Who among us has not tempted the gas gauge?
“Time for my weekly game of “Let’s-see-how-long-I-can-drive-with-my-gas-light-on.”—Come on. Admit it. You’ve done it, too.
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“This stupid car ran out of gas.”
My friend was on the phone with his daughter. She was intermittently describing her location on the side of the road while offering logic as to why it was the car’s fault.
“You should have told me the gas gauge was not working,” he teased her. Teasing daughters is what fathers do. I know; I have a daughter.
“It works, dad. It said I had 43 miles left.”
“And how many miles ago was that?”
In a moment of surrender, she sighed, “I know, dad, but I was driving faster so I would get to a station before I ran out.”
“We’re almost there.” He acknowledged the surrender with comfort and without comment on her new driver logic. That’s a dad thing too.
Who among us hasn’t tempted the gas gauge? Let those who are without stories of coasting to the side of the road in silence cast the first gas can.
I have. More than once. Plus, one near miss. When it comes to gas gauge guardian angels, mine hover close to fuel stops.
Like the day my son, Lee, and I left East Texas headed to the Hill Country. I saw the light announcing 43 miles. It’s programmed into all cars and can mean anywhere between 43 miles and four-tenths of a mile.
“No problem, I’ll stop outside of Houston on I-10 west,” I said. “Away from the crazy city drivers.” Several miles from crazy drivers and gas stations, I felt the first surge of a starving motor. “Oh yeah, I thought. “There was that gas thing I was going to do.”
But that guardian angel prevailed. I could see a C-store with fuel pumps. Downhill momentum carried us toward it, not quite to the exit but within walking distance. We were back on the road in no time. And … I owned another new gas can.
Walking distance was out of the question the time I exited a New Orleans parking garage and noted the needle nearing E. “I have enough to get out of this traffic,” I fooled myself again. Actually, I had enough to get off I-10 and onto I-49. You know the area. No sign of civilization anywhere. So, out came that big “mobile phone.” The one that, back then, looked like a WW II military walkie-talkie.
A plea for help brought a sheriff’s deputy to my aid, and I was soon riding with him toward civilization at somewhere north of 100 m.p.h. After flying off an exit and up to a convenience store, he talked the cashier out of an empty can and some coffee.
I got the idea I was not his first offender.
Makeshift gas can filled with fuel and hi-test java in a Styrofoam cup, we were back on I-49 south, taking another shot at that land speed record.
I thanked the officer profusely and tendered a donation to the annual parish sheriff’s ball, which he politely refused. He also dropped all charges of ignoring my gas gauge and wished me a safe trip home.
That near-miss mentioned earlier was somewhere in the 285-mile stretch between the Los Angeles airport and the Las Vegas strip. It’s a desert region marked with cactus, extreme heat, and little else except one town of any size. Barstow, California.
“But it’s a nice drive,” they said. So, I struck out to make my one business call in Vegas, driving my rental car. Headed back to L.A. the following morning to catch my flight back to East Texas, I saw the gauge reminding me to gas up. I hesitated, however, until I was away from the crazy city congestion.
Do you see the pattern yet?
About an hour later, the light came. Not the one in my brain; the one that says, “range 43 miles.” As that changed to “Low Fuel,” there was still nothing in sight but more cactus and sand.
As I was mentally preparing for doom in the desert, a mirage appeared on the horizon. A billboard bearing one word, “GAS.” I shot toward the only structure in sight off the exit ramp: an aging art deco station with rows of gas pumps. It was run down and lonely looking, but it was open. One last push on the accelerator catapulted me toward the nearest pump just before the car’s final gasp for fuel, and I rolled up to the pump.
Wish I could say that was the last time I tempted the fate of gas fumes. But I can’t. Maybe there’s a support group for those who choose to ignore gas gauges.
Hello, my name is Leon, and I’m addicted to that game of “Let’s-see-how-long-I-can-drive-with-my-gas-light-on.”
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