 40 years of usage “up north,” my clan has encountered zero problems with using fuel ethanol.  A long time ago, it became second nature to us.

Although, I must confess I did seize up the riding lawnmower. Forgot to refill it after changing oil out in my garage. Made it twice around the yard before she blew. But let's just keep that between you and me. I'd sure hate to ruin anybody’s perceptions.

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