The $88.28 Gas Cap

Boom! Whoosh!...

Boom! Whoosh! ...

Around the Dynamo homestead, my wife and I share most household duties. There are some clear divisions of labor: Pet care and laundry are in my wife's domain, chiefly because I'm horrible at both.

My realm: Lawn care, furnace-related stuff, and anything that has anything to do with cars. That includes keeping the gas tanks full, because my wife has sworn unto death she will never pump gas. In fact, she's never pumped gas in her life. Never.

She warned me about this before we were married.

"When we get hitched, you're pumping the gas," she told me.

"Why?"

"I read about a woman who blew up pumping her own gas," she replied. "I don't want to blow up."

"Well, maybe she was doing something stupid. Maybe she was smoking."

"I don't want to blow up."

"Maybe she was wearing a fuzzy sweater," I continued. "The ones that get all clingy in the dryer and eat people's socks. Maybe there was a huge arc of sweater-static-lightning between her chest and the gas pump. Boom! Whoosh!"

"I don't want to blow up."

"Just don't wear fuzzy sweaters."

"Listen, Romeo, you wanna marry me, fine. But I'm not blowing up. Got it?"

Well, I wanted to marry her, so pumping gas was my job starting on day one. Throughout our marriage, the first words out of my mouth after returning from a refueling expedition have always been: "Honey...you won't blow up!"

Now I know what you're thinking.

Surely there have been occasions when I wasn't able to pump gas. What about when I'm out of town? What about when I'm sick?

Two words: Full Service

Her motto: "Let the effin attendant blow up. That's his job."

(Oddly enough, she's never expressed any concern I might be blown to bits.)

So until recently it's always been either me or a gas station attendant who risked life and limb to fuel up my wife's Neon.

But now there's one more fall back for those rare occasions I don't top off the tank: my daughter, who has pumped gas a handful of times. No casualties or explosions were reported, but this doesn't mean there hasn't been drama.

Case in point: A week before Christmas, I got out of bed a little late. I hurriedly dressed, grabbed my coffee, and headed out to the driveway. Suddenly I realized I'd forgotten to gas up my wife's Neon the night before.

I stopped and frowned. Do it now? Or do it later?

I began to run calculations through my head: she had just shy of a quarter tank of gas. More than enough for a couple trips to the mall and back, with plenty left to spare. I ran the figures through my head again. Yup. Twenty miles of driving, tops. Against 50-60 miles worth of gas in the Neon's tank.

Despite a nagging feeling of nascent impending doom in the pit of my stomach, I decided to wait until later in the day. I jumped into my full-o-gas Buick and spun off to work.

My plan was perfect but for one flaw: My wife had a little more on her to-do list than a trip or two to the mall. She had to make a trip up to Misericordia University to pick up my final-exam-frazzled daughter.

A ten mile journey.

From Dallas, she was headed to Penn Lake to visit her sister.

Another twenty-seven miles.

Then, of course, she had to drive home.

Another twenty-one miles, nearly sixty miles in total.

She would need gas.

She picked up my daughter, who hadn't slept in two days due to cramming for exams, and headed toward Penn Lake. They stopped at a self-serve gas station. My daughter was dispatched to fuel up the car and risk immolation.

The resumed the drive to Penn Lake. At some point along a desolate stretch of roadway, my bleary-eyed daughter asked my wife: "Did you put the gas cap back on?"

"I never get out of the car when gas is being pumped. I don't want to blow up."

I was schlepping away happily at work when I got a frantic call from my daughter.

"Dad, we stopped for gas. Something terrible happened."

"Oh my god," I exclaimed. "Your Mom blew up!"

"No, we lost the gas cap."

I went into rescue mode. I took a long lunch and went to Wal Mart. They had gas caps. One said it fit a Neon. It was only $5.27. Just four months earlier, my mechanic had replaced a leaky cap with one that cost me three times that. I bought the cheapo cap and drove all the way out to Penn Lake. I replaced the cap, and drove all the way back to work.

I figured that was that.

We men are foolish, aren't we?

A couple of weeks ago the Neon's "Check Engine" light came on and stayed on. The car was due for a checkup at the end of January, so we used my Buick as the workhorse until then.

When I dropped off the Neon at the mechanics, I prepared myself for the telephone call that would tell me what horrible thing had gone wrong with the car's engine, and how much of my devastated 401k I'd have to cash out to fix it.

The call came in: "The car's ready, Jimbo."

I took a deep breath and said: "Tell me about the check engine light."

"Wrong gas cap. I needed pliers to get it off. I think I sprained my wrist. Where'd ya get that thing? Wal Mart?"

He replaced the gas cap again.

At home, I tallied up the damages:

  • 3 Gas caps: $36.63
  • Engine diagnostics: $31.75
  • Mileage for my rescue mission from work to Penn Lake and back: $19.90

Grand Total: $88.28

As I finished calculating, my wife approached me.

"Hey, I need a favor."

"What's that?"

"My car needs gas. I don't want to blow up."

"Sure," I sighed.

"It's cold out. Wear a jacket."

"No thanks," I sighed. "Just give me a fuzzy sweater. And a cigarette lighter."

I told her not to wear the sweater...

I told her not to wear the sweater...

* * *