Running Out of Gas (Literally)

Have you ever wondered what happens when your car runs out of gas?

Oh good, you’ve come to the right place.

As of this weekend, I have run out of gas four times. Don’t you feel good about yourself now? You’re welcome, America.

Really, I’d like to blame Sheila, my one-year-old Subaru Outback. She’s done it to me twice so far. I’d like to say it’s because I can’t get a handle on what her Low-Fuel alerts mean. Like, just how serious is she? Because the messages that pop up seem pretty casual. Kind of like, “You might want to think about getting gas at some point.” Not: “I’M GOING TO STRAIGHT-UP STOP RUNNING IF YOU DON’T PULL OVER IMMEDIATELY TO REFUEL.”

I guess I need those kids of messages. The procrastinator in me processes most warnings as suggestions unless shouted or WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS.


The first time I ran out of gas, I had a couple of kids in the car with me and was racing home from an activity when the car just pooped out. My son, a teenager at the time, was so disgusted that he got out of the car and walked home while I waited for a non-judgmental friend to come with some gas in a can.

The second time I ran out of gas, I wasn’t even driving the car. My girlfriend came over before we were heading out for the night and she took my car (for some reason, I can’t remember why) to go to grab a birthday card at the CVS and called me to say the car had died and I ran out to fetch gas and get it going again. I’m sure she wanted to punch me in the face.

So, here’s what happened this weekend:

I had about a 3.5 hour drive north on Saturday for a lovely wedding in Saratoga, NY. I filled up my gas tank, plugged the hotel into my GPS, downloaded an audio book and was on my way. For my return on Sunday, I assessed my fuel level and it seemed like I’d just make it home with what was left. I drove home listening to my book and eating a delicious almond croissant while keeping an eye on the needle as it slowly moved towards E. At one point, I even pulled off into a gas station on Route 17 in North Jersey, a stretch of highway littered with gas stations, to think about driving by the house I grew up in, decided against it and got back on the road. The gas seemed expensive and I had a bee in my bonnet for filling up when I went to Costco later.

In fact, as I rounded the corner onto my street, I was still wondering whether I could bypass the local gas station (pricey!) and make it to Costco, when I felt Sheila kind of shudder. If I hadn’t known any better, I would have thought I’d accidentally shifted into one of those weird gears that are on the car that I don’t really know what to do with.

But as an expert in the field of running-out-of-gassery, I knew immediately what was happening and began trying to pull over to the curb, which is where Sheila pooped out, about 5 houses away from my own, which was honestly really considerate of her. Except I really had to go to the bathroom from all the coffee I drank with my croissant and my feet were killing me from all the dancing the night before.


Luckily, knowing it was only a matter of time before it happened again, I’d picked up one of those red plastic gas cans a few months ago, which I grabbed out of the shed and had my daughter drive me to the local gas station, where a gallon of gas was 10-cents more expensive than the station I pulled into up north. And my hands smelled like gasoline for the rest of the day.

So, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Sheila’s back up and running but I do think she is gently trying to send me a message. The last time she ran out of gas was literally in my driveway. I jumped into her to get to work one morning and she was like, “I don’t think so.” But I think Sheila’s onto me. I think the next time I forget to feed her, she’s going to have to teach me a lesson and stop running, like, on a highway or something.

Honestly, I wouldn’t blame her. She’s had enough of my baloney. I’m sure if she could talk, she’d tell me to get it together. Unlike my children, Sheila still has hope that I might change. Now, my kids don’t even flinch when I call and say, “I ran out of gas.”

I told my 14yo and he was like, “Standard.”

And so, it seems, it is.

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8 thoughts on “Running Out of Gas (Literally)

  1. I know you think I’ve got my act together, but you’ll be pleased to know that I almost run out of gas every single week. I haven’t yet, but that will happen one day for sure. And I know who to call…

  2. Despite my ability to procrastinate EVERYTHING if I put my mind to it – that’s one thing I’m anal about. I see I have a little less than half a tank, I pull over immediately. Why? Because I know myself, if I don’t do it right then, I will forget and find myself stranded somewhere.

  3. My dad once borrowed my car and proceeded to lock the keys in the car twice in one day. His car had a lock where you could get into the car by keycode and my car had to be locked from the inside. He usually left his keys in the car and took just the key fob with him. Unfortunately for him he couldn’t do that with my car.

    I had to rescue him with the spare key on both occasions.

    • Don’t even get me going on how many times I’ve locked my keys in the car (once with kids inside who put car into reverse and began driving away). Is your dad single? 😉 xo

  4. I probably deserved to run out of gas a few times…only thing that saved me was the fact that the cars I have driven seem to have a big fudge factor built into the empty lines. Only time I actually did run out I was on TR. 80 on the way to Williamsport, PA. I made a mental note to myself I needed to get off at the next exit…only problem is my mind erased that note and I ran out about a half hour later.

    • Bob English this surprises me about you! But now I really know I’m in good company!! PS: just drove to Penn State this weekend along 80 (and past Williamsport) and I MADE SURE to fill up on the way home! Getting stuck on that crazy highway is a lot different than on my own street! Happy Thanksgiving!!! 🙂

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