Not running on empty

Derrick Knutson
Derrick Knutson

Pouring gasoline into a car’s tank with a 16-ounce water bottle isn’t the most effective way to fuel up, but it’s what I had to do recently.

About two weeks ago, I was driving to work and less than a mile from my house, my car began to sputter.

I looked at the gas gauge and saw there was about half a quarter tank left—plenty to make it the mile and a half to the gas station, or so I thought.

Apparently my Dodge Caliber’s gas gauge is more of an estimation tool than an instrument of precise measurement.

The vehicle ran out of fuel just as I was rounding a corner, leaving me just enough time to steer it to the side of the road before its momentum stilled.

I knew Jill, my wife, was just about to leave for work, so I quickly gave her a call.

She picked me up in her car and drove me to the nearby gas station, but said she had to leave for work right after that, or she’d be late.

So I bought a gas can and filled it up with fuel.

She dropped me back off at my car, and stayed long enough to watch me have a heck of a time transferring the gas from the can into my car.

I bought one of those gas cans that comes equipped with a nozzle that needs to be locked into place in order for gas to flow through it. If it’s not locked, a stopper snaps shut at the end of the nozzle that screws onto the gas can.

The locking mechanism was defective, so no gas could get from the can, down the spout and into my car.

I told Jill to just drop me off at home—I’d figure this problem out with the aid of the excellent ingenuity all men possess.

The first tool I turned to: duct tape.

I grabbed a roll of duct tape, a pair of scissors and donned an assortment of warm winter clothing, including boots and gloves.

It was about -2 degree on this day.

Of course it can never be warm when things like this happen.

I pretty much sprinted the three quarters of a mile to my car because I wanted to lessen the amount of time I spent out in the frigid cold.

When I got there, I put numerous layers of duct tape on the gas can spout in an attempt to keep it open.

This did not work.

The gas ate right through the sticky stuff on the duct tape.

I took the spout off the can and tried to simply dump some of the contents of the gas can into my car.

This was a poor idea.

Very little gas got into the car, and I got a fair amount of it on my gloves, pants and coat.

If someone had driven by at that moment and tossed a lit cigarette out of their window, I would have likely been transformed into a pillar of flame.

I guess that wouldn’t have been all bad. I would have no longer been so cold.

I thought about running back to my house to get some kind of other tool to aid in this endeavor (super duct tape or something), but then I saw an empty water bottle in my car.

I decided to pour gas into the bottle, and then transfer the fuel into my car. I poured three bottles full of gas into my car and then tried to start it.

No luck.

I put in a fourth.

It still wouldn’t start.

I was just about to call one of my coworkers to come pick me up, but I decided to put one more bottle of gas into my car.

I turned the key and … success!

Fearing it wouldn’t stay running for very long, I drove the car to the gas station as quickly as I could manage and filled the tank.

I then went into work, and my colleagues told me I “reeked.”

That was the smell of success, in my opinion.

OK, maybe it was actually the smell of absentmindedness.

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