So, you know that terrible feeling when you pat your pockets and you realize that you don’t have your keys with you? Now imagine standing in your parking pad with an armload of M&M frozen food and a six year daughter. Now imagine that you’ve just closed the door to your house and that you need to be to work in 20 minutes.
That was me at 12:40 pm today.
It was an in-service, so I was just about to drive my daughter over to a neighbour who has a girl the same age as mine for the afternoon, and then head on to work.
That was the plan, anyway. It all went sideways when I patted my pockets. I patted ALL of them, friend. Don’t you worry about that. I also tried the back door (twice!) and even the rarely used front door on the off-off chance that they happened to be unlocked.
They were not.
I had this box of M&M frozen food because I was taking to work since some of my coworkers bought some as part of my daughter’s school fundraiser.
At least the temperature was just below zero, and luckily the car door was unlocked so I stashed the box in the back seat and thought, “Well, I might as well still head over the neighbours, right?”
And so we did.
I kind of walked numbly, without really formulating a plan. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get to work, but I could off-load my daughter. That part of the plan was still in effect, at least.
The neighbour was a street over, so it didn’t take long to get there. My daughter wanted to bring her new sled, make it into a bit of an adventure, but it was already enough of an adventure for me to introduce props. I declined. There were tears.
The tears had dried by the time we got to the neighbour’s and my daughter couldn’t wait to make the big announcement:
“DADDY LOCKED HIMSELF OUT OF THE HOUSE!”
I smiled sheepishly at our neighbour and said, “it’s true.”
“Oh, man! What are you going to do?”
“Well, I think I’ll call my wife, if that’s okay, and see if someone at her work can drive her home so she can let me in and then I can get the keys and then I can take her back and I might only be an hour late for work, or maybe I could call my work and maybe someone there would come and get me and then I’d only be a half hour late for work or maybe I could take the bus from here but then I’d be about two hours late for work….”
I trailed off, realizing I was sort of sounding deranged in this person’s foyer.
“Well, you know, you could just borrow our car.”
“Sure. I mean I’m not going anywhere today and my husband takes the bus home so that should be just fine.”
“But I work until 8:30 tonight. I won’t be home until around 9!”
“That’s fine. Let me just get my keys.”
I couldn’t believe how generous and kind my neighbour was being. I mean, she knew me, but I didn’t think we were at the relationship level where we just lend each other our cars, right?
She explained that it was a “hybrid” and that it had one of those “push start buttons”. I told her that a friend of ours had a car with one of those starters and I was “quite familiar” with how it worked. She also apologized that she didn’t have the winter tires on yet, so it might be slippy. I didn’t tell her that I never use winter tires. I was just glad I’d get to work today at some point. She told me that you don’t need to stick a key anywhere, you just need to have the fob “near” you. I restrained myself from saying, “Lady, after what I’ve just been through, that fob ain’t leaving my pocket for nothing.”
I got out to the car and climbed in, (head first, as is my way), and settled. I knew enough to put my foot on the brake and push the button.
No engine sounds roaring to life, no rumbles.
Did I not push it hard enough? I almost pushed it again when the car went into a weird “start up” mode, more like a computer booting up than a car turning over. The heat started blowing, so I guess the car was on. I still wasn’t 100% sure on this as I eased the car into drive, but it pulled forward slowly so I guess that’s how these hybrids work.
I know nothing about cars, you guys. And I know less about hybrids, but I do remember reading something somewhere where a hybrid won’t use gas if it is under 50 km/hour. Can that be right? I swung around, back to the house to pick up my frozen meats and off to work.
It was at this point I looked at the dashboard and saw an alarming sight. First: I noticed the yellow fuel gauge warning light was on, then I noticed the fuel gauge was right on empty, and then I noticed that thing that tells you how many kms you have until you’re truly out of gas. Most newer cars have that. I don’t know what it’s called. A range something or other? A fuel related howdy whatsit, perhaps? I’ve personally never let that thing get lower than 50 km or so BUT THIS THING SAID 8 KILOMETERS!
I don’t know how accurate those things are, BUT I GUESS I WAS ABOUT TO FIND OUT. I think that maybe my work was about that far away? I’ve never actually measured it in my almost 9 years working there. Was it exactly 8 kilometers away? 10? Less?
Now my sketchy knowledge of keeping my speed below 50 km/hour was even more crucial. Could I just “putt putt” along and not “move the needle” closer to zero?
I suppose I could have stopped for gas, but I was already running late, and I didn’t know the first thing about hybrids. Do they take special fuel? I wasn’t expecting to stick gas in the fuckin’ thing. What if it took diesel? You can really mess an engine up if you put the wrong fuel in. I could just see myself later on in the day: “Um, thanks so much for the car loan. I MAY have caused $9,000 damage to your engine by sticking the wrong gas in it, but I’m sure it’ll be fine, right? You guys are insured for that, right? No? Welllll. I guess that wasn’t very smart to lend your car to a big DUMB DUMB like me, now was it? Hey, are you still on for looking after our daughter on the next in-service?”
And on that topic, what kind of irresponsible person let their car get to within 8 kilometers of running out of gas! I suddenly remembered this irresponsible person was also my good Samaritan so I rightfully tried to stifle any dark thoughts towards her and just concentrate on getting myself to work.
On the left hand side of the dashboard was some other gauge that I had never seen before on a car. I guess this was the “hybrid-o-meter” or something. I think it was showing me my fuel consumption in litres/100 km. It ranged from 0 to 30. My consumption was hovering between 5 and 10 liters, EVEN UNDER 50 KM/HOUR so there goes THAT theory, but it really shot up to 30 when I accelerated so I tried to keep any change in velocity slow and steady.
My range-o-meter was down to 6 kms at this point, but I’m pretty sure I had traveled more than 2 kilometers, so SOMETHING was working. I was going to make it! This was going to be fine! Were these REAL kilometers, or were they like, European kilometers?
Then: all of a sudden: I was at a red light and the hybrid-o-meter shot RIGHT UP OVER 30 and the engine suddenly revved EVEN THOUGH I WASN’T MOVING. WHAT THE FUCK!? WHAT WAS HAPPENING?!
My wife’s uncle and aunt have a couple of kooky friends who swear that Toyota hybrids will all of a sudden take off without warning and in fact this happened to the wife of this couple and SHE DROVE RIGHT INTO THE FRONT OF HER FUCKING HAIRDRESSERS’ FROM A DEAD STOP and it was all blamed on the malfunctioning hybrid. I had dismissed this story as just another crazy tale from my favourite people “down east”, but you guys: I was currently in a Toyota hybrid and it was revving like a son-of-a-bitch!
I’m happy to report that it didn’t lurch out into the intersection, and after the initial surge, the hybrid-o-meter settled down into some kind of relaxed, almost peaceful mode, on a setting even lower than 0 km/100 km. It was just marked “E”, which I gather was some kind of “ecology mode” or something?
So with both gauges on “E” (the fuel on empty and this weird gas efficiency gauge in some kind of zen trance mode) I cruised the rest of the way to work, leaving the range finder at 2 kilometers.
I was only 3 minutes late for work, you guys.
I’m here, and I’ve just written up this tale on my supper break so you’ll know what happened to me if I don’t ever show up again when I leave work tonight. The hybrid got me. It drove me into a hairdresser’s window and the airbags didn’t deploy…
Or maybe everything will be fine. I’ve googled “What kind of fuel does a hybrid take” and it seems like the good ol’ normal 87 octane will work just fine.
I think I’ll stick some gas in before I head home. I mean, it’s the courteous thing to do when you borrow a person’s car, right? It’s only right.
But more selfishly, I think I want to make it home in a reasonable hour, and a bit of fuel in the ol’ tank may be the only way I’ll make it. Sure I could rely on that “zen mode” but I really don’t understand cars, you guys, and I certainly don’t understand hybrids.
But I’ll tell you one thing: that fob hasn’t left my pocket all damn day.