Driveway Gas Runner-Outer

My wife, son, and I were coming back from a weekend trip to Washington D.C. We got home, put the car in the garage, and started getting our son ready for bed. I turned on the house alarm and prepared for what we expected to be an early night. The nation’s capitol really wears you out with all that walking.

Then the doorbell rang. We live on a street with almost zero pedestrian activity, so this was unusual - especially for 7:30 on a Sunday. If someone was coming to our front door, it was either some kind of salesperson (like the solar panel installer who tried to make a sale by getting me to confirm “the sun is free - right?”) or one of our neighbors who had our mail delivered to them by mistake. I ran downstairs to see which awaited me.

I opened the door to see a normal-looking guy standing there, kind half-smiling and half looking confused. His car was parked at the edge of our driveway at an odd angle. But because I’d forgotten to turn off the alarm system, a shrieking sound went off as soon as I opened the door. This scared my wife and son upstairs and put me in the unpleasant position of having to hold up one finger and walk back up the stairs to disable the alarm. I was hoping the guy wasn’t a killer because at that moment he’d have had no problem getting in and stabbing me a little.

I turned off the alarm and went back down and apologized, which I immediately regretted. In a French accent, the guy introduced himself as… Guy. You know, the French pronunciation. He said he was sorry to bother me, but he wanted to let me know who he was, because he’d run out of gas as he pulled into our driveway. Ah.

Now, we live on a 45 MPH street where people regularly reach 60, with two lanes in each direction and no shoulder. So while running out of gas and pulling into our driveway is not as unusual as it would be in a cul de sac or another more neighborhood-y environment, it’s still odd. And yet this wasn’t the first person who’d done it. A few years earlier, a kid coming back from a football party, with no cell phone or cash, did the same thing when my wife was home with our son. She wound up calling his mother to get him and bring him to a gas station. So weird as this was, it was not our first in-driveway breakdown. Sorry, Guy.

Guy asked me if there was a gas station nearby. I told him it was about a mile down the road. He didn’t seem too thrilled with that prospect. I don’t blame him.

Then he asked me if I had any gas in my house - “you know, like for a lawnmower” (no duh). I said I did, and asked him to meet me in front of the garage.

I went back into the house and explained to my wife what was going on. To her credit, a second person running out of gas as they pulled into our driveway didn’t really faze her. Par for the course.

When I opened the garage door, Guy was standing there, and already thanking me for the gas. “We’re on our way to a free concert on Festival Pier,” he said.

“‘We’?” I asked. And that’s when I really looked into his car. I saw a woman and two pre-teen girls inside and realized as bad as it is to run out of gas in a stranger’s driveway alone, it’s much worse to do it with your family - and on your way to an event. I remembered hearing that a very teen-friendly band of young boys with hair combed over their foreheads was performing in Philadelphia this evening. All the more reason to plan for your trip by purchasing gasoline.

I told Guy that I hadn’t realized there were people in the car. He said, “Dude, they hate me in there.” I guess so. There are gas stations all over the place on our road. He must have consciously ignored each one as he headed to his concert. What a dope.

But Guy said, “I insist. Tell me what you like to drink and I will bring it to you.” I reluctantly said that if he were to get me a bottle his favorite French wine, I’d drink it. It’s the truth. I like wine.

I gave him my lawnmower gas can, which was about halfway full. As he was pouring it into the tank of his car, he thanked me again and asked, “What is your drink of choice?”

I said, “No, it’s okay. You don’t have to do that.” I did this partly because I just wanted to be nice - but also because I didn’t have a good sense that he’d actually come through on repaying me, as he seemed to be offering. Better to cut if off before the offer is made.

But Guy said, “I insist. Tell me what you like to drink and I will bring it to you.” I reluctantly said that if he were to get me a bottle his favorite French wine, I’d drink it. It’s the truth. I like wine.

“It’s done, then!” he said with a seemingly sincere smile. And I fell for it. Guy would never force me to agree to be repaid in alcohol, then renege on the offer - would he? After all, he’s proven himself to be so responsible so far.

When he’d used half of the available gas, Guy tried to start the car. He gave it a few solid attempts but it wouldn’t go. He asked me for the gas can again, and I told him to finish it off. He did, and the car started. I could see his wife and daughters inside cheering. Let this be a lesson, kids - always rely on the kindness of strangers. Especially if you’re blocking their driveway.

Guy thanked me one more time as he gave me back my gas can. “I will get you that wine!” he said. His wife rolled down her window and yelled out, “Thank you!” It was a victory - not just for me, or for Guy, but for good deed-doers everywhere.

My new French friend and future wine-supplier drove off. And for the first time, I thought, “What if he’d broken down just five minutes earlier?” We’d have been blocked from entering our driveway after a three hour drive home. And because we live on such a major road, there’s nowhere else to park nearby (which is why this “running out of gas in our driveway” thing seems to happen so often) - so I’d have had to park a block away, leave my wife and son inside, and walk home to try to figure out just who in the hell is stationed in front of our house on a Sunday night. That would have been fun.

Well, you’re probably wondering if Guy honored his word and brought me the bottle of French wine that he forced me to agree would be my repayment for providing him with gas to get him on his way. I’m sorry to say that after months of checking all over the front of our house (mailbox, welcome mat, rose bushes), there was no wine to be found - French or otherwise. But really, why would I expect someone who was irresponsible enough to run out of fuel on major roadway filled with gas stations to honor his word? My bad.