Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Road Sage

Why the fuel gauge warning has me fuming Add to ...

If you are reading this column then the worst has happened. Every driver’s nightmare has turned into a reality.

Quite possibly, I’ve been torn limb from limb by irate motorists. At the very least, I’ve been called a lexicon of profane adjectives and had my picture tweeted and Instagrammed with tags like “I want to kill this guy” and “Idiot” attached.

More Related to this Story

That is why, in event that the worst really does happen, I am taking the time to leave an argument in my defence. It is clear to me that, while there are no excuses for what seems almost certain to occur, there may be reasons that the right-minded people of this country might possibly accept.

My friends, there is, in every vehicle, a light known as the “fuel gauge.” Its function is to indicate the level of fuel in the car’s gas tank. When fuel is low, the fuel gauge turns on and a little sound goes off. That’s its function. My function, as the driver, is to listen to the noise and look at the light and then drive to a gas station and put gasoline in my car.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

This morning, when I left my house, the fuel gauge did its job, but the driver neglected to do his. I ignored it. That is why at 4 p.m. on a sunny May afternoon on a four-lane, one-way downtown street crammed with motorists, cyclists and other “ists,” it appears almost certain that I’m going to run out of fuel.

I am about to experience Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s “Seven Stages of Your Car Running Out of Gas.”

  1. Fuel gauge light goes on.
  2. You go about your narcissistic day.
  3. Car rolls to an agonized stop.
  4. Car won’t start.
  5. Car continues won’t starting.
  6. You block traffic.
  7. Everyone rightly hates you.

But Andrew, you’re thinking, the fuel gauge turned on in the morning. Why didn’t you just fuel up?

Well, I was going to, but I was running behind and figured I’ll make that meeting and then gas up afterward. I didn’t take into account that construction would delay me, burning up precious fuel, and that I’d have to park and scramble and then, when I got out of the meeting, there would be terrible congestion. I forgot there are no service stations in the city’s core.

I did not, in my wildest dreams, think that I’d watch in horror as the needle that seemed so far from the red “E” would almost instantly slam against it. That the time I thought I had to spare was gone. That, at any moment, my car would cough and wheeze until it came to a resigned halt blocking an entire lane and causing a bottleneck.

Of course, this calamity has yet to befall me. I may still find a way out, but my chances are slim.

Did you know that running out of gas is a common nightmare? According to the Internet, dreams about running out of gas often mean the dreamer suffers from physical exhaustion.

If I do run out, I will not be alone. According to eHow.com, “in 2006, AAA estimated that around 116,000 motorists were left stranded on the side of the road because they ran out of gas.” They had to estimate because no one would ever admit to being so willfully negligent.

And so, as the final moments roll in, I try to recall the location of every gas station in the city. There’s one on Front! Nope, that’s now a condo. I might make it to the one on Parliament? No, the traffic is too bad; I’ll die before I ever get there. Then I recall there is a station at Front and Sherbourne that, while not close, is theoretically within reach.

My hands sweat. My heart races. I turn off the air conditioner and stereo and coast so that I don’t need to brake often. I feel the same fear and exhilaration made so famous by the Seinfeld episode The Dealership in which Kramer enlists a salesman to take a test drive to the ultimate fuel limit.

Somehow, I am within three blocks. I look in the distance and spot a place, should the car finally give in, where I can roll to a stop. Then, I’m there, beside a fuel pump. A dirty downtown gas station has never looked so beautiful. I fill the tank. Exalting. I’m alive. My car has gasoline. I wouldn’t say that I’m smart, but I a little smarter. I know what I’ve known all along.

You can ignore a lot in life. Your responsibilities. Your civic duty. The true nature of your essence. But never, ever, ignore your fuel gauge.

Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories