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Home for Christmas

Sarah and I spent the week leading up to Christmas with our families in upstate New York, trying to relax and see all our friends and relatives and have a good time, and we largely succeeded. It was a nice break, and a wonderful holiday, and a big thank you to everyone who helped make it that way.


On the Sunday before Christmas, Sarah and I were out doing some random shopping, and we had to stop for gas. We drove around for a bit, and found the cheapest price in the area at a Hess gas station, so we pulled in, and I filled the tank. When I tried to remove the gaz nozzle from the tank, however, it wouldn't budge.

This concerned me, so, not knowing what to do, I went inside the station. Two kids who couldn't have been much older than 17 were manning the counter, and one of them followed me out to the car and tugged on the nozzle futilely for a few minutes. "I've never seen this before," he said. "I'll call my manager." From what I could tell, the spring wrapped around the end of the nozzle had somehow slipped inside the little metal ring inside the gas tank mouth, and wasn't coming out.

While he went inside, I called triple A. "I've never heard of that," said the operator. "Can you hold on?" I held, and she came back a minute later. "Our drivers aren't going to be able to do anything. I suggest you call emergency services, since it could turn into a hazardous situation." That seemed kind of drastic to me. While I was on the phone with triple A, Sarah called her dad, who agreed to come over.

Our final payment on the car, our cute little 2002 Prius, had cleared literally the day before all this happened. Sarah and I had joked that now that the car was paid off, something would undoubtedly happen to it. I just hoped that if something caused massive damage to the gas tank, Hess would end up having to pay for it. I wasn't hopeful.

The kid from the gas station came out and told me he couldn't get ahold of his manager. We tugged on the nozzle a while more, with no luck. Sarah's dad arrived, and pulled on the nozzle for a bit, also to no avail. While he was doing that, a guy he knew from his old workplace pulled up and started helping. Sarah borrowed a leatherman from a random guy who was stopping to get gas. Nothing seemed to help. Sighing, I called emergency services.

"Hi," I said. "I'm at the Hess station near exit 18. The gas pump nozzle is stuck in my gas tank, and it won't budge. Triple A told me that maybe I should call you because it might potentially become a hazardous situation." "Okay, sir," said the operator. "I'll send someone over to help right away."

Two minutes later, I heard a siren, and a police car came wailing into the lot. The officer who got out looked at what was wrong. "The dispatcher made it sound much more serious," he said. "It sounded like you had driven away from the pump and torn the hose loose. I thought there might have been a fire."

"Gosh," I said.

Another minute later, more sirens wailed, and a firetruck pulled into the lot. Six burly firefighters jumped out and rushed over, one of them carrying an extinguisher. After a minute of confusion, while the police officer and I explained what was up to them, they got a large metal toolbox from the truck and went to work on our car. The police officer and one of the firefighters took down my name and address.

With six burly firefighters huddled around my gas tank mouth, I couldn't see what was going on, so I (and Sarah, and her mom and dad, and the police officer) stood idly by. Suddenly I noticed one of the firefighters handing another a large metal mallet and what looked like a chisel. Visions of massive car repair bills danced in my head. WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM went the hammer. I whimpered softly to myself.

Then one of the firefighters pulled the nozzle out, and another turned to me holding a twisted and broken metal ring. "This is the reducer," he said. "It's just there to make sure you only use unleaded fuel. Your car's fine without it." I looked into the gas tank mouth. Everything appeared fine — not even the paint was scratched. Hooray!

I thanked everyone profusely, and started the car up. My fingers and toes were frozen, and Sarah and I and her parents were all forty-five minutes late for her aunt's Christmas party. As the firefighters stopped traffic and pulled their truck out of the lot, someone who wasn't paying enough attention rearended someone else who had stopped for the firetruck.

When we got to the party, one of Sarah's cousins told us she had just been listening to her police scanner, and heard that someone had gotten the gas nozzle stuck in their tank, and had thought, "What kind of moron manages to do that?"

I guess I'm just that kind of moron!


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jan. 1st, 2006 02:48 am (UTC)
Wow. I hope the rest of your vacation is much less exciting!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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