In the car blog, Curbside Classics, someone started a thread of stories about running out of gas. I contributed a couple, but here’s another. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up and my parents sacrificed a lot for the kids, including sending me to private school from 3rd to 6th grades. They were generous to us, at least as generous as their means allowed if not more so.
One way my dad was generous was he let me drive his car pretty much whenever I wanted to as long as he didn’t need it for work. During the school year, he even paid for the gas I used. As I said, we didn’t have a lot of money, so when the gas gauge on our old Plymouth (is there any other kind of Plymouth but an old one?) broke, it stayed broken.
If your gauge is broken, the simplest way to handle it is to fill up every 200 miles. Most cars have a cruising range greater than 200 miles. In fact, I believe that unless you had a ’72 Buick Electra and only drove it a mile at a time in the winter, that would work. Personal experience tells me a ’72 Buick driven under those circumstances has a cruising range of approximately 52 miles on a full 26-gallon tank. I hope I don’t have to explain how I know that.
Once, I was going someplace and when I got behind the oblate circle that was the steering wheel of that Plymouth, I thought it needed gas. Dad insisted it was fine. I think he was kind of low on cash, but I didn’t push it. I got in and drove about two blocks before it ran out. If I had gas money, the Blue Cloud (it was red, but it burned oil, a lot of oil actually) still would not have made it to the nearest station.
I’m sure I was as callow as any teenager who ever walked or drove the face of the earth. But after my first year in college, I couldn’t afford a second, so I got a job in a wholesale bakery. That was hot, hard work, but it was unionized and the starting wage for someone with very few skills was quite good. The overtime was good too. I worked something like 15 or 16 months that year.
I was single, living with my parents for free and not supporting my own car. My folks wanted me to save money to go back to school and I did that. I banked at least half of every paycheck I received. But I tried to show some appreciation too. My dad was still paying for the car insurance, but I don’t think he put another dime in that car during my year in the bakery. I bought him a battery, a carburetor, a four tires. I also put a speaker in the package shelf so I could blast my tunes from the AM radio. I don’t think Dad ever needed to put gas or oil in the Blue Cloud for a year.
Other than the bank and the Blue Cloud, what else did I spend money on that year? I met this super-cute, super-nice high school senior. She wasn’t a saint yet because she hadn’t put up with me long enough, but her name was and still is Karen.