Owning a small, efficient vehicle makes sense for someone in his early twenties living on the other side of town from his parents. A larger capacity for passengers is more useful for nearly empty nesters playing the sandwich generation game. That’s how the world works—most of the time.
But every now and again, even young people need more cargo space. My son wanted to pick up a large appliance, so he asked to borrow our van. My packed schedule required transportation, so I offered to switch vehicles. For 24 hours, my son could use our van as long as I had his zippy little compact car for my errands.
The van served him well during his high school days and again when he was between cars of his own. He was extremely familiar with our vehicle. I had only driven his car briefly just before he became its owner. There was much I did not recall about his car.
The first thing I did not remember was that the car required two keys. There was one key to unlock it and a completely different key for the ignition. Constantly mixing up two keys throughout the day depleted my life of a ridiculous amount of time. When I finally returned his car, I no longer cared my car didn’t have a working keyless entry fob.
The stereo system was also different than I remembered. But then, that was because my son had a new one installed. The new one accommodated his high-tech auxiliary hook-up needs. It also chirped twice like a sick baby chicken every time I started the car.
Music makes driving less boring, so I tried to figure out how to use the glowing, high-tech system. After a few attempts at getting the device to make a sound other than the sick baby chicken thing, I decided it was best not to fiddle with my son’s stuff. Instead, I opened a streaming music app on my smartphone and turned up the volume.
While I was able to hear my music, I was not in any danger of offending the surrounding population—even if I decided to roll down the windows. Of course, that was assuming I could refrain from singing along.
While driving around town, I became uncomfortably hot. It being winter, my son had the heat set to broil. As a 40-something, I was equipped with my own internal furnace that often worked on overdrive. I turned the heat off. Unfortunately, I was still too warm. I craved a burst of cool air.
My first instinct was to roll down the window, despite my urge to sing along to the 80s music softly draining my smartphone of power. That’s when I remembered another thing about the car that I had forgotten. The driver’s side window did not work.
This realization occurred on my way to the bank, where I drove directly to the drive-through with my check ready for deposit. I patiently waited for my turn. Shortly thereafter, I pulled up to the teller window, looked through the permanently closed car window at the teller, and then pulled around to the parking lot.
After recounting my embarrassing banking moment, my youngest suggested I should have had my mom sit in the back seat behind the driver’s side. That way, I could have let her manage the transaction through the back window. Apparently, this is how my oldest child and his friends navigate the fast food drive-through scene. It is also why his little brother won’t ride with him and his friends to pick up fast food anymore.
Toward late afternoon, as a motherly courtesy, I decided to fill my son’s gas tank. Driving here and there around town over the course of one day was not going to drain the tank of much. But I knew my son would appreciate a full tank upon receiving his car back. I also figured it would help him overlook the fact that I’d unsuccessfully fiddled with his audio system.
As I was pulling out of the gas station, I immediately noticed the needle on the gas gauge only registered half a tank. I knew that couldn’t be accurate. I checked my receipt and verified that I had indeed just added enough gas to fill the tank. That’s when I realized the gauge was in shock.
The gas tank had not been filled to capacity since the day my son bought the car. The gauge was used to the tank being at least half empty at all times because who needs more than a 20-spot at any given time when you are 20-something?
Oddly, as I drove through town, the gauge slowly, timidly crept higher. Thirty minutes after I filled the tank, as I parked the car in our driveway, I checked the needle. It was proudly pointing to the giant F at the top of the gauge. I can’t be certain, but I thought I heard my son’s car giggle just a little.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.