Running on Empty

Running on Empty

I’ve been known to judge people, I know this is shocking. I don’t judge everyone, but there are certain groups of people that fit into my judgyMcjudgerson criteria – people who run out of gas are prime contenders. I seriously have questioned how the fuck that happens? I try to give a pass to those that have an older car thinking that possibly their gas gauges are broke, but your run of the mill car that has run out of gas is mind boggling to me. I even have a family member who ran out of gas once and I couldn’t comprehend how the fuck that was possible.

Until now.

My father passed away about a month ago, and his Honda Pilot sat in the driveway as a constant reminder to my mother. She wasn’t comfortable advertising it locally, not wanting people to know she had lost her husband, so I offered (like an asshole) to fly into NJ pickup the vehicle, drive it back to Michigan and sell it here for her. It’s like I somehow forgot the hellish 12 hour drive I had just done two weeks prior.

I was obliviously driving along the Ohio turnpike and not paying much attention to my gas gauge as one does when trapped in a vehicle for hours on end, alone and in agony from a pinched nerve in my neck. My own car can travel about 420 highway miles before requiring a fueling, so I didn’t even think to look at my dad’s gas gauge until too late. I had only gone approximately 300 miles since my last fueling and assumed I had plenty of miles left in the old tank. Well I didn’t. The only issue, I didn’t realize I didn’t have enough gas until I was literally passing the last damn fuel stop in Ohio. As in, oh look there’s the last fuel stop and oh damn I only have a 1/4 tank of gas happened at the EXACT SAME TIME.

I couldn’t get over to the fuel stop, because I was going 80 MPH past it when I realized how fucked I was. I held out hope I could pull off the turnpike to one of the small towns in no man’sville Ohio and fuel up. I drove past three more exits and only saw barns. No gas. No anything. Just farms, irrigation systems, and the growing realization of how fucked I was.

My eyes were glued to the dash. I knew I was screwed. I started doing mental calculations. I was never good in math and word problems were not my thing, but I seriously tried to figure out if I was traveling 80 MPH and had three gallons of gas, that allowed me approximately X number of miles per gallon, how fucked was I? I really wished I had paid more attention in school. I finally had a real life application for those stupid math word problems and I couldn’t fucking do it.

As I crossed the Indiana state line the needle dropped precariously close to the “You’re totally fucked” level. I dropped my speed hoping to make it to the gas station. I saw the sign, I-69 (how fitting I was gonna get fucked just outside of universal oral sex highway) 13 miles away and thought maybe…please lord…maybe I’ll make it.

With my eyes peeled to the sky hoping for a gas sign all I saw were tree tops for miles. There was nothing to garner even a glimpse of hope. I passed the next sign, 9 miles to exit I-69. I was on the edge of my seat, shaking knowing the reality loomed large that I was gonna be one of those assholes on the side of the road. Then the sign, I-69 5 miles, whizzed past just as the yellow glowing light of karma kicked on. My life zoomed past me, how was I going to call my husband and tell him I was stranded on the side of the highway 2 hours from home with no gas? He would kill me. I knew I would instead have to walk to the station to avoid calling him.

Then the exit ramp appeared like an angel. I’ve never been so happy to see ’69’ in my life. I cursed as it winded around and around. I had seen a billboard advertising a Pilot Gas Station 1/2 mile off I-69. I frantically calculated how long I might have traveled from when the light came on. Praying my dad’s car sent up the yellow light of imminent doom at least 10 miles from empty. But it’s an older car, what if it is broke? What if I’m on a hill and the last gallon of gas is too low for the car to siphon to the engine?

I flew through the Eazy Pass lane, banked right and never in my life was so happy to make it to Interstate 69 before. I began caressing my dash board, come on baby. You can do it. Make it to the station. The realization I was moments from a walk of shame loomed large. At the first off ramp there was no sign indicating this was the one to take for the Pilot Gas Station. I saw the sign way up in the sky like a Batman call, but couldn’t tell if I exited here or not. I didn’t have enough gas to pass the exit and then loop back if I had missed the opportunity. I sent up a prayer to my father, “Dad, if you could just help me out here, please, please, please make this be the exit to the gas station.”

Coasting to the stop sign I could feel the car chugging to make it. I banged on the steering wheel, “NO! You can’t give up now!” Willing the red Honda to the station with all my energy. I glanced left and a car was coming, I made the decision to blow the stop sign and turn. Knowing that if I had stopped the car wouldn’t have made it the last few feet to the station. I hung a quick left and the car chugged up the steep incline, coasting to a stop at the gas pumps. I exited my vehicle, shaking and unable to even walk I was such a frantic mess. I looked to the sky and thanked my dad for being my wingman, because without him I would have undoubtedly been the asshole on the side of the road doing the walk of shame with the little red gas can.

I will never, ever judge a person who runs out of gas again, you have my word on it.

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  1. Tammy says:

    LOL! I’m glad you made it, the walk of shame sucks!I used to judge people who showed up to church late, until I got pulled over for not coming to a complete stop at a t-junction before turning right, (completely empty intersection, except for the cop who was HIDING behind a dumpster). The look on the cop’s face when he realized I really was on my way to church with three kids, one of which was a newborn, was priceless. I didn’t get a ticket, and I have never judged those latecomers again after I had to do my own walk of shame into church.

  2. Whenever my fuel level reminder comes on I hear my own dad from somewhere beyond asking why I let it get below half a tank.

  3. Pattie says:

    So glad that you made it OK but this reminds me of my BFF in high school. Bitch ran out of gas. ALL. The . Time. I was always with her, so who’s also to blame? Gas was about 73 cents a gallon back then and we could not seem to scrape up a buck and a half to put into the tank. Good times.