Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
Running on Empty
June 2, 2008Posted by on
I knew it would be awkward when the Dollar-Rent-a-Car woman told me. Here in Oregon, the gas station employees pump your gas. Period. No questions asked. I dreaded this the first time. Well, that is an understatement. I dreaded it from the moment she informed us. Each notch the gas meter descended to was a new reason to panic. As our gas tank meter began to drift into the empty range, my instincts grappled to find some other way. The internal wrestling went something like this: If I can just make it home, maybe Ezra could take my car out in the morning. Or perhaps I could pull off at TCBY, chivalrously offer to go get Shannon some yogurt and ask her to take the car across the street to Phillips 76 while I’m in line. Or maybe I’ll just try to make it home and if we run out of gas, AAA will tow us and fill up our tank. Seriously, my mind tried to maneuver and strategize any possible way to get out of letting someone else put gas in my car. You’d think the gas prices would be more of a motivation.
I ended up just pulling in to the station (after we both got TCBY). However, I didn’t do it calmly. Instinctively, I opened my door. A man came running out, talking on his cell phone in a different language, and waving at me to shut the door. I was under attack. Before I could defend myself, he had my credit card, had convinced me to fill up the whole tank at $4.05 a gallon, and proceeded to do so while continuing his conversation in another language. It felt like a robbery. Awkwardness took over. What was I to do for the next three minutes? Talk to my wife? Overwhelmed with anxiety, it was impossible to engage my wife with any deep thought. Listen to the radio? I wouldn’t be able to sing along, not in this state, no pun intended. As he stood at the gas tank, jealousy began to stir. That was supposed to be me. It had always been my dream to stand in the middle of Gresham, Oregon pumping unleaded gasoline into a rented Subaru. Before my new dream had time to develop, he was handing me the receipt and running off to the next car that had pulled in behind me, still jawing away on the cell phone. Which scared me a little, too; isn’t there a myth about using your cell phone at the gas tank?
Still bewildered and exposed, I moved to marry the key and the ignition, feeling like an emasculated little boy before all in attendance at the Phillips 76. Soon, though, relief flooded over me, along with a renewed sense of confidence. I can do this. Yes…the next time the car needs gas, I will have the strength to be passive.