Guess who ran out of gas on his way to work this morning, half a block from the Racetrac mega-station.
The big five-gallon plastic can in the bed of the truck? Yep, also empty. Time for that nice pre-dawn stroll I’d been craving. Happy to take it, forced or otherwise. This is a nice, crisp, cold December morning, dry air and frozen ground. They’ll tell you its just as easy to fill the top half of the tank as the bottom. I’ll tell you we get better mileage not carrying around the extra gas. And we appreciate indeed that its a reflection of how we run the rest of our lives. A metaphor. A symptom. Actually part and parcel: always on empty, barely making it, no matter how much comes in, we burn it all up one way or another: time, money, effort: life.
The entire dash quit working in our four-door sedan, so we put a gas can in the trunk and tried to guess when its time for a fillup. Heck of a way to run a rodeo, for a momma and four kids with dad downtown at work. There she is on the side of the road, gas spilling on her shoes as the tank rejects the nozzle in protest of the EPA mandated vapor retention system, the one that makes putting gas into your car meaninglessly slower and more difficult.
When the big Suburban was put back into running order, the sedan was parked, and for a few months the can was forgotten. Until one day when the Suburban’s fuel gauge started dancing a crazy jig, refusing to reveal its secrets about the petrol hiding in the 40-gallon tank.
So we retrieved the can from the trunk of the sedan, cleaned off the gas residue and stashed it inside, in the way- way- back of the ‘Burban. One gallon just barely gets her going, and you don’t dare run the fuel pump dry, unless you want learn lessons about pouring gas into the intake and re-priming and battery life.
But I wasn’t driving either of our fuel-gauge deficient cars today. I was in my truck, the one that used to go way below E but now stalls just before clearing the bottom of the letter. I guess there’s water or leftover two-stroke oil or other trash floating in the tank that won’t burn. So I thought I could breeze into the station on fumes, the way I’ve done too many times before, rolling up to the pump as the engine coughs on the last good gas. Not this time. The tach went to zero on the hill a quarter-mile short of the garishly lit 20-pump station, red neon probing harshly into the otherwise peaceful predawn beauty.
With the steering wheel heavy, I coasted the lifeless truck into one of the many driveways on this light-industrial stretch of Georgia four-lane. It was another uneventful event, a short walk to the station, can in hand, then back, no problem. Maybe exciting for the uninitiated, but this is rote, run-of-the-mill stuff for me. The last time it was interesting, I had no gas can, and walked a few miles searching for a stray, maybe one bounced off of a truck, maybe hit once or twice. But there was nothing until I walked into the gas station. Providence or otherwise, there was one abandoned by the pumps, a dandy one-gallon gas can, her EPA vapor-retention system broken and leaky. She was caked in oily muck, a beautiful sight for the canless. These days she wears a new spout and serves happily, just enough to get the ‘Burban started and to the nearest station, not too big to ride in the way way back. Maybe one day we’ll get the gauge fixed and she’ll be once-again forgotten but for now, she saves the day all too regularly.
Maybe I’ll fill a five gallon can for times like these and keep it on hand. But then maybe I like it like this, time a for a walk, time to think.