Friday, November 20, 2009

And A Glowing Light Shall Strand Them

“Our first stop has to be a gas station,” he said, glancing down at the golden glowing fuel light on the dash as he backed out of the parking ramp after a full weekend, ready for a long, latenight drive home.

“Yeah,” she agreed, looking at the fuel gauge needle. “And I really need to find a bathroom before we hit the road, too.”

They drove down the main drag, many of the stores long closed for the business day, but confident there would be at least a half dozen gas stations to choose from before the big city turned to lonely road.

A Mobil sign and well-lit parking lot signaled a destination with a solution to the empty fuel tank, and they pulled in, noticing a minor inconvenience.

“That’s one of those little half convenience stores,” he said, motioning to the tiny building that may or may not have had the caffeine he craved for the journey home.

“And they probably have those gross outdoor bathrooms, too,” she added, “where you have to go inside for the key, and then back outside to find the bathroom door.”

He drove slowly through the lot, surveying the situation, and continued out the back exit.

“There will be something right up the street. We still have a couple miles of main street left,” he said.

About a half mile after pulling back on to the main road, he saw a sign guiding him to the interstate highway that would lead them home.

“Isn’t that the way to our highway?” he asked, veering on to the exit ramp before she had a chance to answer. “Looks like an easy way to catch our road.”

As they continued in their new direction, the atmosphere in the car changed noticeably, as he realized what he’d done. And so did she.

“I, um...uh...maybe I shouldn’t have taken this,” he offered, noting his error.

She said nothing.

The lights of the main drag disappeared, leaving the couple to travel into the darkness of the connecting highway. The darkness punctuated only by the now brighter glow of the fuel light, staring up and mocking him for his decision as he drove into the drizzly, chilly, late night.

“Didn’t I just say that our first stop had to be a gas station??” he asked, incredulous at his poor judgment. “We were at...a Mobil…gas station! And we left!”

He watched the fuel light as much as he watched the road ahead, as they drove.

“I have Triple-A!” she offered with a smile and a lilt in her voice, trying to ease the tension of the situation.

He chuckled nervously, and replied, “We may need it!”

The conversation subsided, save for a few more chuckles, as they both thought it best not to vocalize what was really going through their minds.

But they both knew.

Their night might have...just maybe...grown a bit longer.

“We were right there! At a gas station!” he repeated with a laugh, rolling through his brain the predicament he’d put them in.

A few uncomfortable miles down the road, they saw a sign for the next exit, which was still a couple of miles away. Another mile, and they passed a sign for an upcoming convenience center.

“Kwik Trips are open 24 hours, aren’t they?” he asked, not really searching for an answer.

“I think so,” she answered. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure they are.”

They approached their exit, the vehicle thankfully still powered by what little fuel must have been left in the tank, and saw a different glow than before. This time...the glow of a Kwik Trip sign and lights shining down on the fuel pumps they sought.

The tension lifted as they pulled next to a pump.

“I thought this was an 11-gallon tank, with about a gallon left when the fuel light comes on,” he said as he started pumping fuel. The gauge went past 11, all the way to 14 gallons.

“I might have been a bit off with my numbers,” he grinned at her, and she laughed.

As they went in to pay, they noticed they’d found one of the biggest, fanciest Kwik Trips they’d ever seen, complete with a latenight clerk who tried to sell them doughnuts and pizza and everything else in the store before ringing up just the fuel. And the caffeine.

They’d found their pot of gold at the end of the driving-on-fumes rainbow. And they turned toward home.


“Restore human legs as a means of travel.
Pedestrians rely on food for fuel and
need no special parking facilities.”
—Lewis Mumford

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