One little spark...

Photo credit: Giantbomb.com
 by Angie Mansfield

“We’re out of gasoline for the mower. Can you run to town and get some?”

It seemed like a simple request, and I needed to borrow Mom’s mower, so I cheerfully agreed. Especially, and this was the important point, since she was paying. I trotted out to the garage, grabbed the first gas can I saw, stuck it in the trunk of the car, and headed to town. The trip was uneventful, and not the point of this story, so I hope you just skimmed it really quick to get to the good part.

I pulled up to the gas pump, grabbed the can out of the trunk, and filled it up. Then I went to put the cap back on and noticed something disturbing: it was missing a crucial little plastic doohickey. You see, when you fill a gas can and want to transport it without dumping flammable liquid all over the trunk of your car, you put the nozzle upside-down, put the included little plastic doohickey over the resulting hole, and cover it with the cap to keep it tightly closed.

My gas can was missing that all-important little plastic doohickey.

I considered the problem for approximately three seconds, which is about how long my patience for any problem runs on a normal day, and decided that since I hadn’t filled the gas can all the way to the top, it would probably be fine. I hefted it into the trunk and shoved it over against the left wall, wedged in between the front wall of the trunk and a pile of lawn chairs. I figured this arrangement would ensure that the can remained upright, and as long as I didn’t take any left-hand turns on two wheels or anything, I should be fine. I slammed the trunk, hopped in the car, and took off, going around the corner oh-so-slow-and-careful.

I was singing, loudly and off-key, along with “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” by the Georgia Satellites when I reached the left-hand turn that marked the halfway point between the gas station and home. I remembered to slow down carefully, and flipped the turn signal on.

This was when the treacherous, treacherous subconscious part of my brain decided, “Hey! She’s having way too much fun out there, and leaving me to run the damn show again. I swear, she wouldn’t even remember to breathe if I didn’t do it for her. Hmph. I’ll show her.” And it projected an image into the conscious part of my brain: An open can full of gas, belching gasoline fumes into a small, enclosed space. An open can that was wedged right up against the area where the left turn signal would be. Where all the little wires go. Where an ELECTRIC SPARK might be generated each time the light flashed because of my conscientious act of telling people I was turning.

Now, despite all online evidence to the contrary, I am a fairly rational person as a rule. The intellectual part of my brain said, “Haha, good one, Subconscious. How silly of me to think I could turn the car into a gigantic, cinema-worthy fireball just by the simple act of turning on a turn signal. You got me! Hahaha.”

The primitive, irrational, self-preserving part of my brain said, “Shut up, you twit! It’s GASOLINE. It’s flammable. We’re gonna die! Assume disaster positions!”

This part of my brain would not let go of the image of all those gas fumes (strangely, imaginary gas fumes turn green in the trunk of a car) and the shower of sparks I was unleashing every time that blasted signal flashed. 

All of this went through my mind before I’d even finished the turn, and I breathed a little sigh of relief as the signal switched off without lighting off a bomb in the trunk. “Haha,” I even managed to say, though it was a weak “haha” at best.

“Oh, think you’re gonna get off that easy, eh?” said my subconscious. “Have you forgotten that the brake lights come on every time you step on the pedal, Genius, and you can’t just not use the brakes? Hm? Take that!”

Of course, once the thought was in my head, it would not go away. Not until I pulled up in front of my mother’s house, threw the door open as dramatically as I could, and leapt out of the car to land three feet away. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I may have even done a little “Get it off me!” dance, my primitive brain having got its wires temporarily crossed with the distaste-for-bugs part of my brain.

My mother, blissfully oblivious once again to the depths of her eldest daughter’s dementia, strolled out of the house. “You took the bad gas can. You didn’t spill any, did you?”

Did you catch that? Yes. My mother knew I had the “bad” gas can, and said nothing until I had already risked my life bringing the gas home.

Just wait until it’s time to choose her nursing home.

Angie Mansfield, confirmed insane by friends and family, is on a mission to live in a tent for six months, hitting all of the lower 48 states. She is undertaking this journey with her dog, her jade plant named Fred, and her twelve-pack soda box collection, which she hopes to someday fashion into a hang glider. Because hang gliding is, like, totally cool. Follow her insane adventures (heavily embellished, of course) at her blog, The Wandering Zebra: http://wanderingzebra.blogspot.com


  1. You mean your mom SAW you take the bad gas can?

    It was probably her sitting in the backseat warning you, not your consicence at all. Moms are good at playing Conccience Jr.

    I love it that you sing loud while driving.

  2. And off-key. That is essential to the proper road trip atmosphere.

    And she didn't see me take it, but she noticed after I left that it was the one that was gone.

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  4. (Sorry - made a mistake the first time.)

    "Just wait until it's time to choose her nursing home." Funny!

    I'm glad you lived to tell the story!


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