Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fueling Up (Way) Beyond the Tank

The other day I left my house but my wallet didn't. I didn't realize its absence until I reached in my purse for it to pay for parking. My heart skipped a beat. Hey, what an unusual break. Somehow, my checkbook, which I only use at home, was lying in the bottom of my purse. Like settling into a difficult yoga pose, I paid and left the lot with a smile of relief across my face. It wasn't long, however, let's say two seconds, that my calm breathing stopped short. Ahh, I had exactly 11 miles before my tank would run dry. How was I going to get home -- 20 miles away-- including a long bridge crossing? What gas station takes a check, especially without ID? 

No money. No cards. No fuel. But I had to give it a try. I pulled into the closest and what I'm sure is the most expensive gas station in San Francisco, put on a hopeful face and asked if they'd help me out by accepting a check, and if not that, I'd memorized my VISA number, so certainly that would work? Receiving a flat no, I went back to my car and rummaging through the center console, discovered six quarters, enough to buy .3 gallons of gas. Out went the money and in went the dribble of gas. I turned on the car and presto, What? It registered 7 miles until empty? How could that be? That's what I'd entered with. I left the station and began looking for station number two, hoping for better luck.

"Sorry, we can't take checks or a credit card without swiping it," said the friendly young Latina behind the counter. Continuing she asked, "How much gas would you like? I'll pay for it," she offered picking up her wallet. "Really?" I thought, incredulous, and said to her. "I'll write you a check." "That's OK," she said, "you can pay me back sometime when you're back in this neighborhood." "I'll write you a check now and thank you, you're an angel," I insisted as I wrote out $5.00 and handed it to her. Certainly my hybrid would get me home on 1.5 gallons given its 20+ miles per gallon. Again, my yoga calm returned, multiplied by the generosity of this stranger.  I jumped in my car, turned it on and as I pulled into the street... What?! The gage still registered 7 miles to empty. How could this be? Should I trust the gage, chancing it that I could make it home? All I could picture was being parked on the thin shoulder of the bridge, awaiting a tow truck. Ahhh! I'd have to refuel again.

I drove through town and a growing rush of late afternoon traffic to the only other gas station I knew, one perched at the top of the hill just before the entrance to the bridge. I stepped up to the window, revealed my plight, and again received a flat and definitive, "We can't do that." With five miles now registered on my gage, I had to try a different tack. I leaned against the outside of the station window and waited. As a 20-something guy came ambling up to the window from his truck I shyly inquired, "I know this is an unusual request, but my car's out of gas and my wallet is at home. May I give you a personal check for $10 so that I have enough gas to get home, please?" He looked at me and without hesitation replied, "Let me just buy your gas and we'll call it a day." What?! Angel #2?! He then peered into the window of the station and said, "I was hoping to buy a power cord for my phone, it's totally dead as is my iPad and I don't have directions to make a delivery." What?! "I have one for you!" I almost shouted. He leaned against the counter and said to the attendant, "$15 for pump #7." My pump. When I got in my car and turned it on, it registered 123 miles to empty. 

Empty; I was anything but that. I was fueled. Fueled by being listened toAcknowledgedMet where I was. And fueled by not one but two fellow humans, two strangers. who gave freely without hesitation or expectation so that I could move forward free of worry and fear. 

Fueled up, way beyond the tank.