What, me worry?

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But even though that space never materialized as the Merc and I trekked from 66th Street N. to Gandy Boulevard to I-275 (maybe because I was looking for it), I was pretty confident that I’d get to work, no sweat.

And as I made it up and over the Howard Frankland hump, I was sure I’d come up aces with another successful gamble.

So when the Merc started to sputter and slow down, my face must’ve turned 20 shades of “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” Because the last time I ran out of gas, I was heading up the incline on I-275 South, just before the 54th Avenue exit. Once the car was back on level ground, I was good to go, at least to the nearest gas station. That was six years ago, also in the spring. Was history repeating itself?

Dejected, I eased onto the shoulder, flipped on the hazards and made the obligatory call to Triple A.

Nearly an hour later, a tall red-headed fellow emerged from a Frank’s Auto Body van (or was it Frank’s Towing?). He looked between 25 and 30, and sported the initials “M.J.” on his work shirt.

After informing him of the likely reason for my predicament (I mean, it could've been a bad fuel pump, right?), I was totally caught off guard when he told me that he couldn’t give me gas.

“You didn’t bring any?” I asked, incredulous.

“No. ’Cause you’re wearing a Yankee shirt.”

A roadside assistance funny man.

“You’re a Red Sox fan?”

“No, Devil Rays.”

And with that, M.J. proceeded to have a laugh as he sauntered back to retrieve his gas container.

After he dumped in a little over two gallons of fuel (all he was authorized to dispense), my Merc still wouldn’t turn over. I popped the hood and M.J. dropped some gas directly into the carburetor. It kicked in briefly, only to sputter down again. For the next 20 minutes, we gamely persisted, me pumping the pedal and turning the ignition, M.J. splashing a little more fuel into the carburetor. We even moved the Merc to get a more even surface, since the angle of the car had all the fuel settling on the right side.

M.J. knew from experience that two gallons should have been plenty to get the party started and speculated that a bad fuel line might be the culprit. I suspected otherwise, but it seemed we’d run out of options. He headed back to his van with my permission to call for a tow truck. This was not the way my day was supposed to turn out.

But fortunately M.J. was determined to give it one last go, convinced as I was that the incline of the road was still the ultimate problem. And sure enough, after moving the Merc again to more level ground on the grass, the engine fired up. I kept my foot on the pedal to feed the gas, shook M.J.’s hand and gave him a thankful wave as I merged back into traffic and toward the nearest gas station.

So for the second time in six years, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Does it really matter? Check with me in the spring of 2013.

OK, so David Warner isn’t the only Creative Loafing staffer who doesn’t know how to read the warning signs.

Any right-minded person who had to drive my car this morning from the Tyrone Square Mall area of St. Pete to CL’s headquarters on the corner of Lemon and Howard in Tampa would have taken one look at the fuel gauge and thought, “Better gas up.”

Not me.

Not that it didn’t cross my mind. In fact, I kinda sorta (read: not at all seriously) considered adding a few gallons to the tank before deciding that I was already late enough for work and should just take my chances. Chances that I considered heavily stacked in my favor.

In my defense, my car and I have had an understanding (at least I thought we did) that a needle hovering precariously close to “E” isn’t as dire as it might seem (at least I thought it wasn’t). You see, I’ve owned my ’85 Mercury Marquis for over 11 years, and in that time, I like to think I’ve come to know her pretty well. And one of the things I’ve taken for granted is that her needle usually belies the truth about how much is left in the tank. One look at the fuel gauge and she’s nearly running on empty. Glance away, look back and voila, a comfortable breathing room has appeared.

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