When the car gaslight flicks on, I’m one of those people who keeps driving. For days. I’m not going cross-country. Just to the store, bank, Starbucks, to see friends, to class, to random neighborhoods to see if they’ve tossed any good knickknacks or furniture on trash day. (College apartment days are still in my blood.) Of course, (Mom and Dad, if you’ve discovered and are reading) since I’m unemployed, I’m also touring all of the businesses that I’ve applied on-line and in-person to so that they can see my smiling face and know that I’m serious. Of course, I leave my Starbucks in the car. (It won’t make you seem the right amount of desperate.)
A million gas stations are passed. A million times I think, “Should I?” Then I think, “Hmmm…next time.”
Not so easy to do in my new rent car, a lipstick red KIA Sol.* I saw a cartoon once where the passenger shouted to the driver, “Look out!” long after they’d launched from the cliff. He is the gaslight.
I only had about 5 miles to go the other night when I was driving home. Of course, stations were passed. I parked at home, spent the day in. Last night, though, I thought, “I should go ahead and fill up.” I had a busy Monday planned.
I made it about a mile before the car shuttered, then stopped. The two stations on my side of the highway were closed. I only had cash with which to pre-pay inside. So before the shutter, I had started up the overpass to the other side of the highway. The engine died as I was descending. Thankfully, the stoplight on the other side glowed green. Brakes didn’t lock. I rolled with the momentum all of the way to the turn-in lane for the gas station. Then I could roll no more.
A policeman was behind me. I put on my emergency lights. He honked and passed me. He pulled into the gas station. Another man pulled up and asked if I needed help, but I smiled and waved him on with a “Thank you.” Surely, the policeman and anyone working inside the station would help enough. When I walked between the pumps into the station, the policeman was purchasing coffee and hot dogs. I told the guy at the cash register my story. While staring hard into the back of the policeman’s head. He left. The man behind the counter suggested that I buy a gas can. He was surprised that I didn’t have one. Also, he was shocked that I had left my car there in the turn in. The policeman came in and asked whose car that was in the turn in.
“Mine, Mr. Officer.” I said it in a high voice, too. He asked why I didn’t have a gas can and was surprised that I’d left it in the turn-in lane.
So I explained that I’d recently been in a wreck. I stressed that a drunk driver had hit me and that I was injured. For the past two months, it’s brought me the sympathy it should, gotten me out of lifting a lot of boxes. I might tell that story on this blog soon. Anyway, that’s why I didn’t push the car in, I explain. That and that it was chilly outside. But I didn’t tell him this last part. And to top it off, I was unfamiliar with this rental. “My Camry let me go about 40 miles after the gaslight came on. I only went about 5 miles with this one.”
He had sighed a lot while I was talking.
“You should always have a gas can in the car,” said Mr. Policeman, and then he left. But he came back before I could worry. With a gas can. “Give him enough for a gallon,” he yelled at me. I knew those hot dogs were waiting.
So the nice policeman put a gallon of gas into my tank. I prepaid for the rest, pulled up to a pump, and began to fill. While there, Mr. Policeman parked at the pump beside me, walked over, hot dogs and coffee in hand, and started chatting.
“A lot of you kids do this for free gas, you know?” he said. He sat his coffee on the top of my KIA. “It’s Obama. He has you all thinking you deserve free stuff.”
Yes, I’m in Texas. But no, no, no, no. This isn’t the norm. People just don’t come up to you and begin to trash Obama. Plenty voted for him in Texas among the plenty who did not.
Policemen are a grab bag, though. Some are nice, patient, or they just want to get on with their day. Then some are of the other extreme, i.e. bored and full of themselves and ready to make you suffer to some degree for it. And hunger makes the rest a mix. But I like policemen. Most days, I’m still in that Kindergarten “policemen are heroes who will always want to help you no matter what” state-of-mind. And this one was nice enough to put gas in my tank.
“Honestly, I’m still learning about this car. It has a smaller tank too than my old car.”
“Well plenty of you do it.”
He step to the side when the pump shut off. Tried to dunk his crumpled hot dog wrappers into the trash can beside me but missed each time. He was picking them up, dunking, missing as I left.