Monday, October 20, 2008

No. 0045 - More-than-Full Gas Tank Gauge

When I first got my driver's license at 18, gas costed $1.13/gal. When I got off my mission in 2001, I can fill up my tank to my Honda around $15. As some of you would have similar memories of the good-old-days of cheap gas, well, I got some bad news for you (and most of you have probably made peace with this thought already), those days are gone! I travel 80 some miles round trip everyday to work in both stop-go and white knuckle speed driving. For as gas efficient as my Civic is, I have to fill it up just about once a week. It has been a very nice treat to see national gas prices dropped about 50 cents/gal recently (I filled up my car from the gas light to full under $30 tonight, I cheered "YESSSSS!" out loud at the gas station), nevertheless, it is still not the good old days.

There are four gauges on my dashboard and it is sad to say that the one gauge I pay most attention to is the gas gauge. Every tick that the needle drops, I drive a little differently. Every tank I go through, it is like an emotional roller coaster. Here is how it usually goes and what I would say to myself:

Full - clean slate, "let's see how for I can go with this one?", "ready for that road trip!"

3/4 tank - "what?! I filled up yesterday?!"

1/2 tank - the long haul, mileage check, "this thing better say at least 150 miles or more!"

1/4 tank - "better start looking for cheap gas station", "I love how gas price cycles and I always catch the peaks!!", this zone usually last longer for some reason, "I really ought to fill it up so I can keep it under $30, that makes me feel like a winner (sad I know)".

Empty - "crap, it is not one week yet!, keep going!"

Gas light - "I wonder how many miles can I go before my car dies (inspired by Kramer)"

As some of you may notice, out of all those tank levels I've described above, there is one portion of the gas gauge that I didn't mentioned - yes, my favorite region, the "more-than-full" region. This is kind of sick but it gives me much satisfaction to see my little orange needle pointing to the darkness that is beyond the big white full bar, pushing against the needle stop. I especially enjoy it when I turn on my car and see the needle rushing for that zone. Why is it so gratifying? Because I know I can drive and drive and drive for some unknown time, that needle will not move ever so slightly! I'm not sure if you share this similar joy as I do in a "more-tank-full" tank, but I propose that all gas tank gauges should have a needle that could point beyond full, and stay there for a while. The key is not seeing that needle move. I mean come on. . . . give the poor needle a break once in a while. Let it rest so I can pay more attention to my other gauges on my dash board, such as the speed!


Timeeh said...

So true Patrick. You did a great job summarizing my feelings about my gas gauge, I never realized before how I felt about it. I also like the idea of more than full. My light can stay on empty for a looooong time. I've really pushed it. They should have the needle stay on full for just as long as longer. Even if the tank wasn't any bigger recalibrating the needle would make me feel better. : )

Patrick said...

Timeeh, the gas light came up on me when I was in the middle of the Mojave Desert (aka no where) at dusk once. It was quite a harrowing experience. This story is referenced in if you are interested.

Ryan Kirk said...

Even better, I propose a gas gauge that will stay on the empty light for a random amount of time. You never know how long it's going to stay on. But, there would be another gas light, to let you know when you're REALLY about to run out. That way, once the first light goes on, you start driving carefully, because you want to eke out that last mileage. Since you don't know how long it's going to last, you drive extra careful to make sure you're efficient, in case it's short. Yet you still know your car's not going to die until the 2nd light comes on. It's all psychological: we all drive better when the gas light is on, right?

I used to have a 45-mile commute from Santa Barbara to Oxnard, and I could barely make it a week as well. Friday evenings going home were so stressful, there's no gas stations along that stretch of the coast!