The Kindness of Strangers

This post is going to be a little bit all over the place. If you know me, you are probably used to that by now. If you don’t know me, welcome. My name is Todd. I’ll be your slightly insecure author and docent on this tour of randomness we call Todd’s Mind.

I am going to get a little real, and probably a little raw here today. I would normally be terrified of that. Of exposing myself to the world at large. But in looking at the stats for this blog in the 22weeks or so since I’ve left Facebook, the reality, I’m exposing myself to about 10 of you. Less if some of you come back and re-read some of the posts. So…yeah. Here goes.

I can count on 1 finger the number of times including today where I have run out of gas. Not talking about pulling into the gas station on vapors, but actually having the car die and coast to a stop because that life-giving dead dinosaur juice was no longer in the tank.

One time.


It’s my own fault. I don’t like to admit when I’ve done something stupid. OK, that’s not entirely true. I will admit to it if I can do it in a self-deprecating, yet charming way that somehow endears me more to you. Then I totally will. We can laugh about it. I can tell you that I thought putting flame thrower backpack on bearded dragons would help them become real dragons and how could I have been so stupid. And you’d tell me that no, it’s fine because you really didn’t like that heirloom sofa and matching doily set all that much anyway and after 500 years of being in the family, it was time for something new. Maybe from IKEA. And we’d laugh, and dodge bearded dragons.

THAT kind of stupid I can roll with.

The kind of stupid where there are built in safeguards (at least 2) and that could have been avoided, I hate admitting to. But I’m going to anyway.

I ran out of gas today. Full on ran out. The car was like ‘hey…I’m tired. I’m going to just slow down here and take a little nap, is that cool? No? Oh. Well, I’m doing it anyway. Goodnight.’

And then the engine died. And the car coasted. I was able to steer it to the side of the road. About 1/4 from the gas station that I was heading to anyway.

But Todd, how could this have happened? You’re a relatively smart man. What gives?

Glad you asked, italicized plot device.

Because I was stupid and didn’t pay attention.

The low fuel light came on last night (the first warning). This meant I was getting low on gas. It probably came on as I was heading to bowling. I, in all likelihood, ignored it-thinking I could get gas in the morning. So I drove to bowling. Yellow warning light. Drove home from bowling. Yellow warning light. I drove to work. Yellow warning light AND estimated miles remaining shifts from a number to the word LO (the second of the two can’t miss methods for remining me that it’s time for gas.

I think hubris and pride got in the way. I was thinking that there was no way I could run out of gas. I was thinking that I had done the math way better than the computer. In the car. The one specifically designed to tell me how much fuel is left (more on that in a moment).

So I coasted to the side of the road. I called my roommate to let her I know I would be late. I called Roadside assistance. They told me an hour.

Then I see a guy across the street (the 7 lane street) with two kids shouting at me, trying to ascertain why I parked where I did. I was finally able to communicate that I was out of gas. He shouted that he was going to bring me some gas and then walked away with his kids.

Forever and 27 minutes later, he pulled up behind me and pulls a gas can from his trunk. I sheepishly accept his help and mention that this has never happened. He smiles and tells me that it happens to everyone and that I’ll probably pay better attention next time. This isn’t said in a condescending way and I didn’t take it as a dig. It was a conversation filled with kindness and concern, and gratitude. I was grateful he decided to help. He was thankful that it was just me being out of gas, because he could help with that.

I offered to pay him for the gas. He shook my hand and said No, sir. I started choking up, and he said that I can just pay it forward.

Then I got in the car and wiped the tears from my eyes. He put the gas can in the car, waited to make sure I was OK then he and his kids went on their way.

I immediately pulled into the gas station that was less than 1/4 mile away from where my car stopped and filled the tank the rest of the way.

I am quite grateful for the kindness of that stranger today.

Also, I’m a little pissed. At me. And at my car.
And here’s why.

First off, I know better. I knew I was close to fumes as I was coming home. I passed 4 gas stations because I wanted to get to the gas station that I knew had the cheaper prices.

Secondly, I made a few extra stops in a vehicle that I knew was running low on fuel (remember, I had 2 different warning indicators to that effect).

 Those first two are reason enough to be at the very least, annoyed with myself. But the third pissy annoyance I blame on the car. Or more specifically, the car manufacturer.

Queue nostalgia music that lets you know that an old fart is about to say something completely self-serving about the way things were back in their day.

So back in my day, when I was first learning to drive, all the way through until, well-this car actually, the fuel gauge on a car was just that. It was a manual/analog, physical indicator (usually a needle dancing somewhere between an E and an F to let you know approximately how much fuel was in your tank.

This was a good system. you can see that needle getting near E every time you get in the car. When you get below E and into the reserve tank, a warning light would come.

It worked. My whole life it worked. I never ran out of gas.

My current car has an electronic dash. The only actual needles are the speedometer and tachometer. The fuel indicator is set up to display the number of miles that I can drive before needing to put more gas in the car.

And that would be fine. If it worked.

It works most of the time. 
The times when it doesn’t work, though, are a bit baffling. Firstly, the calculation to display how many miles of fuel are left is fuzzy. By that I mean when I fill up the tank, it will say that I have 300 miles worth of fuel left. I can then drive 15 miles on the highway. The number should go down to 285. It doesn’t. It goes to 390 or something like that. So there is no one to one match up.

And then when it hits the damn LO portion, I can’t do any calculations at all at that point. I know it’s the expectation of the car manufacturer that everyone is going to immediately to the gas station to fill back up. Only life doesn’t work that way.

I need there to be a needle. Or a percentage of fuel. And it can’t disappear and go to a fuzzy work like LO.

But that’s not going to happen. So I need to be better about keeping gas in the tank.

Both in my car, and in my soul.

Fortunately for me, a stranger took time out of his day today to help me with both.


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