On my way to do bank errands and I forget the van is low on gas. Ridiculous, and I’ll tell you why: just to the upper right of the driver’s head, there is a cheesy computer readout that keeps you informed on a small selection of driving variables at the touch of a button – including navigational direction headed, outside temperature, gas mileage (average, trip average, and instantaneous), and – yes, miles left on the tank, including the warning, “Lo”. In previous vehicles I would get a sputter, I’d look down at my gauge, say, “Shit!” and find a gas station. In this vehicle, my digital readout silently warns me incessantly, yet somehow I miss it; when the vehicle decides it’s done, no splutter, no cough – the van DIES and the steering locks up. Inconvenient, no? I have run out of gas once (or less than once) in every vehicle I have owned previously; in my Ass-tro it has happened about a half dozen times. I honestly wonder at the genius of a vehicle that decides when you are out of fuel (mind you, according to the computer, not the actual gas I hear in the tank) it also decides you are not allowed to steer. Sometime someone’s going to have to explain the logic to me.
No wait, belay that order. I honestly don’t care.
So at the moment my vehicle dies and the steering locks up – WTF! – I grip the wheel and coast over to the shoulder, in front of the old folks’ home. A quick sigh of irritation (although I don’t care much, really), I grab my kids, pack them in coats, and head the block to the bank where I do my financial errands and phone my husband. He works only a couple blocks away so I ask him if he will fetch us a couple gallons of gas before meeting us for lunch (small-town life is really amazing – everything is within reasonable distance). Even though he’d planned to meet us anyway, I know in his busy schedule he’s going to be irritated with this fifteen-minute detour. The kids and I head back to the van, I buckle them in, and we watch as Ralph pulls up to the parking lot across the street, gas can in hand.
“Daddy’s mad at Mama,” I say to the kids. We watch him get out of the car. He doesn’t look mad, but I’m finding this funny.
“Why?” asks my daughter.
“Because I let the van run out of gas and now he has to help us. He’s mad. Maybe he’ll smack Mama.”
I hear the pause in my daughter’s thoughts – a mind that usually rattles along at a brisk clip. The possibility of Daddy whacking Mama? A beat, then she says decisively, “No he won’t.”
Nels: “In the face.”
I turn and look. He is smiling.