The chump at the pump

By Snow

JC lives near me, and one of the ways I enjoy serving her is fueling her car with gas when I can. To facilitate her excursions this weekend, I wake up early on Saturday and brave the cold to fill her car as a surprise.

For the longest time, I wouldn’t drive anyone else’s car due to my anxiety. However, JC’s car and I get along just fine. Speaking of anxiety-inducing situations, her car prefers gas from a perpetually-crowded filling station/convenience store near us that we’ll call “Lala.” One of the reasons I like to fill up her car prior to 6:30 AM is Lala’s multiple pumps almost always have lines if you go much later than that.

There are also these signs at each pump proclaiming, “Please free this position when finished fueling. Thank you. –The Customer Behind You.” Lala is a high pressure environment for someone with anxiety! I am the same way with self-checkout at grocery stores. I won’t do self-checkout if there is a line to get to them. (Actually, I wouldn’t do self-checkout at all if stores would stop relying on them and fully staff their cash registers with actual human beings.)

Anyway, Lala is starting to get busy, but I get there early enough where I find a free pump. I check the little arrow on the gas gauge to remind me that her car’s gas hatch is on the driver side rather than the passenger side like mine. I pull in, maybe a bit far from the pump, but not too bad, and otherwise line it up as best I can. I turn off the car, put the keys in my coat pocket, and get out to fuel.

Whew, is it cold! Sometimes, Lala’s pumps are persnickety with credit/debit cards, but it accepts mine just fine this time. I open the gas hatch, insert the nozzle from the pump, and begin fueling. It only needs about half a tank, so it doesn’t take long before the pump automatically shuts off. I give it one more squeeze to make sure and put it back on the pump. I shut the gas hatch. On the pump screen, I decline to take a receipt. I then wait to ensure the transaction fully clears out.

I pull out the car key from my pants pocket and climb back in the vehicle. I shut and lock the doors. I look in the rear view mirror. No one behind me. Good.

I start to put the key into the ignition. The car’s dashboard lights up, but the key will not fully go in. I pull it back out and try again. Same thing.

I remember JC saying something about the car not always fully going into the correct gear. Maybe it isn’t in Park. However, when inserting the key, the “P” lights up. As far as I can tell, it is in Park.

I then start turning the steering wheel. On my car, I remember my key getting stuck in the ignition when the wheel didn’t lock properly. Maybe something similar is happening in reverse. I freely turn the wheel back and forth.

No effect.

My heart rate begins increasing.

I look in the rear view mirror again. Still no one there waiting for me to free the position.

I look at the convenience store. Would an attendant come out and yell at me about blocking a pump for too long?

I don’t know what to do, so I call on help.

From Google.

On my iPhone, I type a description of my situation in the search. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that anything that happens to me in a car, it’s already happened to others and been written about on the web and cataloged on Google.

However, all of the Google search results are about how to get a stuck key out of an ignition. None about how to get a resistant key into an ignition. No help.

I try the key again. No go.

Panic.

Maybe I have the wrong key. I grabbed my own car keys this morning as well. I look at the key fob and see a scripture key ring I bought a few months ago. Yes, right keys.

More panic.

I try once again. Car dashboard lights up, but key won’t fully insert.

I don’t dare check the rear view mirror. I imagine having to push the car out of the position so the customer behind me can fuel.

Finally, I decide to call JC. I wake her up and explain the situation. She is thankful for me fueling her car, but she has not encountered this key scenario before. She asks if I am using the right key. “Yes, I already checked that,” I say.

I look at the key again anyway. I see a Chevrolet emblem on the back of the fob. It is my car’s key. Not the key for JC’s Ford. I reach in my coat pocket and pull out JC’s key, which has a different scripture key ring, and start the car. As I drive away from Lala, freeing the position for the (possibly non-existent) customer behind me, I sheepishly apologize to JC for waking her up.

Why am I telling you this story? To illustrate a couple of my mistakes.

The Second Commandment tell us:

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.”
Exodus 20:4-6

I thought this was one of the “easy” commandments. Obviously, I only worship the Lord. Only fools worship idols.

Yet, where did I first turn when I needed help? Not to God. But to Google. As with all false idols, Google provided no real answers.

Despite my shortcomings, God still tried to help me. That scripture on my key ring? It is the verse that JC used in 2018 to help me significantly lessen my anxiety, including while driving:

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

When JC gave me her spare car keys, the verse key ring I chose for them was Romans 8:28, a mantra for us both.

I saw a scripture key ring attached to the fob that wouldn’t work and assumed it was the correct one. Oh, if only I had a taken a second actually to read the verse! It would have 1) calmed me and 2) made me realize they were the keys to my car and not JC’s car.

God was trying to talk to me and help me, but I was not listening. This time, I realized it later. I wonder how often it happens and I remain oblivious to it?

I ponder, why didn’t I turn to God when the car wouldn’t start? God had even helped me in almost that exact situation before! Back in 2019, my car was having a mechanical issue. At another gas station, I fueled up my car but couldn’t get the engine to start. That time, I was smart enough to pray to God for help. Immediately, an attendant named Al came out. He recognized the sound my engine was making when failing to start and patiently told me the exact steps to start the car. The car started right up. God is much better than Google. JC and I still pray for Al whenever we pass that gas station.

So, why did I go to Google first this time and not God? I honestly don’t know. Not as an excuse, but I have been struggling at work lately, particularly last week. I was still off kilter going into this weekend. I am doing better now, and I want to thank JC, Mark, and others for their prayers.

So, again I don’t have the answer, other than, I obviously need to pray more about my relationship with God. And stop breaking commandments!

Thank you for reading, friends. May Jesus bless you.

Credit: Snow

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