Sunday, June 19, 2016

Running On Empty

On this Father's Day, your servant would like to pay tribute to his father's little-known talent: stretching gas. I said stretching, not passing.

Why do I call this a talent? Because I have experienced both the awe and the anxiety of riding in the back of a car that's propelling itself on fumes. I remember when he did it circa 1985, going all the way from Blue Springs, Missouri back to our home -- some 10 miles or so -- on what seemed like an empty tank in the early morning hours after all day on the road wrapping up another vacation.

Our car started to burp and sputter.

"What's that noise?" I asked.

"It means we're just about out of gas," Dad said, calmly and objectively without seeking a filling station.

And yet that car still ran and made it home. Nobody had to get out and push. I'm still in disbelief that the Queen Mother did not wring his neck.

"Your father always brings the car back home with no gas in it," she had grumbled more than once in my presence, so why did she allow him to take such a risk, especially with young children in the car?

Dad had preferred places to get gas, none of which were convenient. He went out of the way -- what seemed like halfway across Kansas City -- to get a fill-up at "Percy Oil Company," a now-defunct service station which doesn't even show up in a Google search.

We tried to stick to places we had gas cards for -- including Mobil and Amoco. Looking out the window and following the lay of the land on a long road trip, I memorized just about every brand of gas station out there, including:

DX (gone)
Sohio (gone)
Boron (gone)
Marathon Oil
Apco (gone)
Pester (gone)
Fina (gone)
Gulf (gone)
Vickers (gone)
Getty (gone)
Skelly (gone)
BP (super-sized itself)

For somebody who didn't buy the gas, and for somebody whose father hypermiled before it became cool, it's a striking irony.

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