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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Always Bet on Gas

(Yesterday was a Bugs & Cranks day, so hop on over and read So, You Don’t Think They Can Dance? if you’re so inclined.

Or follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-millisecond notification of what’s going up where, and when. The why, you’ll have to figure out yourself. If you can.)

My wife and I have very similar views on many aspects of life. We’re both easygoing, flexible, low-maintenance sorts of people. We’re usually on the same page — or at least in the same chapter — and can come to some compromise on whatever issue might arise.

I’ve recently discovered, however, an are where we’re — literally — miles apart: gasoline. Specifically, when to replenish the gasoline in the fuel tank in the car.

The missus is a ‘quick filler’; when the needle slides near the quarter-tank mark, she starts scoping out the Chevrons. Heaven forbid the car should have less than a few gallons sloshing around in it, ever. An approach I could understand if we were were, say, riding a horse down the interstate. You don’t want your flesh-and-bone-and-swishy-tailed ride to tucker out, so I would totally support regular water breaks if we traveled by pony.

“What we lose in garage fees and parking tickets, we gain back in not having forty-eight pounds of poop a day to dispose of.”

But we drive a Maxima, not a Clydesdale. Each has their advantage. What we lose in garage fees and parking tickets, we gain back in not having forty-eight pounds of poop a day to dispose of. Also, the saddle sores tend to be less of a problem, given that we’re not mounting the car from above.

(Usually. There was the unfortunate incident when I tried to demonstrate a certain Whitesnake video to a friend who had never seen it. But that was just a one-time thing. And the dent’s never completely come out of the car hood.

Or my thighs. That stunt gave my legs dimples where no dimples have any right to be.)

My take on gas refills is the exact opposite. To me, filling up with a quarter-tank left is just ‘topping off’. Things don’t start to get interesting until the empty warning light comes on. And even that doesn’t send me careening into a service station. That’s just when the game begins.

See, I was once told — by a car salesman, so you know it’s true, right? — that when the warning light comes on in most cars, you have somewhere between twenty and maybe fifty miles left before you’re completely bone-dry and stranded and listening to ‘I told you so‘s.

I asked, ‘Is that true in this car — the one you’re selling me right now?

He said, ‘This one? This car’s good for a hundred miles with the warning light on. In fact, they don’t even call it a warning light. On this model, it’s a ‘tank half full’ light. No lie.

Of course‘, he followed, ‘we can only activate that feature if you sign in the next five minutes. So, you know — tick tock.

Clearly, I signed the papers. You don’t just fritter away a shot at an added bonus like that. And the guy didn’t even charge me extra for it — other than a one-time nominal feature activation fee, of course. Which I barely even had to take out a loan for. Sucker.

So my strategy is very different. I don’t even look at the gas gauge until the light comes on. And then I laugh heartily in its direction, and keep driving. Cosmo Kramer would be proud. I know I’ve got plenty of miles before the last gasp of gas will finally wisp out of the tank — so why rush to splash more in there? I want the gas left before a refill to be measured in teaspoons, not gallons. If I coast into the filling station on the last faint memories of gasoline fumes, then as far as I’m concerned, I’ve done my job.

This upsets my wife tremendously, She has visions of us stranded, cold and hungry, on the dark narrow shoulder of some remote backwoods road.

(Because apparently, getting low on gas encourages you to take deserted highways in the middle of the night for no good reason. And to throw your coats out the window, to fast, and to smash your cell phone and AAA card to pieces.

Probably, there’s also some sort of mating call to attract highwaymen that I should learn. I’ll ask about that next time it comes up.)

I have no such qualms. I prefer to gamble a little, to push my luck in the name of adventure. While my wife prefers to regale me with tales of the wild coyotes spotted around Boston, and how when — when! — we run out of gas, I’d better protect her from rabid scavenger beasties, or I’m totally walking home by myself. And that’s through angry moose and stampeding elephant territory, so I’d better just straighten up, mister, and find a damned gas station before that needle drops under the quarter-tank mark.

(She threatened once to withhold sex if I didn’t make a fill stop. I pointed out that as cold as she expects it to be, we’ll have to have sex just to stave off the frostbite. Also, the male musk glands exude a pheromone that’s a natural coyote repellent, so she’ll want to rub up against those as thoroughly and sexily as she can.

See? Two can play that little mind game. I catch on fast.)

But the fact remains — she doesn’t like my methods, and I don’t especially approve of hers. And the poor gas tank goes from feast to famine; either we fill it up every ten minutes, or wait until we can see our reflection in the bottom before refueling up. If the tank were our child, my wife would be the enabler — and I’d be the deadbeat dad who can’t remember what grade it’s in or who its friends are or whether or not its mine. Also, it would be four hundred pounds heavy from my wife’s constant feeding, and emotionally crippled from the whole ordeal.

(This is why we don’t have kids. When we’re seriously considering sending our gas tank to a therapist, bringing children into the equation is clearly out of the question.)

So we deal with our gap. When we’re driving alone, we’re free to exercise our best judgment — or lack thereof — as we see fit. When we’re together… well, it depends on who’s driving. If it’s her, we pull over for gas as soon as the dial flutters gently under a half tank. And if I’m driving…

Well, it takes maybe thirty seconds longer for her to notice, then she says something, and then we pull over for gas. Essentially the same thing, really.

But those thirty seconds of carefree, gas-pushing, fortune-tempting, dammit-a-man-has-to-live driving? Priceless.

So she’s winning now, mostly — but I do get my moments, however brief and fleeting they may be. She thinks she’ll break me some day, bring me around to her way of thinking. She imagines she’ll have me self-policing and scanning for pumps all on my own.

I’ve got a better idea. I’m saving up money, so I can buy her that horse. Then we’ll each have our own ride, and she can water hers to her heart’s content.

I just hope she knows where to stick the nozzle.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Always Bet on Gas”

  1. The subject of a great Seinfeld and a popular Car Talk (PBS) topic. It is a guy thang.

    Since I am deaf and stupid I don’t hear the dinger and usually have a postit note stuck over the gas gauge reminding to do something important – like get gas.

    But since I am not allowed to venture far from home (damn restraining order) I’m OK if I am gasless.

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