Sunday, October 02, 2005

The tank is half full

If you’re anything like me, you’ll wait until you’re in rural Pennsylvania at 11:30 on a Sunday night to run out of gas. Also, you’ll be too cheap to have a cell phone. And if you are strikingly, freakishly similar to me, you will have a ferret riding shotgun when it happens.

I used to think that “running out of gas” was just a myth propagated by the oil companies. When I was in college, I could drive around for weeks with the “Please feed me” warning light on. Sometimes, even when I’m not in the car, I still see a tiny orange gas pump out of the corner of my eye. I think the warning light seared itself into my retina, like the time when I was little and I didn’t knock on the bathroom door before I barged…wait a minute. How’d we get talking about that?

Anyway, I eventually became convinced that cars didn’t even run on gas. I mean, the only time I’d actually seen the gas coming out of the nozzle was, if I’m recalling correctly, in the movie Terminator, when the governor of California sprays gas all over the place and then lights it with a cigarette, which, as anyone who has ever smoked a cigarette while drenched in gasoline will tell you, is terrible for your health, unless you’re a cyborg.

I began to think that having a full tank of gas was really just a state of mind, like being cool (as cool people used to tell me, when they weren’t giving me wedgies). Or perhaps cars just ran off of their batteries, like the remote-control dune buggy I had when I was twelve, which took three days to charge so that I could play with it for ten minutes.

I found out the hard way, though, that automobiles do indeed require gasoline to operate. My ferret Chopper had accompanied me on a weekend trip to visit my then-girlfriend (now wife) Kara at college. Before the car sputtered and spat to a stop, he had been quietly sitting in his cage in the passenger’s seat, flipping through the radio stations. I’m no ferret whisperer, but I’m pretty sure he was trying to find an Alvin and the Chipmunks song.

You’d think that having a ferret with you would come in really handy when you’re stranded on the side of the road late at night. Oddly enough, he was not the least bit helpful. I just stood there beside the car, staring at the ferret, thinking that if I was MacGyver or the professor from Gilligan’s Island, I’d figure out how to make a cell phone out of him. It’s just as well that I never figured it out, though. I bet his peak-minute charges would have been ridiculous.

We had just passed a sign that indicated a gas station wasn’t too far down the road. I hated to leave the ferret behind; I considered stuffing the varmint into my shirt and jogging up to the gas station, but then I pictured the conversation I’d have with the clerk as Chopper ran laps around my torso.

“I ran out of gas a mile down the road. Do you have a gas can I can borrow?” I’d ask the clerk.

“Is there something crawling out of your stomach?” he’d reply, reaching for the big red button under the counter.

“Oh, that? No, no. I just have really bad indigestion.”

So I tucked Chopper into his little fleece sleeping bag inside his cage, and was back with a gas-can-toting tow truck driver in half an hour. He charged up my car’s battery for three days, and we were on our way.

After you recharge your batteries, you can reach Mike Todd online at


  1. This post had me laughing out loud and reminded me of my brother. He used to have this pea-green station wagon that he'd put a couple dollars worth of gas into. That $2 worth of gas (back in the early 80's) seemed to last forever. One day, a friend of his was feeling real generous and decided to fill the tank for him. The gas tank promptly fell out of the car onto the road. I guess it couldn't handle the weight of a full tank! lol

  2. i have never run out of gas, know on wood, but i have run my tank down till i swear im sputtering into the gas station. i agree, i think that gas is just a state of mind, and you are paying for illusions...

  3. Ahhh . . . there's nothing like being full of gas . . .

  4. My "filler up" light came on in New Orleans one time 1 mile into the Lake Pontchartrain bridge that's been all over the news lately. Yes, It's 27 miles long. I was sweating bullets, but we made it. I had been married for 1 month at the time, and I was sure it was to be our first big fight.

  5. Dude, if you were putting the gas in the battery, that might have been the original problem. I be Chopper would have told you but he was waiting for you to ask. Nobody ever asks ferrets anything.

  6. For some reason the ferret stories make me giggle non-stop!

  7. Brilliant!

    Perhaps you can train your ferret to retrieve/steal gas for you in the future...