Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Moment of Irresponsibility and the Kindness of Strangers

I have been known to let the tank in my van run quite low. I have always let the tank run very low before refilling. I don't like putting gas in the car. Something about the time it takes to stand there and fill it, and the fact that the prices are so volatile, making me constantly feel like I could get a better deal if I wait--which only happens some of the time. Whatever the reason, I let the tank run low.

Today was no different as we headed out for our Tuesday group gathering. The tank was low. I noticed it was (it isn't that I don't notice most of the time!), but I thought I had enough to get to the nature center and then to the nearest gas station afterwards. No big deal. The low fuel light wasn't on yet, after all! Unfortunately, the light came on just as we turned away from the gas stations. I had a few minutes, so I thought, "oh well, we'll just head over to the next commercial area and get gas there." See, I knew enough to know there was a commercial area. In my area, that would mean there was a gas station. Or three. Sometimes literally three on one corner.

That assumption was absolutely wrong. There was no gas station there. There was no gas station at the next commercial area. By now I had driven far enough that I figured there HAD to be one closer than turning around and going back to the known gas station. I always figure I have about 15 to 20 miles once the light has come on, but I try not to have to go more than 10, because I just don't know. Nor do I want to find out exactly how far I can go.

I did find one gas station, a C*stco gas station, but as I am not a member, I didn't even bother to stop. I was only 3 miles into my low fuel light at that point, and I knew I was near the intersection of two major highways. There HAD to be a gas station around. There just HAD to be. 7 miles later I had circled back to the C*stco gas station, having been completely unable to find ANY other gas station. I drove 10 miles and couldn't find a single other station.

At this point I am freaking out about running out of gas with 2 kids in the car in an area I don't know well. Add to that the fact that, while I now have a working cell phone (I had a non-working one for a while), I didn't have any of the numbers for the friends I was meeting in it. Yep, I was feeling a bit stuck. So I pulled into the C*stco gas station.

I wish I could say the attendant was helpful. He wasn't. He told me there was a gas station about a mile away and told me how to get there--sort of. But I had already hit the limit on how far I thought I could go on the low fuel light. I was in tears. I was trying to explain to him that I didn't want to risk that with two kids in the car. especially since I now have to restart the car, which will take more fuel. He had no other solution for me.

Enter the stranger who saved my day. A kind gentleman who saw my distress and asked if I had no money. I explained that I had money--CASH even--but that I couldn't pay for gas here at this station because they don't take cash. Or V*sa. And that was all I had. Or at least I tried to explain that. Remember, I was crying. And with a thick accent, he offered to pump fuel for me. He offered to put $10 of gas in my van. I thanked him. I told him $5 was fine, that I would pay him. and through tears, I fumbled around to open the fuel door, to gather my cash, to not get in the way of the kind gentleman pumping gas for me.

And he put $5 worth of gas in my van. And I drove the 1+ miles to the next gas station. I filled the tank, and tried to shake off the terror. It is one thing to run out of gas by myself. I can handle it. I can walk. But to put my kids in that position. Not exactly my best plan. I felt terribly irresponsible. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. I wish him all the good karma he deserves.

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