Sunday, April 01, 2007

Running on Empty

I think it would be entirely unreasonable to divorce your husband because he let the car run out of petrol. I think you have more of a case the fifth time it happens. That is since we moved here.

I had a therapist when I lived in London who wanted to look for the meaning behind everything. That is what they do after all. They are probably the most optimistic people in the whole world, thinking they can find a meaning to life. I was never quite sure since I was not supposed to ask him questions where he was from. Well, you could ask a question, but he would not answer it. I think, perhaps, he was from the Netherlands. Consequently, whenever I find myself veering off into armchair psychology, I do it in a Dutch accent. Why does my husband persist in letting the car run out of petrol? Make that: "Wvy doss he doo eit?" Doss (etc) he want to punish me? Rescue me? Prove how much I need him? Does he want me to stay in one place? Is he clipping my wings because he thinks I might fly away? And what am I doing by trusting him with this particular job when he has consistently failed to complete it to my satisfaction or indeed, the satisfaction of the car? Do I welcome the opportunity to be angry with him? Do I want to be stranded and rescued like some saddo fairytale Princess?More simply; are we both idiots?

It is after all, not that complicated to fill a car with petrol? You point the nozzle in the right place and stuff comes out the end. It is a boy's job. If he is here, I expect him to do it. If he is not here, I fill the car with petrol. I drive it up to the pump; point it, fire it and pay for it. What I do not do, is run out of petrol. (Unless, that is, my husband was supposed to fill the car before he cleared off to his London office and just didn't bother to tick the box. Then, I do occasionally run out of petrol. Running out of petrol is rapidly becoming one of my hobbies up here. I never ran out of petrol in London. I took the tube. It never ran out of petrol either.)

Friday. Again. On the school run, the last day of term. I was on my way to pick up the six-year-old; the Dixie Chicks were on, loud, when the Saab shuddered. I could not believe it was going to happen again. I drew in closer to the hedge, managed to roll back off the narrow country road into the nearest opening and laid my head on my arms on the steering wheel. If someone were to paint me at this junction, at this juncture in my life, that is how they would ask me to sit; my face hidden, my head resting heavy, seeking sanctuary in the cross of my arms. If the painting had a soundtrack and you could press a red button to listen to it, it would not be the Dixie Chicks, it would be a low, long moan.

I tried to ring him. Naturally my mobile was flat. I do not know why I carry it really - possibly because I am a creature of sad and ineffective habit in the same way as my husband. Luckily, a little lady looked out of her house to see me stumbling around, kicking clods and with my hands in my hair. She let me use her phone. She must be one of the few little old ladies not to be a fan of BBC TV's Crimewatch because I am certain I had the eyes of a murderously intented lunatic. While I was waiting for my husband by the side of the road, another mother on the school run drove by; she smiled and gave me a nice friendly wave. I gave her an equally friendly wave back and thought: "What do you think I am doing by the side of the road, I wonder." I climbed back into the car to wait, ramped up the music, closed my eyes and started shaking my head slowly from side to side. This is how my fellow mother found me five minutes later when she drove back having decided as she wended her merry way onwards to school that I probably should not have been by the side of the road looking like I wanted to kill someone. It was very kind of her to return. I think to myself even if running out of petrol is not in itself a good thing, it does restore your faith in human nature the way people go out of their way to help you recover from your idiocy. I was, however, quite keen for her to leave before my husband turned up in the other car so I could shout at him very loudly.

But that was Friday. Another day entirely. Today, I woke up and my husband said: "Happy anniversary darling. Nineteen years ago, we kissed for the first time." It was April 1 then too.


Cathy said...

I agree that filling up the car is a husband's job...especially as the smell of petrol makes me feel quite nauseous. But can I let you in on my little secret...I start asking him to top up the petrol when the car is still half full. That gives me a decent safety margin!

Nicole said...

I think that I could forgive my husband a great deal if he could remember the anniversary of our first kiss. Your patience with him and your situation is starting to make sense...

Anonymous said...

The woman who is complaining that her man has not filled the car with fuel has not recharged her battery with juice...

Soundtrack more likely to be 'Isn't it ironic' by Alanis Morrissetter..

It's the kids I feel sorry for...

Anonymous said...

intentioned ?

[Word verification - BDoom ]

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...I've only run out of petrol once. And that was in a Volvo. So if you will be Swedish cars, what can you expect ?

You also query why that lady didn't stop. What would you be doing stopped by the side of the road.

Honey, with you, any explanation of a hundred and one would be feasible..

aminah said...

filling the petrol is more a girls job while washing the car is a man´s job...but nevertheless I end up doing both!?! Isn´t it interesting how the wife will drive the banger of a car and the hubby the huge fancy executive ... I am opting for an El car! Might be worth your while too.aminah

Anonymous said...

I love your Dutch shrink, really made me laugh and reminded me of my aunt(and thanks for comment by the way, next time could you please make some time to talk about her specifically?)
When I was about 14 she was teaching me a poem and I kept pronouncing an Italian word in French.
"Why do you keep getting that word wrong?" she asked. "Are you sure it's not because you're in love with Bertrand?"
Bertrand is my French uncle (her husband). And actually I wasn't in love with Bertrand, I was in love with John Travolta, which could explain a lot of things...

wife in the north said...

re anon (9.41am): I occasionally make up words (shhh! don't tell anyone.)

Anonymous said...

Don't you think your therapist might say that you are projecting your own failings onto your husband?
You knew that the car needed to be filled up, you knew how to fill it up, and you (presumably) didn't want to run out of petrol, so the responsible action would have been to fill it up yourself.

Anonymous said...

:-) and I thought I was the only person in England who listened to the Dixie Chicks.

Anonymous said...

There is a little dial on the dashboard which indicates the level of petrol left in the tank Wifey. When the finger points at the red bit it is getting nearly empty. Or was this an April fools joke? I don't have a sense of humour myself so wouldn't notice

Anonymous said...

Risking the American audience with the Dixie Chicks reference there, are we..?

Catherine said...

Ah, therapists. I, too, once had a therapist who would have told me that I became ill just before a much longed for break because on some level I did not want to go. But I know I really, really did.

Sometimes stuff just happens.

Anonymous said...


Interesting rant but methinks it's mea culpa !!!.

Anonymous said...

Just fill it up then demand the money back from him.

I am reminded of the old adage: If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got...

Anonymous said...


My recommended answer would be to break the petrol gauge - then he would have to be paranoid and keep filling it up.


Unknown said...

Hey, he remembered the kiss.

(I know that's already been mentioned, but I think that earns BIG brownie points).

Anonymous said...

Also in the UK & I like the Dixie Chicks too.
I don't drive, but if I did I'd have to fill the car myself as I have control issues :)
In fact it is amazing I DON'T drive actually. I do, however, second-guess the sat nav when I'm in the car.......

Eurodog said...

What's wrong with the Dutch?
Sorry but your accent is not convincing.
I am Flemish and hence speak Dutch.
No, it's not double Dutch, it's European awareness.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

But hadn't YOU forgotten the kiss? So he could be fabricating the kiss date story to bury the bad news of the petrol he one step ahead?

Or am i just confused?

Mutterings and Meanderings said...

Wifey, I make up words too...

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with keeping a plastic can of petrol in the car?

mountainear said...

Don't get me wrong here - I'm on your side - I've been there; been left holding 3 small chidren while husband worked all available hours and apparently lived the life of the proverbial Reilly (whilst I swilled nappies and poked mush on spoons into little mouths....) Unlike you my journey was the other way round - I came to the city from the countryside - and believe me the city is just as isolated, hostile and barren. It took a while to realise feeling pissed off and lonesome got us nowhere - best leave regrets about what might have been behind and well, 'Carpe diem'.

Make it work for you WITN. Take charge. Opportunities and not threats. You can do it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Wifey

I have a Saab. Not only does it have an old fashioned fuel gauge thingy, but it has an onboard computer which tells the driver precisely how many miles are left in the tank.

So even if the fuel gauge was a bit too tricky to read, the massive flashing sign saying "3 miles" "2 miles" "running on air" would be a bit of a giveaway.

Girl that husband of yours does have a lot to put up with ... Not only does he get lampooned in public but he gets lampooned by someone who (a) decides that filling the tank is a man's job, who (b) has difficulty reading in the mornings and who (c) teases him when he remembers the less important anniversaries.

When you've divorced him, can I have him please? He sounds sweet.

Anonymous said...

For an independent woman who was allowed out on her own in London you are being remarkably helpless (or it this just for the blog?). If you need petrol, then buy it. You could do it every Friday morning if you are forgetful. Filling up the car with petrol 'is a husband's job'? Oh, please...

Unknown said...

Divorce him.

Anonymous said...

Little Saab Cabrio-lette,
Baby your much to slow..

I guess I shoulda known
By the way u parked the car sideways
That it wouldnt last far..

See youre the kinda hubby
That believes in filling up once
Half fill it and leave me - Blast!

I guess I must be dumb
cuz u had a pocket full of plastic
Visa and none of them used

Well, it was Saturday night when you left the car behind, u buggered off and left me - fast...

Guess I should have closed my eyes
When I got to the place where the jockeys run free.
'Cos I overslept and picked up the only car key.

So I felt a little ill
When I saw all the gauges
Of the fuel that wasn't there-see!

Believe it or not
I started to worry
I wondered if I had enough cash..

Little Red Saab Cabriolette
Baby you're much to slow..

But it was a monday fright
I guess that makes it all shite
And a farmer says, baby have u got enough gas?
Oh yeah, right...[insert Prince-type squeal of pain]


"A body like yours (a body like yours)
Oughta be in jail (oughta be in jail)
cuz its on the verge of bein obscene
(cuz its on the verge of bein obscene)

Move over lassy (move over lassy)
Gimme the keys (gimme the keys)
Im gonna try 2 jump start your little red love machine
(Im gonna try 2 jump start your little red love machine)
And if that doesn't work I'll give take thee behind me John Deere..


"Little red farmer,
Honey u got 2 tow slow [got 2 slow down)
Little red farmer
cuz if u dont u gonna run my
Little red cabriolette right in the
mud mounds..

"Girl, u got an ass like I never seen
And the ride...
I say the ride is so smooth
'cos this tractor's got great a limousin a limousin..

Farm-er- youre much 2 fast
Little Saab Cabriol-ette
It needs some juice, a little juice
Thats gonna last
(little red cabrio-letter
U got 2 slow down (u got 2 slow down)
Little red corvette..

Repeat to fade...

With apologies to Prince, TAFKAP or whatever handle he is going by these days..

Anonymous said...

You get in the car, the gauge reads "nearly empty". FFS! Go to a petrol station and fill it up! It's not rocket science!

You're surely not looking for sympathy here?