Sunday, February 12, 2012

Voices in My Head

This afternoon, we drove home from a ski weekend in New Hampshire.  With the bulk of the 2.5- to 3-hour trip (assuming no traffic) ahead of us, I stopped for gas.  The minivan has a little lever inside that you have to pull to pop open the fuel tank. I pulled.  It didn't pop open.

I pulled, I pried, I Googled.  Couldn't get the damn thing open.  With quite a bit less than half a tank of gas, my only hope was to drive home and hope for the best.

According to the vehicle navigation, I had over 130 miles to travel.  According to the vehicle computer, I had 200 miles worth of gas left.  One would think that this would have left me fairly confident.  It did not.  Not at all.

It wasn't only that I had no faith in the accuracy of the computer (assuming what rate of speed?  what if there's construction?  what if there's traffic?  what if it's just wrong?).  It was because I could hear my dad in my head telling me to "never let it get below a quarter of a tank."  When faced with a computer telling me it's ok and the Dad voice in my head telling me to worry, I'll go with worry every time.

My dad knows I have several of these practical bits of his burned into my brain.  I gifted him a list of them one year for Father's Day.  It includes such wise advice as:

"Never stand on the top rung of a ladder."

"Always pay your credit card off at the end of the month."

"Measure twice, cut once."

"Red on right when returning."

And, of course, "never let it get below a quarter of a tank."

I always feel a bit bad that I can't attribute similar priceless wisdom to my mom.  It's probably because, with the exception of algebra, she taught me everything else, so individual phrases don't stand out. When it comes to things my mom said, I more often hear them coming out of my mouth toward my children than in my head.  It's only after the fact that I realize what I have said and where I picked up that turn of phrase.

Now that I'm thinking about it, there is one truism I can still hear in my mother's voice inside my head:  "If it's meant to be, it will be."  That one used to make me roll my eyes and groan.  Completely useless.  Nothing I can do there.  She tossed that one around a fair amount around the time I was broken up with the guy I thought was "the one."  Wouldn't you know that she was right about that corny useless advice?  Apparently it was meant to be, and it did get around to being, since Mom was tossing that one around in 1995 and the guy is upstairs asleep right now, as are our two kids. 

I'm 41 years old and blessed with two very wise and helpful parents who continue to field questions by phone and email, but I think most of the basics are already bouncing around in my head.

Oh, and on this one, the computer was right after all.  I got home with less than a quarter tank of gas, a high degree of anxiety, and (allegedly) 70 miles to spare.  And the fuel door opened on the first try in the driveway.  But I'm still going to take it in for service, because I can hear a voice in my head telling me it's "better to be safe than sorry."


  1. I loved this. It's so true. I still hear those voices, too.

  2. Don't forget my favorite of your dad's. It's OK to eat ice cream for breakfast. :-) It's still to this day a favorite memory!