söndag, januari 22, 2006

On Empty

"Mom, I ran out of gas just two blocks from home."
"Can you walk home? "

"I am tired and I want to go to bed."

"Yes, it feels particularly good in bed. Where I am. What's the posiiton of the car? Can you walk home?"

"Well, actually, I am about eight blocks from home."

Well, sure. All facts must be dragged out of them and so in the middle of the night I venture to a gas station, buy a plastic tank, and fill it with a couple of gallons of gas. Two men ask me if I had run out. It felt good to be able to say, "No, not me. My daughter." First because it wasn't me, and second because it reminded me that I was on a rescue mission, no matter how dimwitted a rescue mission it was.

I get to her car, keep mine running so it would be warm inside when I got done, and in below-freezing temperatures start to fumble with a pour device that I couldn't quite see. It did not cooperate. Gas slowly trickled down my best ski coat, and less then best pants and sneakers. My now slippery hands could not unscrew the cap to fix whatever I had done wrong, so I started to curse quietly, squatting down low at the back end of her little compact. A driver watched me from his seat in a stretch limonsine parked far across the boulevard and outside a large, dark building. I decided the hell with it. I would suffer the spillage and keep the flow nozzle open by letting my right index finger act as the gas tank opening, forcing the nozzle to release gas into the tank. The only way to effectively do this, however, was to jam the nozzle and my finger up against the car's gas tank opening wth the full weight of my body. For some reason, the tank opening itself didn't cut it. Only a finger locked and pinched in pain would work. Everything got wet and cold, but then I did what I usually do whenever what I want to most is whine: I thought about farmers and winter soldiers and sucked it up.

A guy in his late twenties suddenly appeared at my elbow and said, "Funny my car just ran out of gas, too. Is there a gas station around here?" I thought of him, my daughter, my still running car, and my purse on the front seat and felt all the Samaritan rush out of my soul. He eyed the little plastic emergency tank as he talked to me. I imagined him licking his lips. I told him, thanks, but I didn't need any help, and directed him to a gas place.

Out there in the cold dark night I felt that for once, I did the safe thing by coming to my daughter's aid and sending away the coincidental stranger. I don't generally err on the side of sensibility, especially when someone tells me a sad story. (The stranger's story was sad. My daughter's was not. I cannot explain the difference. That is just the way it is.) I also felt oddly like a dad, so much so that I never said anything more to her than "Stay in the car, honey," and "Now get home." On the way there, of course, I came up with variations of, "What were you thinking?" and "Oh, you had time to put on mascara but not enough time to put gas in the tank?" Seeing that guy who would have been in the vincinity whether or not I dragged myself out of a warm bed, sort of drained the mouth right out of me.


Blogger Kryten42 said...

Have you ever thought about writing a book Cate? Or a mini series? You have more than enough material I think! :)

I must say though, I admire your courage and determination. You were in a terrible situation. I am so glad you all survived to tell of it. I hope your daughter learned a valuable lesson. I have raised 3 children, 1 girl and 2 boys, and I understand the difficulty of the teenage years! It is difficult to impress upon them that the little things they consider inconsequential, can become life threatening. Such as running out of gas at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

I had a very dear friend many years ago. He was a certifiable genius. I was his boss, but more so his friend. :) He had a car he loved, and he would tinker with it or take it apart and put it together again, just because! :) (He was an engineer). And yet, little things seemed to confound him! Several time I would receive a call that he had run out of gas! The gauge was broken, and he refused to replace it, stating that he always knew how much gas he had! After a year of this, the company decided to buy him a new car, with a working gas gauge! A month later... I got that dreaded phone call! *sigh* What can one do with a person such as that? We just smiled. :) He was well liked by many. Sadly, less than a year later he drowned. After a month, I resigned. I couldn't work there any longer. Many others left also. He had such an impact on those around him. I still miss him to this day.

I hope your future will be much safer, and happier! :)

Thanks once again. :)

6:49 fm  

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