September 13, 2004

Running Out of Gas

Literally, not figuratively. I've got this thing about keeping my tank full of gas. I'm one of those nervous types who hightails it to the gas station whenever the gauge reads around one quarter full. Heaven forbid the level ever get low enough for the little gas-pump-shaped warning light to turn on!

I ran out of gas once. Once was enough for me to know I never ever ever wanted to do it again. It was back when The Boy was around three years old. He and I commuted from Woodbridge to Alexandria work each day. Our home was about 10 miles from his day care provider who lived a few miles from where I worked. The morning we ran out of gas was during the winter. It was raining. A cold, wet, miserable winter morning. The kind of day when one wishes one could just stay at home. And it was back when I used to get dressed up for work: high heels, stockings, the whole nine yards. I distinctly remember what I was wearing that day. Because walking for a mile in high heels while carrying a three-year-old makes a real impression on a body.

We were inching along in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Route One. My low gas light had been on for a while, but back then I didn't pay too much attention to such things. I figured I'd fill up at the Mobil near Dottie's house. Unfortunately, we ran out of gas about five miles from there. We were also about two miles from the nearest gas station. So as the horrible realization that we were out of gas dawned, I used the last of our momentum to roll off to the side of the road. This was well before the age of cell phones and even if I'd had one, who would I call? Shouldering my purse, I grabbed The Boy out of his car seat, locked the car and set off teetering down the gravelly shoulder of the road juggling the umbrella and my purse. The Boy was perched on my hip with his arms around my neck.

Walking on gravel in high heels is a bad idea. Doing so in the winter when it's raining is even a worse idea. Juggling an umbrella and my purse while carrying a toddler made it even more challenging. The bulkiness of our winter outerwear added to the thrill. Oh happy Monday indeed! The knowledge our predicament was exclusively due to my own carelessness also added to my delight.

I struggled along for a ways, actually making faster progress than the traffic. The rain started coming down harder. We were on a rather flat section of road and I could see the sign for the gas station far ahead above the trees. The Boy was patient and didn't squirm too much. Conversation was light. I just didn't have anything to say, and for once, neither did The Boy. I was concentrating on not falling down and he was concentrating on holding on.

Then a gold Volvo sedan pulled on to the shoulder just ahead of us. As I approached, a window on the passenger side rolled down and a voice called out to us. "Would you like a ride?" Hmmm. Who were these people? And was I deparate enough to chance a ride with strangers? I peered into their vehicle, noting a well-dressed black couple who appeared to be in their mid-forties. I threw caution to the wind and The Boy and I climbed into their backseat gratefully. After all, the traffic was moving so slowly we could, if need be, jump out again. Couldn't we? Thankfully we did not need to find out. This couple was quite kind and did not mock my irresponsibility in running out of gas. Instead, they welcomed two wet strangers into their warm dry car. They took us to the gas station and waited as I borrowed a gas can and filled it up. Then they toted me, The Boy, and the gas can back to our car.

Wendy doesn't mind driving around with her gas light on. She is in tune with how many miles she gets from a tank of gas. When we are traveling together, I quash my need to pull into the gas station when the tank is a quarter full. I keep hoping her calm assurance will rub off on me but it hasn't yet.

1 comment:

Eyes for Lies said...

Running out of gas is no fun! You were lucky that day to be blessed with kind strangers. I ran out of gas once just as I pulled in the driveway. Whew. Since then, I am a bit more cautious because now I live in no-mans-land. I couldn't imagine dying in the middle of corn fields. I could be forced to walk upwards of 10 miles.