Ever since we retired, Jane and I have been traveling – a couple week-long vacations to exotic or historical destinations, plus every weekend for the past four years during basketball season, watching younger son, Alex, play for Cal State Monterey Bay. Well, Alex graduated in May (his hoops career continues in Australia), leaving us nowhere to go from November through March.
When Jane told me her sister’s son, David, was playing bass guitar with Amanda Shires and they’d be in Los Angeles Thursday, I realized we hadn’t been out of town in a while – and didn’t have anything planned for the foreseeable future. The last time we saw our nephew perform was last year in Santa Cruz (prior to a two-game home stand for the CSUMB) when he was backing up Patrick Sweany and it was a blast. I started connecting some dots, called our closest friends from my days at USC and asked if they’d be available for dinner Thursday (they were). Then checked in with older son, Andy, and asked if he and his girlfriend would be able to have dinner Friday. We hadn’t seen them since the day we drove Alex to LAX in late May for his flight to Brisbane. If you’re an empty nester, you’d understand it was definitely past due.
Everything went as great as expected – a couple wonderful dinners, an awesome performance and, after seeing Andy yesterday morning, we took off for the five-hour drive home from Newport Beach. Full disclosure: my back pain has been escalating recently, I was put on a different drug and it made my nervous system, which is “on edge” anyway, freak out even more. One of the biggest issues is how my sleep patterns are affected, as in I can’t get to sleep at night until the wee hours – even with meditation, relaxing music, yoga breathing techniques, sitting in a glider (which always had done the trick in the past) and other various methods of calming down. After a few days of sleeping between 1-3 hours (and maybe a 20 minute nap during the day but no more), I finally got 11 hours sleep Friday night, waking at noon. It wasn’t enough. I still felt tired.
On our trip home, we encountered little traffic. We needed gas and I hadn’t eaten since our feast the night before. I figured the car’s (and my) tank could make it to just south of Magic Mountain – to a favorite Italian restaurant of ours. Usually I would get the gas part out of the way first but since the station was located on the south side of the street, decided that it would be more practical to fill up our stomachs first, then get gas just before we returned to I-5N.
I ordered a chicken parmigiana sandwich but the waiter said they’d run out of sandwich bread (since it was 2:00 and they were getting ready for the dinner crowd) but I could have the dinner. It’s my favorite – so I went for it – the soup, sauteed veggies, pasta and chicken parm. More than I should have had for my first meal of the day. But, as many of us baby boomers were taught to do, I cleaned my plate. Gladly, I might add.
A couple minutes later, I was putting the nozzle in my gas tank which was, as I had planned, almost bone dry. Realizing it was going to take a while to fill it, I went inside to get a Diet Mountain Dew, my favorite caffeinated drink to liven me up some. Inside, I saw a display of big cookies. Jane’s favorite, oatmeal raisin, and mine, white chocolate macadamia, were both looking up at me, begging to be rescued from the rest. I made my purchases and walked out to the car to surprise my wife. When I flipped the cookie into her lap and buckled in, we laughed about how much of a sucker I am for something sweet after a meal.
Then, I put the car in drive and began our journey home, only to hear something hit the ground behind me. First the first time in over 50 years of driving, I forgot to remove and replace the nozzle. What I saw in my side view mirror was a hose on the ground, connected not to the pump where it should have been, but to my gas tank. Suffice to say I was no longer tired. Next, I did what I had to do – put the car in park, get out, remove the nozzle, with pump attached, from my car and place it where it belonged.
Then, with several other customers entering and leaving the store, as well as others getting gas, I made the walk of shame into the convenience store to tell the manager of my blunder. He said I needed to back up my car to the “scene of the crime” and wait for him. Naturally, by the time I got back to the car, another driver had pulled into the pump after mine, so I had to go all the way around to get there. As I was walking back inside, a customer yelled out to the manager, “Oh, wait, he’s coming in now.” Apparently, he thought I was “making a break for it” and was about to call the local police or Highway Patrol.
As I went back to the car, I noticed he was writing something on a piece of paper. While I sat in the driver’s seat, I saw him put a sign on the door and lock it. The sign said, “STORE CLOSED” – because he was the only employee on duty at the time. Now, there were at least 10 customers either getting gas or about to enter to purchase snacks or whatever. If it hadn’t been me who caused this mass confusion, the goings on would have been pretty funny – a guy shooing customers out of his store and locking out others in the middle of the day.
He came over with his little camera. I apologized for my gaffe. He explained he had been given a certain protocol for such a situation and that it happens more often than I’d think. Then he asked for my license and insurance card, took pictures of each, plus one of my license plate and the pump and disconnected hose. As he was snapping away, the lady at the pump opposite me said, “Oh, I have done that, too.” It may or may not have been true but bless her anyway. Really, I couldn’t believe there could be too many people that stupid – until the manager looked up and said:
“My cousin did the same thing here last week.”