Monday, August 24, 2009

Count Down Break Down

Today's post comes from guest author Taylor. Taylor runs the very funny My Older Brothers blog.

I like to consider myself a pretty easy-going person. I don’t usually let things get to me, and I don’t stress about much. But I think whoever invented the digital heart attack called “Distance To Empty” in my car is trying to kill me. It’s the setting on the overhead trip computer that shows you how many miles you have until you run out of gas. I can just hear him talking about it mocking my pain (“Beautiful, isn’t it? It took me half a lifetime to invent it. I’m sure you’ve discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain.”)

My minivan, I mean Corvette, has one of those trip computers. And its main feature is the DTE mileage. It estimates how long you have until you’re empty. Pretty neat, right? Wrong! It would be neat if it was accurate. But it jumps around depending on how hard you stop or how tilted you are when you park. So I can get in my car and see “DTE = 22 miles” and then back out of the driveway and see it plummet immediately to 13 miles. And then it does that accelerated countdown to zero. It doesn’t drop a mile for every mile I drive (because that would actually make sense). Instead, it drops 3 miles every time I pass a gas station. Then it hits zero when I’ve hit that stretch of road without a gas station for 10 miles. So I have to accelerate slower than a golf cart and coast as much as I can without getting hit by another driver. And just to be safe, I turn off my air conditioner and lean forward (I figure every little bit helps).

My wife thinks I’m crazy. She’ll drive on “DTE = 0 miles” for days and laugh maniacally as I squirm in the passenger seat (no, not really). And she’ll accelerate for no reason (“Not to fifty!”) Then she’ll toss the keys to me and say, “Your turn!” It’s like playing gas tank Russian Roulette. It reminds me of a show I watched when I was younger (Weird Science) where one of the main characters has a timer that counts down to his death. Watching the DTE drop to zero is like watching the countdown to my own destruction.

I just miss the good old days when I knew that having an empty tank really meant having an eighth of a tank, and you had to see the needle drop an inch below “E” before worrying. But this countdown business is going to put me in the hospital. I don’t think I’ve never had a panic attack, but I’m pretty sure I know what it feels like now. It’s like being in some kind of Pit of Despair and having 50 years sucked out of my life.

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