ATTITUDES: Panic at the Pump

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That incident indicates another behavior pattern: despite the spotty violence, most motorists are bearing their troubles with a patience that some sociologists find striking. "I'm amazed at the acquiescence," says Irving Louis Horowitz of Rutgers University. "Americans are asked to sacrifice their weekends, their lifestyles, their most sacred cow, the automobile, and 99% of them are accepting the situation." On reconsideration, he remarks: "Actually, the quiet may not signal acquiescence as much as it does frustration."

When the pressure mounts, though, even the mildest of drivers may turn to rash remedies. Authorities in the Northwest report a spate of suspicious auto fires, mostly involving late models with big gas-guzzling engines.

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