Wednesday, February 9, 2011


DATELINE LINCOLN, CALIFORNIA – a February day in 2008

SHE WAS HUDDLED behind the steering wheel of her aging Hyundai Elantra. Her eyes peered over the dash, but through the steering wheel. I saw a tea-cup sized Maltese pace from her lap to the seat back and then to her lap again. Slowly the driver’s side door opened and the woman clambered out. Her face immediately clouded in confusion. The filler neck on the car was on the side opposite the gas pump.

Oh, dear! she must have thought. What to do?

I had just inserted the vapor recovery devise into the top of my cherished BMW RT’s plastic tank.

THE GAS STATION is easily accessible from state route 65. Just wheel right in and slide in next to a pump. But with the filler neck on the wrong side, the woman arranged a “do-over.” She backed up the ramp toward the highway continuing until her plastic sheathed rear bumper protruded into the traffic lane – the 55 mph traffic lane.

There, she paused. Caught her wits. Reasoned.

If I came in forward and the pump was on the wrong side, if I turn around and back in, then the pump will be on the right side.

Shifting, she lurched forward past the entry to the filling station. There she stopped. Pushed the gear selector into “R,” and began backing against the flow of the traffic lane and down the ramp into the service station. Vehicles on the state route braked and evaded. A Hollywood-style crash scene was avoided.

More reason ruled the day. If the other side of the pump was wrong the first time, then the opposite side of the pump should be just right.

Calamitously, the “right side” was now the side on which I was parked dispensing petrol into my beloved RT. I kept one eye on the nozzle and one eye on what appeared to be impending doom. I never caught the woman looking using a rear-view mirror. Judging from the condition of her sedan, it appeared she preferred a system similar to Braille over the confusing use of mirrors in which: “Objects may be closer than they appear.”

Back she crept. I prayed she could feel the difference between the gas pedal and the brake pedal, however, red lights never illuminated on the approaching Elantra.

I pictured Sean Connery at the end of a James Bond film. Brassy, dramatic music pulsed through my helmet – music no one else could likely hear. Time was of the essence. I squeezed the gas trigger a bit tighter. Too tight and the gas backs up and the pump shuts off. Too loose and before it’s full, I’m flattened. I planned an escape route. I thanked God I’d paid the bike’s insurance premium and month ago. If she wipes out the bike, I resign myself, I can take the proceeds and use it as a down payment on one of those new GS Adventure models that guys ride around the world on.

The nozzle clicked off. I slammed it to the pump and, without snapping the filler cap shut, straddled the motorcycle and walked it backwards. The encroaching Elantra stopped – as did the soundtrack. Atop where I’d filled, the woman placed the Hyundai in park. She rubbed Tea Cup, the Maltese, on his or her curious little head, and exited the vehicle.

Within moments, there was an audible gasp. The filler neck was again, impossibly, opposite the pump.

“How in the world did that happen?”

I OFFERED A PRAYER of thanksgiving to Saint Christopher (patron saint of travelers and just about everyone else, according to Wikipedia) as I left the filling station. In my rear-view mirror, I saw the gentle woman getting back into the old Hyundai. As yet, unfueled.

© 2008
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. DSD: You have to watch out for those Sun City residents!