“Yeah, burning that gasoline.”

— Audioslave

I saw something the other day that immediately sent me in the way-back machine to Irwin County, circa the early 1970s. All other thoughts in my head were promptly dismissed. ... It was like when Stephen King starts using an italic font to show that the character is in another time and place ... Like when a movie montage goes all cloudy around the edges ... Like when Wayne and Garth go “doodle-a-doo, doodle-a-doo, doodle-a-doo” to introduce a re-enactment.

I saw a guy walking alongside the road with a gas can in his hand. And while I know picking up strangers is not exactly the wisest thing to do these days — any days — I felt a compulsion tugging at me to stop and give this guy a lift. (I would say better sense won out, but the truth is I was running late for a meeting.)

See, that guy was me back in the day.

Saying I was notorious for running out of gas in whatever vehicle I was driving would be like saying David Perdue will go chasing after a sure-thing stock investment if circumstances allow. I bet if a tally was kept of all the times I ran out of gas from the time I started driving until I got a job that paid me enough to buy fuel at least on a semi-regular basis, it would approach triple digits.

It was bad enough that I did it while I was driving alone. But no, genius that I was — “I know there’s enough in the tank to get me to town” — a goodly number of those times I left my vehicle parked alongside the road was when I was out on dates. (By the way, this is not included in my soon-to-be best-seller “How to Impress Your Date on a Verrrrry Low Budget.”)

I can’t count the number of times my date and I — unfortunately for her, Sandra was frequently with me on these sad excursions, although Gary got to enjoy the thrill a few times ... and, no, Gary was not a boy — ended up walking, usually not hand-in-hand, because of their anger, to knock on strangers’ doors to ask if we could use their phone to make a call. (In retrospect, thank goodness those dates were frequently with me. If I’d knocked on some doors with my white-boy Afro, I might not have been greeted so warmly.)

And, of course, my long-suffering dad was the one who usually responded to my calls. I’m amazed to this day how calmly he always responded, driving to wherever we were — on the backroads of Tift, Ben Hill and Irwin counties, in the parking lot of a movie theater, in the Ocilla suburbs of Mystic and Irwinville, on the way home from a restaurant. (It was especially amazing given the number of times he’d whipped my butt as a young kid ... maybe my aging mellowed him.)

I remember this one late Friday evening after a winning Irwin County High football game, a game that we were expected to lose, when a bunch of us folks hung around in downtown Ocilla (at the Dairy Queen, of course) and celebrated together. I finally left for home after midnight and got about halfway there ... 5 miles away ... before, yep, you guessed it, running out of gas. Since it was so late, I walked the 5 miles home and went with my dad to get my vehicle the next day.

I heard all the lame retorts: “You tryin’ to wean that thing?” ... “You did know that ‘E’ on the dashboard stands for ‘Empty,’ right?” ... and my favorite “You can’t really be that big a dumb-a — can you?”

People have asked me over the years why I ran out of gas so often. It was really quite simple: I didn’t have any money to buy it, so I took off on many wings and prayers. Unfortunately for me, most of the time the answer to those prayers was “Ummm, no.”

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

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