Friday, March 17, 2006

Fumes at Eleven

At the risk of reviving some long dormant curse, I'll go ahead and say it: I have NEVER run out of gas in a news unit. That's not to say I haven't come unthinkably close. In fact, there have been m-a-n-y times in my sixteen years of electronic newsgathering where a furtive glance at the fuel gage has caused a sudden hitch in my breathing. The first time was back in the early nineties, around four in the morning. Speeding towards an early morning drug round-up, I had to bail out of a Highway 11 road rally to gas up my less-than-turbo Ford Escort. As the numbers flipped on the antiquated pump, my competitor and mentor Paul Dunn pulled up in his own logo-mobile and gently berated me for driving on fumes. I rolled my eyes as he dispensed the not so friendly advice. Then he peeled out to beat me to the pre-bust breakfast buffet.

Fast forward fifteen years. My good buddy Erik Liljegren and I were traversing the hills of Surry County, lost in some esoteric conversation when a quick look downward snapped me back to reality. The cursed needle was wedged so far below empty there was simply nowhere else for my imagination to pretend it could go. Sensing trouble through the newsman antenna hidden in his sculpted hair, Lilly spotted the remnants of the needle buried in the dash and cursed. Through the windshield, we both spotted a chronic lack of civilization: two lanes of blacktop, rolling hills and a few dozen cows shockingly devoid of gas cans. How we made it to the Exxon twelve miles down the road, I don't know - but it may have had something to do with my telling Lilly that Fords aren't really low on gas until the 'Check Fuel' light begins flashing.

I don't know that he believed me, but the lie made us both feel better as we rolled up the windows, held our own gas and tried to drive casual. Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go top off the tank.


cadencefilm said...

i didn't fare so well as to hit a gas station before my vehicle took a siesta on the side of a desolate indiana road last week. faulty gas gauge was at 3/4 full one minute, then DROPPED to "E" with the fuel light flashing the next. at least i had understanding company.

Weaver said...

The other morning when we were talking about this very thing, mine was at the E too. I meant to head off to the Petro pumper, but headed out to a story and forgot about the needle. I got 15 miles from the station and were entering 220 south Asheboro when I happened to notice my Fuel Light lit up. From experience I know that around 310 miles on the trip-o-meter is getting pretty low. The number was 325 miles since the last fill up with no gas in sight. 7 miles later I pulled into the Level Cross BP and filled up my tank with 20.2 gallons of 87. The owner's manual of my Explorer says it only holds 20.5!!!