According to an old song, one is the loneliest number. But for Cape Girardeau County motorists, one is a happy number.
Gas prices slipped below $2 a gallon at several area retailers Thursday, following a downward trend that had already sent prices to that figure and below in many locations across the state. And for Cody Sandusky, the cashier at the Cash Only station on East Jackson Boulevard in Jackson, that means smiling customers.
"Their attitude today has been a lot more optimistic," Sandusky said between customers. "They are a lot more cheerful."
The prices are the area's lowest in 22 months. Sandusky, who has worked at the station for about a year, remembered that customers were considerably more sour when the price spiked to almost $4 a gallon over the summer. "There were some who just said they would make the best of it," he said. "Then there were others who would jerk the money out of your hand as you gave them change."
According to the price-watching site gasbuddy.com, there are at least four places in the Cape Girardeau area where prices are $1.999 a gallon. Perryville prices are slightly lower in some cases, and there are some stations in Scott County at that level.
Nationally, the price of crude oil for delivery in December fell Thursday to just over $60 a barrel, down from the peak of $147.11 in July.
While the pump price is only one-tenth of a cent less than $2, that one on the front of the price has a satisfying psychological effect.
"I saw $1.99 as I was passing through, and I thought 'Wow, I have not seen that in so long,'" Kyle Hinton said after filling his car at Kidd's on Broadway in Cape Girardeau.
The price also has people calling their friends to fill up. Emily Williams, a Southeast Missouri State University sophomore, said she filled up at Kidd's after her boyfriend called.
At the Cash Only in Jackson, Roger Nenninger squeezed a few extra drops into his Chevy Tahoe to make the cost of his fill up an even $40. Nenninger said he didn't really need to stop, but the price caught his eye.
"I'm getting every drop in there," Nenninger said.
Since prices started rising, Nenninger said he would usually set an amount he could spend, then buy that much fuel. And lately he's used the same method, spending about $40 and hoping the price went down before he needed fuel again.
The most he spent at the pump this year? "One time I spent $80 to fill it all the way up," he said.
The low price is nice, although probably temporary, said Brad Hutson, a fleet mechanic for Southeast Missouri State University, as he filled up at Cash Only. "I figure before long it will go back up again."
Southeast Missourian staff writer Bridget DiCosmo contributed to this report.