Thursday, August 8, 2013

Running Out of Gas

         I drive a Honda Element. It was a present to mark my high school graduation. My family drives mostly Mercedes Benz's. It is some combination of compensation for a lack of and flaunting what's there. I don't mind the safety. My uncles thought I would like the Element because it could turn into a tent. They took me for a hippie. I basically just use my car to drive places.
Honda is a Japanese company. Lately that indicates a superior level of engineering and quality. The vehicle will last longer and run better than comparable American cars. Cool. Over ten years later and I'm still driving that car. If only I had taken the Mercedes. My penis is so mad at me.
Over the past couple years I have had a growing fascination with that little space after E on the gas tank. That mysterious space. It makes sense that the manufacturer would allow a bit of leeway at the end of the tank to protect itself from overzealous consumers. But how much space are we talking about exactly?
Once I made it from Monticello to Edina with the dial starting on the red E line. That meant if the engine is cooking and the weather is relatively ideal the Honda Element provides about thirty minutes of driving time once one reaches the E level.  The trip from Monticello was the longest I completed or attempted. But once I knew the depths of the tank it opened up a whole lot of possibilities. See, I am one to think about random things. Lots can be extrapolated from that. Lately I am learning that the biggest single thing is probably that it causes me to miss a lot. There are lists of common ideas I should have had long ago that come to me now at odd moments. Like wondering exactly when my gas tank would run out.
I got comfortable pushing the limits of that mystery space. I'd pass the gas station well past E knowing that I had more time. Next time. That'd be the pledge. Next time would turn into next time. I got away with it. But one time I was driving on a familiar road. The sound of the engine gasping. The limit had been pushed too far. I turned in to the parking lot of a pharmacy and parked. Turned the car off. Oh no. This is the moment. Then I got brave, turned the car on, it squealed alive. I pulled out of the lot and one block down to the gas station. As I approached the light the oomph cut out. The Element was coasting. I shifted into N and turned the wheel. The power steering was out. The car made the turn with enough momentum and started to climb the small incline at the entrance of the gas station. Just before the pumps the Element stopped moving forward. I opened the door and hopped out, tried to keep her going. Had to hop back in and put it in park. I waited too long to push. 
The sweat broke on my forehead but if I've learned anything it is how to move on. So I walked inside the gas station, saw a dude who worked there that I knew. 'What up man, can you help me push my car?' Fifteen seconds later he was outside with gloves on pushing my car up to the pump with me. We nodded at each other and he went back inside, washed his hands, put on plastic gloves and continued stacking doughnuts. I pumped gas. Bought a pack of cigarettes and a cold coffee drink. Sat in my car and thought for a moment about my grandpa. He taught me that it was important to be kind to people. Would take me to full service gas stations and chat up the mechanic while he worked. I didn't understand why. But sometimes I try to be kind.
My Honda Element did finally run out of gas. I pushed it too far. One too many next times. I turned the key and it sounded like it did when the battery died one winter. I remembered that I'd forgotten to put some gas in there last time. The dial was so deep in that mysterious space. I got out of the car. Stood on the driveway for a moment before I grabbed the keys to my moms Mercedes and hit the street. When I finally hit E I was sitting at home in the driveway.

Peanut Butter Honey