I follow a Blog entitled ‘A Day in the Life‘ if you have never read it, check it out. Last week this person posted a blog called ‘Take a Drive’. Well this got me thinking about the ‘good old days’ when I was in High School and had just gotten my Driver’s License. Just like today, getting your license was the epitome of FREEDOM. I didn’t need Mom or Dad to bring me to a friends house or to the Bowling Alley. If I could do my best acting and convince my parents that I was going right to my friends house, the movies, the ice cream parlor, and then straight back home life was hip. I was one of the first in my class to get my license to drive. Now I was no longer the little freckle faced kid that had his lunch money stolen in the boys room, no no I was now the hip guy that could provide transportation to my friends. We didn’t have to sit in a friends house wondering what to do, now we could get into my parents Wide Tracking Pontiac 1971 Catalina and cruise around wondering what to do. Gas was cheap and plentiful. Where we went didn’t matter the simple fact that we could just go was good enough. Even when we were bored we were free to move around and be bored.
But then suddenly there was this thing called a ‘Gas Shortage’. This was a time when countries in the Middle East were Nationalizing the oil fields. No longer were Shell, Exxon, Sinclair, Getty running the show. Suddenly a group called OPEC was calling the shots and it was wreaking havoc on my being cool. How dare they. Suddenly we went from idle cruising to cruising to find gasoline. Gas was being sold on and odd even basis. If your license plate ended in and even number you could buy gas on an even day, odd on an odd day. Maybe!
But that’s not what I wanted to share with you today, no. That was just setting up the background of the story. Let’s move on to the nitty gritty.
As it so happens, we decided that no one was going to dictate to us whether we could drive around idly with no destination or not. Not our parents, not the police and especially some countries halfway around the world. We were Americans. Old enough to fight for our Country, old enough to drink in our Country (in those days the drinking age was 18) and it was our God given right to drive aimlessly in our Country. Damn it. So, what to do? We could drive from gas station to gas station for enough gasoline to get to the next station, or we could take matters into our own hands. Which is what we did.
Now I didn’t have my parents car this Saturday night but by now my friends were driving as well. On this particular night I don’t really remember whose car we were in but it didn’t matter. In those days almost all cars were big, had bench seats and got 6 mpg. No matter what we needed gas. Suddenly we had a great idea. We’ll siphon it. Sure easy as pie.
[Let me pause here a moment to tell you that I am not proud of this and do not condone this kind of sociopathic activity at all but this is now and that was then].
The problem was that we had never done this before. Well there had to be a first for everything. So we found a house with a garden hose laying on the lawn. And one of us cut off a length. Next we found a nice big Cadillac parked facing uphill. The rear license plate folded down and the gas cap was underneath it. We backed our car up to just about the bumper of the Cadillac, turned off the lights and the engine and got out. But as it turned out we all knew the idea of what we had to do but no one had ever done it before. Once, twice, three,shoot. Damn I lost. Okay boys it was up to me to keep us going. I took the cap off of the Cadillac and slid the hose into the gas tank. I flipped down the license on our car undid the cap and proceeded to suck the air out of the hose. It seemed to take forever. The guys were telling me to hurry up before someone came by. I was nervous enough but kept on sucking on that garden hose. Finally just as someone announce that it wasn’t going to work, I took one large suck in from the bottom of my lungs and bazinga. I inhaled, swallowed and was covered in gasoline. I was soaked in it. I dropped the hose and the golden liquid was pouring out onto the pavement. So was my insides. I was heaving all over the place. My friends were laughing, very funny. Between heaves I mumbled, “Put the fucking hose into our car you’re losing all the gas.” After looking from one to the other someone picked up the hose and began to fill our car. Finally we were back on our way with everyone laughing in stitches but me. I was burping gasoline and stunk to high hell. But we had gas to carry us through the night for more aimless cruising.
After a bit my friend Duke took out a cigarette and some matches and went to light up. I started screaming like a madman. “STOP!!!!! Don’t you know that it is the fumes that ignite not the liquid. You’re going to blow us to kingdom come you asshole. More fits of laughing and me burping gasoline. but he put the match out. Thank you.
Well they dropped me off at home, I got undressed outside, snuck into the shower, went to bed and prayed that I wouldn’t die from gasoline poisoning in my sleep. The next morning I woke up grabbed my clothing from behind the bushes where I hid them and washed them all the time hoping no one would smell the gas. If they did no one, not even my brother mentioned it.
So that was how we survived the first gas shortage.
Postscript: Twice a year I empty the gasoline out of my generator and put fresh gasoline into it. The last time, I asked my oldest son to help me. We drained as much as we could out but there was still plenty in it. I didn’t want to run it dry and waste the gasoline so I told my son that we were going to have to siphon out the gas. He looked at me like I had three eyes. Finally he said asked if we had a siphon. To which I replied, “are you nuts? Don’t you know how to siphon gasoline?” No of course not. He was going to go to NAPA and buy a siphon until I yelled out, “Stop right there boy, your old man is going to teach you something that you should have learned years ago!” And so I got a piece of hose, siphoned out the gas (didn’t inhale a drop) and we filled the 5 gallon can. Later he asked me how I knew to do that , I winked told him the story about growing up during the gas shortage and then asked if there was anything else he needed his old man to teach him.