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My car has always been good to me in the sense that it has failed me only in convenient locations – thickly settled areas in friendly neighborhoods and always within walking distance of a pay phone.

I don’t have a cell phone, nor do I want one. Though on occasions like this, I had to laugh at my stubbornness. It was a fine evening to run out of gas. It was late October. There was a full blood moon, and it was a balmy sixty degrees. I was heading south on route 128 on my way home from an appointment in Gloucester with my psychopharmacologist. I thought I could make it to the gas station. I truly did. But when the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree, I knew there was trouble.

I steered toward the breakdown lane and went to pull the hazard light button on the steering column. It had disappeared. Confused, I turned on the dome light and found a hole where the button once resided. I peered in and saw a little silver button inside. I found a pen, pressed the button and the hazard lights began flashing.

I paused for a moment to consider my situation. I kept a gas can in my trunk and remembered just passing a sign that said exit 16 was a mile away. I would simply walk to the exit and find a gas station.

And so I began my journey. I walked briskly, occasionally looking over my shoulder to see my flashing car growing smaller in the distance until she disappeared. It suddenly occurred to me how much I take my headlights for granted, for there are no streetlights on highways. Clad in a long black coat, I was grateful for the full moon and the headlights of passing cars. I then remembered the beige jacket in the back seat of my car, which was now about ¾ of a mile away. I really should have changed before beginning my walk, but how could I be angry with myself? I was flustered and doing the best I could.

Suddenly I was struck with a brilliant idea. I would light a cigarette! The pretty orange glow would make me more visible to passing cars. Impressed with my resourcefulness, I shifted the gas can to my left hand and fished for my cigarettes and lighter with my right. I was being saved by my bad habit.

It was quiet but for the sound of an occasional passing car, my breath and footsteps, until I heard a loud rustling in the brush to my right. Maybe it was a coyote, a bobcat or even a mountain lion preparing to pounce. I walked faster.

I finally made it to the ramp, crossed over and walked on the grass to the end. This led me to a deserted road, void of streetlights or any sign of civilization. I looked to my right and then to my left. The left felt a bit safer, so I made my way down the street with no sidewalk. While walking under the shiny dark overpass, I decided that I was officially scared.

I continued on in the darkness until a car pulled over across the street. It was a cruiser. My hand flew to my chest, and I breathed a great sigh of relief.

A middle-aged cop rolled down the window.

“Is that your car back there?”

“Yes, on 128. I think I ran out of gas,” I explained before realizing that it was obvious.

“Okay,” he replied. He was looking at me funny.

“Do you know where I might find a gas station?”

“Sure, if you want to get in, I’ll take you,” he said kindly.

“Thank you so much,” I said crossing over towards him.

“I’m going to have to ask you to put out that cigarette first ma’am. It’s really not a good mix with the gas can,” he patiently explained.

“Of course,” I said, laughing nervously. Silly me.

He told me that someone had called from his cell phone after seeing me walking down the highway.

“People around here are good,” he said.

The gas station was far, at least four miles, and I never would have found it without the help of this kind officer.

We filled the gas can and returned to my car. He insisted on putting the gas in the tank for me. I held his flashlight, so he could see. My car started and I thanked him profusely. When I tried to turn off the hazard lights, I couldn’t get hold of the button, so I just drove home with the damn things flashing.

When I finally got home, I went upstairs, poured a zesty beverage and gathered the equipment that I hoped would fix my problem. Armed with a coat hanger, a paper clip, pliers, a pair of tweezers and a fondue fork, I returned to my poor car. My efforts were heroic but fruitless, and I knew my battery was in grave danger.

It was then that I remembered the fuse box! This was my second clever idea in one night, and I was mighty impressed with myself. I retrieved the owner’s manual from the glove compartment and searched for the fuse map. I found the offending fuse and carefully removed it with my handy tweezers. Though this disabled my directionals, it effectively solved the problem for the time being. I returned upstairs.

This meant I would have to take my car to cousin Austin to get fixed tomorrow, since trying to drive without directionals is almost as silly as trying to drive without gas.

The next morning I drove to Austin’s shop. He wasn’t in yet, so I left him a long note, very similar to this story. Austin is a brilliant mechanic and by evening my car was fixed, the hazard light button replaced with a dainty silver screw.

In recounting this tale to friends, they all seemed impressed that I keep a gas can in my trunk. And I thought everyone did. It is my firm belief that every decent trunk should have a sea bucket, a candle in a coffee can (if you live in a cold climate), jumper cables and a gas can. It’s good to be prepared for those occasional mishaps or unfortunate errors in judgment. After all, if you’re going to be stupid, it’s important to be smart about it. Besides, I so love adventure. A cell phone would have ruined all the fun.

Officer Egan
Manchester by the Sea
Police Department
Manchester, MA
Dear Officer Egan:

I wanted to thank you again for helping me out this past October. I realize that running out of gas, especially on the highway, is not conducive to safe travel. I want you to know that I recognize and appreciate that it was very dangerous for you to help me, especially since my gas tank is on the driver’s side. Please know that I will be much more careful in the future.

This story is my way of saying thank you, once again, and giving a nod to you and your brothers in blue for all your brave work.

Bright Blessings,
Christine Casoli

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