I visited my mother and her husband this weekend in Toledo. I showed off my new car and bragged about its gas mileage. They both inspected the car with great respect for its hybrid engineering. When I later stayed with my sister and her partner in Ann Arbor, I went into my rap again about how I was getting close to 61 mpg to and from work and on the highway, at 75mph, about 40-44mpg. They too were duly impressed, looking for a new car themselves, and filled with lots of questions I was more than happy to answer about the Prius. I shared how I used to like speeding, but now I work to get the highest gas mileage which means driving a bit more slowly.
This morning I left very early to come back to Chicago. I didn’t want to miss my Qigong class. I was tooling along and all of a sudden I felt the car begin to slow down. From 70 mph, it began to drop to 66, then 57, then 45. I was so engaged in listening to Weekend Edition, about how we are barreling toward the fiscal cliff, that I hadn’t realized I had run out of gas.
I was able to pull off onto the side of the road, feeling very foolish and stupid. I think I had somehow begun to believe that the Prius had such terrific gas mileage, I would never have to put gas into her again.
I called road service but because I was on a toll road they wouldn’t come and they told me to call 911, who told me I had to call road service. To make a long story short, eventually Officer Brown of the State Police showed up. He drove me to a gas station where I purchased a gas can and he helped me negotiate how to get its lid off. I filled the can and he drove me back to my car. He filled the gas tank for me because it was on the street side of the highway, urging me to move to the shoulder side of the car. A state highway truck had stopped and its driver was directing traffic around us.
During our short journey together, Officer Brown was gracious, kind, and generous. At my urging he shared a few stories about how he and his family have been involved in police work for generations (he himself for 33 years) and that his daughter was a middle-school teacher. We shared stories about the qualities it takes to teach adolescents (I being a middle school teacher myself). He spoke with a great reverence for teachers. I responded with the deep respect I have for the work he and his colleagues perform.
I certainly was frustrated with my stupidity and hubris about my Prius and I was frustrated that the search for gas eliminated my ability to get to my Qigong class on time. But, after all, I did get to meet Officer Brown and somehow, as I waved out my window to him as I pulled back onto the highway, I felt my Qi loosen and flow anyway.