Whereas typically I try not to let my gas tank get less than 1/4 full, this week I let my car’s gas gauge point at “E” for an alarmingly long time. It was nearing the end of day three with my gas light on when it finally occurred to me that I might not make it to my destination this time if I didn’t pull over and gas up. And so I decided to do just that. I pulled into the gas station fine. I got out of the car fine. I pulled out my debit card flawlessly. It was when I shoved my card up the receipt dispenser that I paused to think, “You. Idiot.”

How many times do you think a 24 year old has filled up the tank of her car? This is the question I asked myself as I stared at the unyielding receipt slot holding my debit card hostage. I glanced to the appropriate slot where one is supposed to slide their card. Nowhere near similar in location or appearance. Not even close. Not even a little bit. Basically, I’m an imbecile.

Desperation clutched at me as ALL MY MONEY was sitting right in front of me, out of reach, mocking me. It’s late and one sole light is still on in the gas station. The gas attendant sitting inside is oblivious to me; I don’t want to go in after him, and I doubt he even has the means to remove the face of the pump. I turn back to the pump and think, think, think. Having to wait a week or so for a new debit card is simply not an option. I pinch my fingers together and try to grasp at the opening of the slot, but I’m clutching at nothing and fear of pushing my card farther into the void behind the gas pump quickly makes me snatch my fingers away. And then a thought hits me. I lower my head level with the receipt dispenser and take a breath. I try to block out thoughts of diseases and germs and my mouth falling off and squeeze my eyes shut with the resolve to press my lips to the gas pump and suck my debit card out of the receipt dispenser.

No, really, this was the plan.

This was really about to happen.

But the germs! They stopped me cold. While I doubt it’s possible to get AIDS or leprosy from attempting something so unclean and desperate, I had no doubts in my mind that I would find a way to manage it. I was going to be the girl who died sucking out her debit card from a gas pump. That’s what the headlines would say. “GIRL DIED MAKING OUT WITH GAS PUMP.” The world just wouldn’t understand.

And so I paused. I opened my eyes to take a steady breath and looked at the obstacle in front of me. And that’s when I saw it! Being eye level with the slot, I could see a small, glorious plastic corner. A tiny beacon of plastic hope. A sliver of my debit card still reaching out for me, begging to be saved from the abyss. And so I flexed and wiggled my fingers, got them into pincher formation, and took a deep breath before going in.

SUCCESS! My nails clamped onto the corner and I was able to pull out my check card. I plopped back into car and shimmied the card back into its appropriate slot in my wallet and let out all the air I’d been holding in. I would live to buy another pizza. I turned on the car and got ready to get back on the road…. and that’s when I remembered: I still hadn’t actually gotten any gasoline.

This time I was very careful. This time, I completed the task without incident. But you can only be so proud of yourself when you’re self-congratulatory over pumping a tank of gas without managing to throw every penny you have down a receipt slot.

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