Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Real Women Don't Pump Gas

12-year-old grandson, don't tell the cops
That was the title of a book more than 30 years ago, and it echoed a phrase popular around that time – Real Men Don’t Cry.  Actually I’ve been handling the nozzle ever since the law allowed amateur pumping.  It would appear, though, that the only cars I’ve been filling up were my own – these days that’s the little Smart (which takes eight gallons of gas).

Proud owner first day 2004
After he died, I kept Norm’s big four-door car --  to pick up the kids when they come in from out of town, to lend when they go off to the Adirondacks with the in-laws, to plow through snow banks when I don’t trust the Smart, and for times when I’m out with friends in the evening – I’m the one who still sees pretty well at night. Sometimes the battery dies because I use it so seldom.
    I thought of trading the big car for a more modest four-door, something easier to get in and out of the garage.  But I found I couldn’t stand the thought of a stranger sitting in that front seat and getting all the fun Norm had with what the family dubbed the Normmobile.  That car has at least 72 buttons within the driver’s reach.  When there was no more room for them on the dashboard, the designers put them on the steering wheel.  When they ran out of space there, more buttons went up on the ceiling.  We never did find out what some of them do. 
     So about the gas:  One night last winter, I was returning from a speaking engagement when icons started flashing on the dashboard and messages on the screen (this car is big on icons and messages) – LOW GAS.  A blizzard was blowing, I was miles from home, it was extremely dark out and I couldn’t remember if there was a gas station ahead – and if there was, would it be open? 
     Well, there was, and it was.  And I finally found the button that unlocked the gas tank (I’d forgotten about the additional buttons on the door and under the dashboard).  Out into the storm I went, and filled the tank, and got a distinct shock when the charge registered $74.
     That’s when I realized – was it possible? – that car was nine years old and in all those years  I had never gassed it up.  It was Norm’s Normmobile, and when the kids visited they always left it full.
     In all those years I’d never once filled it up, until that blizzardy dark night.  When I felt pretty pleased with myself for coping.  Felt, in fact, like a Real Woman.          

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