Gas Tank Chicken

My husband is the type of person who runs out of gas. This is not hyperbole or some way of saying he gets tired easily. I mean he literally drives his car until it uses up all its fuel and stops moving. And he hasn’t done this just once or twice. It happens with some frequency. The worst part is, it isn’t like this happens when he’s out in the middle of nowhere with no gas stations around. It isn’t even because he doesn’t pay attention. He runs out of gas because he likes to play a twisted game of chicken with the inanimate object that is his gas tank. (Spoiler alert: The gas tank never flinches.)

I, on the other hand, have never run out of gas. I fill up long before the needle dips below the ¼ line – and I cannot understand how anyone in this day and age would ever allow their tank to get to empty – unless they were driving through a desolate wasteland, had a broken gas gauge, and/or had lost both their sight and hearing, in which case they probably shouldn’t be behind the wheel in the first place.

From where I sit, running out of gas is ALL downside. The only upside I can think of is the satisfaction that… what? Your nerves of steel allowed you to eek out one last mile, landing you on empty at the exact moment you roll in front of the pump? Pretty thin upside, if you ask me – considering the downside is expensive, dangerous, time-consuming, and messy.

But downside be-damned, Jimmy loves to play Gas Tank Chicken.  Except when I’m in the car with him. When I’m in the car with him, here is how things go down:

Ding-Ding. Ding-Ding. Ding-Ding.

Me: Is that the gas thing?

Jimmy: Um-hm.

Me: We should probably stop.

Jimmy: Oh no– we have like, 50 miles left. Trust me. I do this all the time.

Me: But it’s dinging.

Jimmy: I know.

Me: Doesn’t that mean it’s time to stop?

Jimmy: No – that’s just what they want you to think.

Me: That’s what who wants us to think?

Jimmy: We’re fine. Relax.

Another few minutes pass. I try to get past the ‘relax’ comment.

Ding-Ding. Ding-Ding. Ding-Ding.

Me: It’s still dinging – I think we should stop.

Jimmy: Babe, we can go another, like, 100 miles on this tank. I guarantee it. I do this all the time.

Me: Did you really just call me babe?

Jimmy: Don’t you want to see how much farther we can make it?

Me: No.

Jimmy: Aren’t you curious?

Me: Not even a little.

Jimmy: You’re telling me you don’t want to know if we could get all the way home on this tank? He smiles with a slightly insane glint in his eye.

Me: If we run out of gas – we’d have to walk. I don’t want to have to walk. That’s why we have a car.

Jimmy: We won’t have to walk. I guarantee it. Trust me, I do this all the time.

Yeah, the problem is that the other thing he does all the time is RUN OUT OF GAS. These sorts of conversations usually end in me getting all panicky and hysterical and basically insisting that we pull over and fill up. Which he does. But the entire rest of the drive he mutters to himself about how he knows we could have made it without stopping.

Need I point out the irony of a man who is completely unwilling to risk bad fruit, travels with a 6.5 pound Dopp kit (actual weight) filled with ointment, medicine, gauze, and salve for every eventuality but who IS willing to gamble on being stuck on the side of the road with cars whizzing by while he is forced to walk who-knows-how-many miles to the nearest gas station? I guess I just did. But the point is, I think this behavior may very well mark the beginnings of Jimmy’s downslide into Crazy-Old-Manhood. (That and shooting at squirrels, Lee Harvey-style, out of our book depository bathroom window. True story for another post…)

Anyone else out there play Gas Tank Chicken? If you do, please comment and enlighten me on why an otherwise sane person would EVER do this…

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24 Comments on “Gas Tank Chicken”

  1. Becky says:

    O.M.G! This one really made me laugh. As far as enlightenment, I am afraid this could be a native Columbian thing (although I am sure many from Columbia would feel my statement has just tarnished their good, rational images when, in fact, maybe it is just a few of us crazies that suffer from this affliction). You see Jill, I am more than slightly embarrassed to admit that I, like Jimmy, have run out of gas many times in Columbia in my younger days trying to “push the limits” you could say. I used to blame it on the face I drove an ancient Blazer that got like 10 miles to the gallon, but really I think it was laziness? A thrill? Who knows…In fact, while my memory is not as good as it once was, I wouldn’t be surprised if your husband actually picked me up off the side of Providence on the way to RBHS once because I had run out of gas. If he didn’t, I am sure I know some other poor friend who had to, not to mention the times I had to call my dad to come get me!! Fortunately (knock on wood) I have NOT run out of gas since I moved away from Columbia at the age of 25, so maybe I have cured myself of this insane propensity with my maturity??? But, if I am totally honest, Paul does STILL get a bit nervous when I am driving and let the gas guage go into the “red zone” from time to time.

    • Jill Orr says:

      Hilarious, Becky! I am going to have Jimmy read this later when he gets home! I guess you guys have remained friends all these years for a reason… birds of a feather 🙂

      • Becky says:

        too funny…also, about 30 min. after I posted I realized… I LIED. I did run out gas in a work rental car a few years back in MONTANA of all places, but my semi-legit excuse is that I had no idea there wouldn’t be a gas station for 100s of miles b/c I was in the middle of who knows where…I was lucky enough to literally be able to roll/coast off the off ramp as I neared civilization (aka Billings,MT) and some old dude in a truck (who was quite scary looking I might add) loaned me a gas can and gave me a lift 1/2 mile to the gas station….LORD…I’m sure Jimmy will get a kick…I never knew we shared this horrible habit!

  2. Becky says:

    *fact (not face)

  3. Karen says:

    Thanks for the belly laugh this morning! I totally needed it:)

  4. Kim Lehnhoff says:

    I ran out of gas one time…never again. Does he play GTC when the kids are in the car? I’d be freaking out.

  5. Leah Beth Simon says:

    Maybe Jimmy and I are more alike than I thought….or maybe not!! At least he gets a rush from his game. Mine is pure laziness and procrastination!! I have run out of gas more times than I care to think about. The best though was when I coasted into a gas station and then proceeded to put diesel gas in the tank and had to be towed!! At least Jimmy enjoys his game!!

  6. Damommachef says:

    No desire to play this game. I have pushed it a few times…..or at least I think I have……but then when I go to fill up I usually have at least a gallon and a half left. So not so chickeny.

  7. rockitalian says:

    My husband also LOVES to play the Gas Tank Chicken Game and has lost a few times. I won’t mention his name “empty gas tank Eddie”:)
    Love the blog!!! Funny Funny!

  8. Alex George says:

    My car tells me how many miles I have left before the tank is empty. I guess that spoils the game. Yesterday (this is absolutely true) I stopped to fill up when the “miles left” gauge read, ahem, 1.

    • Jill Orr says:

      I think that means you WON Gas Tank Chicken!!! PS: Having the little Miles Till Empty readout is not cheating because the true gamers (like Jimmy) develop vast conspiracy theories to explain those figures away. Remember: That’s what they want you to think! 🙂

  9. I could not be more on your side. Running out of gas is ridiculous. It’s not as if the gauge roams randomly from F to E. It is a slow, steady decline that ends in the car stopping. I, like you, try to fill up long before the light ever comes on. Andy, on the other hand, likes to see how many trips to and from work he can make AFTER the light has come on because filling up at the gas station is “such a waste of time.” Another thing that is a waste of time is WALKING TO WORK BECAUSE YOU RAN OUT OF GAS. Are we sisters?

  10. Bridgid Kinney says:

    Okay, I’ll say it. I’m not totally “with” Jimmy on this one…but I’m close. Drives Bill crazy. I’ve taken every car I’ve ever owned down to the minimum. There’s almost always a little more gas in there. Almost every single time.

  11. Pam says:

    This is hilarious! I wouldn’t say I play Gas Tank Chicken, per se… More like Gas Tank Lazy. Getting gas is just another thing I procrastinate. I’m either late to get somewhere or hungry/have to pee/too tired to stop on the way home and do it. So it’s just never a good time. That said, while I do take trips with the light on and the thing dinging at me, I have never actually run out of gas. I believe, though, that if this changes, it could throw off the balance of my marriage. Like you, my husband cannot understand why I do this. He fills up when it’s like half empty, which to me is a waste of time, because then you are filling up twice as often.

    • Jill Orr says:

      I love the term Gas Tank Lazy. A FAR more reasonable reason for running out of gas. Not that you have or anything, of course! Thanks for reading 🙂

  12. Holly Likos says:

    You are so funny!!! I loved this. Can’t wait to see you 🙂

  13. Scott Orr says:

    His mother’s son!

  14. Lorena says:

    Jill, your story reminded me of an episode of Seinfeld where Kramer takes a car from a dealership for a “test drive” and convinces the salesman to see how far they can drive without filling up the gas tank, ha! (Did you ever watch it?) I didn’t know real people did this, too! It must be the adrenaline rush. I’ve *almost* ran out of gas, but it hasn’t been out of a sense of fun and danger, but because I’ve been too distracted to look at the tank indicator. 🙂


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