Troy Kelley - with a landscaping business and a fleet of trucks and a payroll full of real men feeding families - owes the guy who sells him diesel fuel a 12-pack of cold beer, because of a phone call two weeks ago.
"He told me to fill my big tank out here, because the price was going up," said Kelley. "I have 17 vehicles that have to use diesel to get where they are going.
"I have 30-plus pieces of equipment that use gasoline. The gas guy told me to buy before it went up, too."
As the price of gasoline barrels past $3 a gallon, with diesel already way over it with no end in sight, Kelley says this about the price of fuel that he needs to make a living: "It stinks."
The rising fuel prices already have shot to pieces the little profit Kelley made doing private snow and ice removal after brutal storms earlier in the winter.
And the future looks worse for a guy who weathered $4-plus gas prices in that late summer of 2005, when gas stations had lines during shortages after Hurricane Katrina.
Yet Kelley refuses to cut services. His product and reputation are all he has.
Still, the rising costs are terrible for anybody who needs wheels to get someplace to make a dollar. The food anybody eats has to get to the stores, Kelley said.
"Who do people think are going to pay more for food, the people selling the food?" Kelley asked. "If you don't own it, grow it, or make it, things are going to cost more because it costs more to get it here."
Filling up a regular car, when costs go up, is a few dollars each time.
It hurts us all, because almost everybody who works for a living is broke.
But how would you like to be June Barnette of June's Bus Tours? He's got bus payments and insurance payments and drivers for four buses in an economy with less people with money, so less travel.
Barnette filled up his 260-gallon bus tank the other day, using diesel fuel that is up about a dollar a gallon in the past year. The day was blustery, but it wasn't wind that almost knocked Barnette over after 30 years in his business.
"$928 - and I hadn't driven anywhere yet, hadn't made a dollar," he said.
Because travel is down, 2010 was the worst business year in Barnette's long history.
His buses have taken so many from Rock Hill to presidential inaugurations and cruise ships in Florida, and soldiers to wars and back home to joyful families, and so much more.
Just Tuesday evening, Barnette took 50 kids from the Cheer for Children charity to a Charlotte Bobcats basketball game - and he donated the bus and the fuel and his time as driver to match the tickets donated by the team.
This from a guy who said his business is at the tipping point, and he might have to take two of his buses off the road.
"A kid, 50 kids, having a chance to go to a game means a lot more than my cost in fuel," said Barnette, who cannot pay for diesel with a smile from a child's face.
If fuel rises to $4 or even $5 a gallon, Barnette might be in a bread line - but those kids will get to games.
Stockbrokers and commodities traders and millionaires wail about oil prices over Perrier, while working stiffs watch prices go up and the utility bill come in the mail as the profits fall through the floor.
People who deliver the pizzas anybody eats, or take people without a car somewhere such as the doctor or grocery store, have to pay those higher fuel prices, too.
Cabbie J.D. Friday of AAA Carolinas taxicabs knows full well what a terrible economy plus higher gas prices adds up to. Friday used to be a trucker but was laid off last year after the economy went south.
And now he is in a business where his rent money is going into his fuel tank as prices rise. Cabbies have to replace the gas they use.
"Gas prices are absolutely killing us," said Friday. "Let's say you gotta go pick somebody up in Lake Wylie and they don't call and cancel. You get there and they are gone or not going.
"You spent $5 in gas. You're behind before you ever started."
Friday works for tips, like so many in the service industries he carries, but a crummy economy means people are broke. So they tip less. Fewer tips means less money for gas, which is going up.
"The end of it all is, you can't drive a cab without gas, but you can't pay for gas without money," said Friday. "The people who drive for a living, we scope out all the gas stations and tell each other where you can save a penny or two."
And if, or when, gas prices hit $4, maybe $5 a gallon, who is going to pay for it?
"Everybody who works for a living, they pay for it," said Kelley the landscaper. "We all get buried."