Childhood Family

Running on empty

While I have not been in college for decades, I remember vividly the college days, in particular that my gas tank and refrigerator were usually very close to empty.

And I remember when my folks would visit, and those problems would go away, as parents visiting you at college are oftentimes emergency relief funds.

Such is the case with our daughter. When we come visit, we do as our parents did for us – a run to the grocery store and the gas station.

Sometimes, however, the gas station run takes on a few extra steps. In particular when the car is stranded a few miles from your child’s home, as she ran out of gas.

We were about 45 minutes away from her when she called in a bit of a panic. My wife took the call, and went into usual mom mode, which was calming the situation down.

Oh, did I mention this was on a football gameday just a few hours before a big game? 

My brother-in-law was already in town, so he went ahead of us and got the car secured and brought Allie back to her apartment. When we arrived, I told her to hop in the car with me, and we set off to solve the problem. 

My wife and I had agreed prior to getting there that there was really not going to be any purpose in harping on the issue. As my daughter and I headed out, I told her as such. 

“That said…” I said, causing her to sigh and slump, as she knew a parting mini-lecture was on its way. “Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling you that Starbucks can sometimes wait.”

“Fine,” she said. (I don’t think she was fine.)

We headed off to the nearest gas station. I went in and asked where the gas cans were. The clerk said, “Gas cans?” which to me seems like a really odd question at an actual gas station. It’s not like I came inside and said, “Yes, where do you keep your iguana food?” I was asking for a gas can, which is no doubt no. 2 on the list of containers people use to take away gas, right after actual vehicles.

I was told they did not carry those (or iguana food, I assume). So off to a nearby hardware store. Tick tock. Tick tock.

Then back to the gas station. Then to my daughter’s stranded car, which was parked in a game-day lot, so it was fortunately still there. I put a gallon or so in the tank and started the car. Good to go. With room to spare before gametime.

The next day, we took her car up to the gas station and filled it up. And, of course, we took a trip to the store to remedy the refrigerator situation. Our cart was the most “My Parents Are Visiting” cart you could imagine: Food, a printer, a deck of Uno cards. 

I was happy to be able to come in and do the same thing for my daughter that my parents did for me on multiple occasions. I’m glad she has a full fridge and a full tank of gas. And I am hopeful that she will not gamble on an empty tank again for a Starbucks. In the end, it all ended up well. Except for if we need iguana food. I’ve got nothing there.


Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike or at


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