I filled my car up with gasoline recently. You wouldn’t think that I could get a blog post out of this, but then perhaps you have never thought about how you feel with a full tank of gas.
First, I love cars and I Love driving them. And there are the other times, days of drudgery where there are errands to run and places to be where I may not feel like being there, but have to go anyway. A full gas tank helps.
A few months ago I filled up in the middle of an emergency trip brought on by a forgotten article of clothing before a family wedding. The person (who shall remain unidentified) located the necessary things – an hour away. I volunteered to meet the one at the other end of this transaction at roughly the halfway point.
As I began, my fuel gauge was at the 1/4 line. I have had this car for quite awhile and understand that 1/4 tank in this car is not the same thing as taking its fuel capacity and dividing by four. Automotive fuel tanks are sometimes oddly shaped in order to fit into oddly shaped places. And the device that sends its signal does not measure actual fuel flow, but the fuel level in one particular spot of the tank. This is a long way of saying that the bottom quarter of the tank in this car is probably more like an actual 1/8 than it is 1/4.
I knew I could make it to my meeting place, but also knew that I would need to stop for gas somewhere on the way back. A mid-trip adjustment in our meeting place – a gas station, as luck would have it – solved that problem for me. We met and made the clothing exchange (my that sounds a lot more daring than it actually was) while a fueling hose dangled from my car’s fender. Thank goodness for automatic shut-offs on modern gas pumps.
As I began my return trip I looked at that fuel gauge on “F” and was reminded of how good this has always made me feel. Because it is something that never fails to make me feel like the world is fresh and full of possibility.
When my car is full of gasoline the panoply of options in my life is limitless. I can go where I want to when I want to, and it is at least one thing in my life that is absolutely, totally perfect. I mean – how can a fuel tank be more than full? It cannot, so “FULL” is a kind of perfection that we rarely get anywhere else in life.
My car may be old, it may need washed, it may have dents and scratches and other imperfections that come from use, but with a tank full of petrol (I love that British term) my car is just as full of fuel as the brand new Mercedes or Range Rover that brings so much pride to its owner. A full tank is a full tank no matter the value or condition of your car.
How often have we said that everything can always be better? We could have more money in the bank, more food in the fridge, tip the scale at slightly less than we do or serve a meal that could have been just a little bit better if only we had done that one little thing differently.
In the practice of law there is almost always something more that could have been done. In an adversarial case, it doesn’t matter so much when you come out on top, but if you don’t there is the tendency to second guess your many decisions – even when they were good ones. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose no matter how much you do.
But a full gas tank is not like that. When you get down to the “E” there is no second-guessing how much you had put in at the last fueling. A full tank is a full tank, and there is no more that could have been done. So long as you are a “fill it up” person and not a “$5 on pump number 3” person, anyway.
There are certainly things that are more important in life – quite a few of them. A family that is all healthy and present at a holiday meal, a home that is warm and dry when a storm rages outside or being able to end the day with the one you love.
A full tank of gas, however, can approximate a similar feeling. It doesn’t matter if you have pumped 35 gallons into it or 10.9 (as with my little Honda) as long as it is full the world is your oyster. That little needle on the “F” is a powerful force for personal satisfaction and fulfillment.
I have had cars where this feeling eluded me. One car, for example, was old and would leak fuel if the car was filled above 3/4 on the gauge. And another had a defective gauge that would never read above 3/4 no matter if you filled the tank to the point of overflow. The first car robbed me of that uniquely fulfilling feeling and the second provided the feeling but withheld the visual reminder of just how grand life was in that one moment and in that one way.
I think one of the secrets to a happy life is to savor and appreciate the small things. And for me a full tank of gas is one of those things that is not appreciated often enough.
Cropped and re-sized photograph of fuel gauge on “full” from the Flickr page of Pete, one marked as being in the public domain. Thank you, Pete, for saving me from the need to fill the tank on one of my cars in order to have a picture ready in time for publication. Other peoples’ full tanks can stoke my sense of well-being too, it appears.