What’s Going On In My Gas Tank?Posted: September 13, 2013
A mystery happens in my car. It happens daily. Slowly. Inevitably. Then faster but still inevitably.
The mystery begins when I fill the car’s fuel tank. I drop back into the driver’s seat and turn the key. The fuel gauge rockets up to F. Ahhhh, such a good feeling.
A clean car with a full tank of gas is one of life’s most satisfying experiences. That feeling of automotive completeness is so important that Abraham Maslow considered adding it to his hierarchy of needs. Sadly, Dr. Maslow passed on before he finished updating the famous pyramid with an automotive layer above the safety layer but beneath love and belonging. Not many know that on the day Maslow died his car was found in his driveway, immaculate and gassed up.
Yet, as joyful and satisfying as the full gas tank is, it is the source of mystery. It causes frustration and disappointment. The full tank is potential that will never be met.
Allow me to explain.
Let’s suppose that I am on a road trip. I fill my tank before I leave for my destination, four hundred miles away. As I drive, I see that with a quarter of the fuel burned, I’ve covered more than one hundred miles. “Not bad”, I think, “I can do all four hundred miles without getting more gasoline.”
I drive on. My iPod shuffles up the Bruce Springsteen song “Drive All Night”. I glance at the dashboard, knowing I’m going to drive just like Bruce. I look down and see that I’ve now used half of my gas. But now I’m concerned. Where the first quarter tank got me more than a hundred miles from home, the second has moved me less than a hundred miles. But really, I’m averaging one hundred miles per quarter tank so four hundred miles should be no problem.
But there is a problem. The remaining half of a tank will get me another one hundred miles. Not two hundred, because I get one hundred from each quarter. No, I get one hundred because, well, I don’t know. I just know I need gas and I’ve only gone three hundred miles.
Every car I’ve owned has worked the same way; the miles and amounts change, but the results are the same.
If this has happened with every car I’ve owned, it must happen to other drivers. I’m sure it’s happening to you too. I wish I knew why it happens because you’re really nice and I’d like to help you understand, but I just can’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve tried. I’ve spent a lot of time behind the wheel trying to puzzle this out for all of us, because that’s the kind of guy I am. I’ve just never found a logical explanation.
Maybe you’ve got this figured out.
I’m always a quarter tank short of the solution. How unsatisfying.