Monday May 01, 2017
Here's a story from last week about the difficulty of overcoming your true nature. Also about the idiocy of construction companies even in rural areas.
A week ago Sunday, Patricia and I were driving down to Rochester, Minn., for a Monday/Tuesday appointment at the Mayo Clinic. We were driving my mother's old SUV and as we left the Twin Cities it had about a quarter tank left. I'm a pretty risk-averse guy—whenever the tank gets below the quarter-mark I usually fill it up. But here, as we drove down 52 South, I only saw gas stations on the other side of the highway. I kept waiting for one on our side. I figured: I can handle this. I'll subsume my true nature for the sake of efficiency.
And I kept waiting. And waiting.
Soon it was just cornfields everywhere, and the gas gauge was nearing empty. So when the next exit offered “gas” I went for it. Again, it was on the other side of the freeway. Worse, the station wasn't even visible. I drove a bit. Nothing. Where was it? A mile ahead? Two? I said, “Screw this” and got back on 52 South.
Then the gas gauge light went on, which never happens to me.
It would soon be dark, and I didn't like the idea of running out of gas in the middle of nowhere. No matter what, I thought, I'll get gas at the next exit.
That one looked promising. Near the town of Zumbrota, I could actually see the gas station, a SuperAmerica, on the other side of the highway. So we took the exit, drove over the bridge, and ... ran into an orange construction barrier. The road to the gas station was completely blocked. We could only go right or left: right was the exit ramp for 52 North, while left was the entrance ramp back onto 52 North. I shook my head. I looked around more carefully. The gas station was about 100 feet away but there was no way to get to it. It was that classic American dilemma: couldn't get there from here.
“Is this completely ...?”
“It is,” Patricia said.
I sighed. “Any thoughts?”
“Maybe try the other side of the freeway? There's a McDonald's there. Maybe there's something else, too?”
But there wasn't, so we returned to the construction sign, thinking we'd simply missed something. We hadn't. I parked next to the sign and got out.
“I'll see if I can just buy a canister of gasoline,” I said.
In the evening light, I walked down a steep hill full of spongy grass and into the SA. Two girls were chatting behind the counter.
“Did you know that the construction over there is blocking anyone from that side from entering this place?” I asked. They looked up, then craned their necks to the construction site. No, they didn't know. “So is there another way to get here?” I asked. The older girl mentioned driving further north about a mile and coming in from the eastern side, but I imagined myself getting hopelessly lost that way.
“So ... Do you have any canisters for sale?”
The girl looked blank for a moment, then perked up, “Yes,” and led me to a wall where ... there was nothing. “Oh, I guess we don't. I guess we're out.”
“Huh. How about one I could borrow?”
I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd said no, but she agreed. I thanked her, filled it up, carried it over the grassy hill to the car ... and couldn't figure out how to work it. The nozzle was made of plastic, and we figured you were supposed to pull back on it, twist it, and it would lock in place, allowing an opening for the gas to flow out. But it wouldn't lock into place. I actually had to hold it in place, and wound up spilling gas all over my hands. Even then it came out in a glurging trickle. Meanwhile, other cars kept driving up and looking as confused as we had by the construction signs. Patricia always gave them a shrug of commiseration.
Eventually we filled up the tank—about a quarter full—and I returned the canister, asked for a bathroom to wash my hands, washed my hands about five times but couldn't get rid of them smell. I also gave the girl $10 for her trouble. But I'd learned my lesson. Never subsume your true nature for the sake of efficiency. It's never efficient.