Do you see the tank as half full or half empty?
The gas tank in your car, I mean. This is not a philosophical question; it’s a practical one. Because those happy-go-lucky optimistic drivers who see the tank as half full and those careful pessimistic drivers who see it as half empty are destined to marry one another. Or at least to travel or car pool with one another. It’s car karma.
Here are some signs that you might be a gas gauge optimist:
1. When the idiot light—er, excuse me, the “low fuel indicator light” comes on, your first thought is, “I can drive for 40 more miles on what’s left in the tank.” This thought does not correlate in any way to the actual fuel economy of your vehicle. You think it whether you drive a mini-something that gets 47.3 mpg or a supersized SUV that averages 7.3 mpg.
2. You have, possibly on more than one occasion, experienced your engine gasping for the last gasoline fume in the bottom of the tank just as you’ve pulled up to the gas pump.
3. Despite real-world experiences to the contrary, you maintain an innocent belief that every tiny town, former town, or wide spot in the road along even the loneliest rural road will have a gas station. You also naively trust that said station will be open.
4. You have seriously considered covering the gas gauge idiot light with duct tape so your dear companion the gas gauge pessimist can’t see it.
On the other hand, here are some indications that you might be a gas gauge pessimist:
1. When driving around town, you get nervous and head for the nearest gas station when the gas gauge shows you’re down to a quarter of a tank.
2. On a road trip, you get nervous and plan to pull off at the next gas station when the gas gauge shows you’re down to half a tank. During the winter, you do this at three-quarters of a tank.
3. Despite real-world experiences to the contrary, you maintain a suspicious belief that, even if the map shows three towns along the road in the next 50 miles, it’s not safe to trust you can refuel at any of them. You assume that either there will be no gas stations, any stations that do exist will be closed, or all the gas pumps at any open stations will be out of order.
4. No matter how long you’ve owned your car, you don’t know exactly where the “low fuel indicator light” is on the dashboard, because you’ve never seen it come on.
5. You do know exactly where the “gas gauge idiot light” is on the dashboard of your spouse’s car.
6. You also know exactly how far and at what angle you need to lean over in order to peek at the idiot light in your spouse’s car when you are in the front passenger seat. You believe you can perform this maneuver without your spouse noticing. This belief is wrong.
Finally, if you are a gas gauge optimist who values the comfort level of your gas gauge pessimist spouse, you will learn to fill the tank before—or at least as soon as—the dreaded light comes on. Extra points if you then refrain from pointing out how accommodating you are being. If you are a gas gauge pessimist who travels with and appreciates your gas gauge optimist spouse, you will learn to keep breathing even when the gauge gets below half a tank. Extra points if you then refrain from peeking at the idiot light for at least the next 75 miles.