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Men, Gas Tanks And Other Fables

By LC Van Savage

I recognize that we live in an age where everything’s supposed to be equal and balanced and unbiased, but come on, it’s not. Not even close. Take men and women for example. Different. Lots. Want the best examples of the differences there are between The Two Sexes? First one is gas tanks. For women, OK, well for me, when my car’s gas tank says half empty, that means completely empty. I get it filled. When a man’s gas tank blinks and beeps and flashes that it’s on empty, “there’s still enough gas in it to go another 25 miles. Don’t worry about it,” say they. You can count on those words from the mouths of males the way you can count on poison ivy.

And cell phones. According to the Gospel of Men, gas tanks never need refilling and cell phones never need recharging. Not only can a car get to Portland and back from Ft. Kent on a tank that registers empty, one can chat on a cell phone for six weeks without recharging even if it prints out on that little screen that there’s no battery charge left. Amazing. Men know everything.

Well, in spite of Mongo’s edicts to not worry about gas tanks registering “empty,” I do worry about it. Always have. And here’s proof that I am, yet again, right! Yesterday I had to move Mongo’s car into the road so our grandchildren could have the joy of washing my car on a very hot day. I drove Mongo’s car out into the roadway and put mine on our grass and gave the kids sponges, soap and water and let them have at it. I went inside and said to Mongo the same words I’ve said probably eleven thousand times during our 50 ½ years of wedded bliss, “Hey, did you know your gas tank reads below empty?” Yep, back came the predictable answer, also delivered eleven thousand times; “Oh don’t worry. I can drive all the way to Boston and back on what’s left.” Right.

So tonight we decided suddenly to go out for a quick dinner and we got into his car and left. We didn’t bring our cell phones. Anything to write with. Nothing. Spontaneous! Fun! Living on the edge stuff. Laughing and joking we headed downtown, when Mongo suddenly and rudely interrupted something I was saying of some pith by cursing a little and pumping the gas pedal. Hard. Yep. The gas pedal was unable to make the car move forward because you guessed it, there was no gas in the tank. Aha! I was right! Oh it is so good to win one, isn’t it? Who doesn’t love to be right? The car coasted to a stop kind of angled out into the roadway in the middle of the Bowdoin College campus. I began to laugh maniacally, reminding Mongo that I’d warned him about the empty gas tank. Mumble. Ignore. “Well, I filled it just a couple of days ago, mumble grumble.” Sure he did. He said “Call Paul.” I said “On what?” We’d left our cell phones home and that was that. It was a night of all firsts—first time the gas tank gagged to a stop, first time neither of us had a cell phone with us, first time I’d left my purse home, first time neither of us had a pen or paper, first time Mongo just couldn’t remember Paul’s cell number even though through my hysterical shrieks of laughter I kept screaming it at him, even “spelling” out the numbers with my fingers straight into his face. He’s such a smart guy, is Mongo, but in the moment he kept getting it wrong.

Well, one of us had to go find a phone. Not I. No way. I never allow my gas tank to get to the MT place, so why should I have to go? The weather was great, it was still light out, so it fell to Mongo to go find a phone, and for me to guard the car.

Brunswick Maine really does roll up the sidewalks at dusk and that’s no joke. There were no buildings open. Mongo vanished and I sat. And sat. And paced. He could not find anyplace that was open to borrow a phone. Finally a young person offered him use of her cell phone and he called #3 son Paul to come to our rescue. No answer. He trudged back to the car. People were passing but no one stopped because I was perpetually laughing with such glee and had not put up the hood or anything to indicate that I was in any sort of trouble.

Mongo decided he’d next better walk into town, and so he did. “‘Bye old boy, father of our sons, hero of my dreams, protector of my honor, ” I thought as he disappeared into the gloaming. This time he was really gone a long time. I began to get just the teensiest bit edgy and I was no longer laughing with superior mirth. Well, maybe the occasional chortle. Where was he?

I’ll tell you where. He’d hiked to Hannaford and found a pay phone, a real live pay phone---and discovered to his dismay that he wasn’t quite sure how to use it! It’s been a long, long time since either of us has even touched a pay phone, let alone used one! Do you know they’re asking fifty cents these days to make a call? Outrageous! Last time I used a pay phone it cost me a dime. And poor Mongo, after he put in the 2 quarters, the robot asked for another 50 cents. They’re kidding! A buck to make a local call? Well, he had no choice. Wifey was sitting alone in a car a mile or two away, so he ponied up, dropped in 2 more coins, and this time, Paul answered. He would soon be on his way with a bit of gas. Seemed quicker than waiting for Triple A, but then isn’t that why we pay them a handsome fee every year? But that’s another tantrum for another time.

And so a fairly exhausted Mongo hiked back to our disabled car and soon Paul’s van arrived. Lovely reunion. Two little kids, our beloved grandchildren Hannah and Tommy, leapt from the van screaming joyfully that they’d arrived to “save Bucky and Grampz from the ‘mergency!” And so they had. The smell of that gas being poured into that empty tank and the sound of those dear kids rescuing us from our ‘mergency brought joy to my heart. Sometimes it’s the little things, you know?

Our heroes left. I turned to Mongo and said “OK, good, that was about 2 cups of gas. Let’s go to the gas station, OK? Get ‘er filled up?” Do I actually have to type out here what he said back to me? I know you know. Oh, all right, I’ll just tell you anyway; “Oh no, no need to get more gas. We can drive all the way to Augusta and back on this.”

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