Who among us has played the game, see how long you can drive before you stop for gas, even though the digital gas gauge screams zero, and the needle vibrates violently in the red?
You consciously choose to dismiss the eight gas stations along the highway, thumbing your nose at them, because you’re sure that there’ll be another one just a little further up.
There wasn’t another gas station at the next exit and I ran out of gas. It was humiliating. I purposely, actively and literally, chose to ignore the signs. Why? Lazy? Did I think that I had more gas than that pesky little gauge was showing me; as if my Mini Cooper was puling a fast one?
What, like I had to prove something to Mini? What did Mini ever do to warrant being left high and dry?
I used to play this adorable game when I was younger, which makes it more humiliating because I did not just get my license and I do not have a curfew to make, thus forgoing the time it would take to fill up.
There’s something that happens, psychologically, when it comes to fueling up. It must be the same synapses that fire when I have to go food shopping. Until I see a slightly brown onion, a half empty Hummus container and a shriveled lemon, I will not budge.
I pulled over, to what I thought was a safe spot, and called Mini roadside assistance. It took 20 minutes for the dispatcher to find my location, notify someone in the area who could bring me gas, and to tell me that it would take over an hour.
I was livid. I wasn’t going to wait on the side of a strange road for over an hour. And then I remembered that I brought this upon myself. Still, I didn’t want to wait.
I searched for local gas stations on my phone, which was especially difficult since I didn’t know where I was, let alone the friggin’ zip code. If I managed to find a station within walking distance, I’d be golden. But I didn’t have to walk, because he pulled up. Mr. Suffolk County Policeman. Mystery solved. I was in Suffolk County!
I looked up, saw the flashing lights and rolled down my window. “Is everything okay, Ma’am?” First of all, Ponch, please don’t call me Ma’am. I am a child. For only a child would let herself run out of gaseous Clay.
“I’m okay.” I proceeded to regale him with my faux pas. It sounded more pathetic hearing it out loud.
After a brief radio dispatch, he offered to drive me to the nearest gas station, which I had already located on my phone. He said that I’d have to buy a gas can, as if he were sorry because it was going to be an expensive purchase.
I thought for a moment. How much could a gas can be? My follow up thought was one of reproach. I hope that it’s several bills. That’ll teach me.
He added that he’d feel better driving me because he didn’t think that where I parked was safe. I think it was my freshly applied mascara, and lip gloss. And it was probably a slow day in Suffolk County.
I stepped out of my car, locked it and stood by his passenger side, unsure where to sit; in the front with him, or in the back, like when I was arrested in high school. Memories, like the corners of my mind.
I got in the back. Again, he told me that it was easier and safer to take me to the gas station. Okay, Ponch, I get it, you like me. I wasn’t interested but would it have been so hard to send me a hot cop?
We pulled into the gas station (less than a mile away) and the humiliation ratched up a few notches. I pulled the door handle to get out and remembered that you can’t get out of a cop car from the inside, or else there’d be bad guys flying out of cop cars left and right.
Ponch opened my door, telling me why I couldn’t open it myself, to which I replied, “Yeah, I remember, brings me back to high school.” Really? Now who’s flirting? Why must everything be a ‘bit’.
I walked into the gas station, where three burly men were hanging out. Like I said, slow day in Suffolk County. They asked me why I was escorted to the gas station. I told them. I bought a gas can and a gas attendant filled it up.
One of the men showed me how to maneuver the nozzle, but finding it too difficult to explain, he suggested that I have Ponch do it.
I told him that I didn’t need help pumping gas, that I was perfectly capable. Hello? Ms. Defensive, party of one, your table is ready. Sure, because now was an ideal time to discourse on the lightly charged topics of feminism and law enforcement. Do I not know when to be quiet.
Burly #1 offered, “Well, that’s what you pay taxes for.” I nodded demurely.
I thanked the men and climbed back into the police car. As we drove the six long minutes, I sincerely entertained the thought of asking him what he thought about the Ferguson incident. Wow, what a short memory I had.
I realized then that I did not have to engage everyone that I meet in conversation. Being friendly, respectful, and kind, is one thing, but needing to start politically or socially charged discussions is a whole other story; a story that I don’t have to tell on a six minute car ride.
I poured the gas in my tank but not for nothing, Ponch never offered to help, although I think he was standing guard making sure that I didn’t get side swiped.
I thanked him for his help and got into my car, relieved that this stupid ass ordeal was over. But it wasn’t over because I couldn’t find my car keys.
I have never, ever, been mistaken for, nor called, a dumb blond, but as I frantically tore through my bag, and searched my car floors, while Ponch waited for me to pull away, I felt like (and most definitely looked like) the dumbest fake blond in all of Suffolk County.
I got out of the car and searched the ground. Perhaps in all of my excitement to have gas, I dropped them. No, in all of my excitement, I put them on the roof of my car.
I got back in my car, again, and burned rubber out of my unsafe place, having learned many lessons in a short amount of time, the least of which was to never, ever play this particular game again.