Friday, April 28, 2023

X is for Extremely Wrong About THAT


#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter X

I spent my freshman year in college car-less. It wasn't much of a problem, since I lived on campus and could ride home for a weekend and back with any number of friends I knew from my home town, and there wasn't an extra car in our family for me to have anyway.

The summer after my freshman year, I chose to move into an apartment with my friend Lagena instead of moving home. I was definitely going to need a car to get to school and to my job, and it so happened my parents had a drastic life change that included my dad getting a new vehicle to drive, so I inherited his 1970 Chevrolet Nova. (I wrote about learning to drive its stick shift here if you would like to read it.) It was 9 years old at this time and had seen things, but I was comfortable with it and it got me where I needed to go, except the day it didn't.

Because it was 9 years old, parts had begun to go south on it, and on one of my visits home, my dad said he thought the fuel pump might be going out, whatever THAT meant. I really never gave it another thought, or at least not for months.

One very cold and rainy November morning, I was driving from my apartment to school for an 8:00 a.m. class. There were not only students heading to campus but people just headed to work, and the rain was causing traffic congestion, especially at the always busy intersection of Cherry and National, just a few blocks from campus. I inched forward with everyone else, hoping to make the next light so I wouldn't be late to class, when my car died. It's pretty easy to accidentally kill a car engine with a manual transmission; I know, because I did it often. But when I tried to start the car, the engine just sputtered and refused to turn over. In the meantime, the light had turned green, and there I sat, blocking traffic with a dead car. This is it, I thought to myself. The fuel pump has finally bitten the dust.

A man in a car behind me either took pity on me or really needed to get to work, and he approached my car and asked what the trouble was.

"It's the fuel pump," I replied. 

"Are you sure?" he asked, looking at the dashboard of my car. "Your fuel gauge is showing it's below empty. Sure you're not just out of gas?"

"No," I said sadly, "It goes way below empty all the time. I'm sure it's the fuel pump. My dad said it was going out."

"I'm going to push your car through the intersection to get it out of the way," he said, and he did, and when I was safely pulled over on the side of the street, the man said, "I'm going to go get a little gas and just see if that might help."

"It won't," I thought to myself, but I sat there and waited for him (not that I had any other choice; I had already missed my 8:00 class and it was still raining). He was back within ten minutes with a gallon of gas which he poured into my tank.

"Try it now," he said, and I turned the key and the car started immediately.

"Guess it wasn't the fuel pump," I said to the man, grinning sheepishly.

"Not this time," he said. "Don't let your tank get so empty again and be careful!" 

With that, he was gone.

And did I learn my lesson about letting the tank get below empty?

Sadly, I did not.

Not my car, but close. Harvest gold. Can you dig it?


  1. I've done other things, but letting my car run out of gas isn't one of them. I've always been afraid to do that!

    1. I drive my husband crazy because I don't get gas until the little light comes on!

  2. We bought a used van once when all the kids were home. Unbeknownst to us the gas gauge didn't work and it showed gas when it was actually empty. We ran out of gas several times, rented a car to take my son to school and finally figured it out. After that we kept it full without regard to the E.

  3. It was so kind of that gentleman in the car behind you to have helped you.
    Unlike you, I suffer from what is commonly referred to as "range anxiety". I am always worried about gas running out, so I always make sure there is enough fuel before I take my car out.

    1. It really was so very kind of that poor man! I know he thought I was a real idiot :) I sometimes (often) forget to look at the gas gauge for days and days, but that little light coming on usually catches my eye!