Running on Empty

When I got into my van this morning, then cranked it up, I noticed a warning light on the dash that I’d never seen before. “Warning!” it screamed, with a slightly Midwestern accent. Probably no big deal, of course, but you never know, like the time I got a warning about my wheels, or my tires, not sure, so got worried, like maybe I’m about to lose an axle on I-10.

Turned out to be a warning about tire pressure, so I had it checked in Banning, CA, they deflating all the tires uniformly, then re-checked in Tucson, AZ, because the light never went off, they re-inflating all the tires and cursing everything Californian, finally getting the light and dash message to go off, also.

But this was a different light, never seen it before, and shaped like a gas pump, so must mean: Yeow! When’s the last time I filled the tank? I can’t even remember. That tells you how often I drive. I’d drive even less if I didn’t have a hostel to run. I made do without a car for five years in LA, which tells you as much about modern LA as it does about me. It’s better now. Me? Meh, good question…

I drive my van so little that the battery goes dead and the darn thing won’t start. So I bought a special ‘jump battery’ just for that purpose. The situation got so bad I finally got my electrical system checked, and they put a little doo-dad on it, then brought it to show me. It said, and I sh*t you not, “You need a new alternator.” Shazam!

So I did just that, and $400 later, wished I hadn’t bought the special jump-start battery—until the problem recurred. Like I suspected before: I just don’t drive the damn thing enough to keep the battery charged! Of course now I’m wondering if I really needed the new alternator. But that’s silly; of course I did! After all, the little gizmo said so, and little gizmos don’t lie, now, do they? Do they?

(So I rushed to the nearest petrol pump, and immediately filled up, more than twenty-five gallons–over fifty dollars!  I didn’t even know the tank would hold that much!)