I managed to go for 65 years without pumping my own gas, and now, wouldn’t you know it, my decision to move to California has pulled me out of my car and my comfort zone. I’ve filled up my tank six times and still don’t have it right, but each time I get better.
Last night I watched a guy hop out of his car, push the nozzle in the tank and walk away to wash his windshield, as if it were the easiest thing in the world. I was impressed, since my machine had already stopped three times. Once, because I didn’t shove the nozzle in far enough. Twice, because I tried to use the silver clip hidden in the handle to hold the lever up – and failed. And a third time, because I got distracted by the show-off guy and tried to do the same. I envied his wife sitting idly in the passenger seat examining her nails. One should never underestimate the gifts that come with relationship.
The other thing I’m getting used to is a GPS, which came without an instruction manual of ANY kind, like a person should just know how to use it because of genetics, gender, or maybe age. Isabella, who was 11 years old at the time, gave me a quick lesson before I left Oregon. (She flies her dad’s airplane and is used to navigation systems.) But she did not have the hang of allowing me to do it myself. Instead, she ran through the buttons quicker than a teller at the grocery. “See Ma? You just go here, here, here and here, and when you’re done, you push this.”
The GPS and the gas pump have been colossal challenges, with me tackling strangers to beg assistance. But when I reached Los Angeles, a one on one lesson from Clay, my son, helped tremendously. “You can always play the old lady card, if you get into trouble Mom.”
My biggest breakthrough with the GPS came when a bartender showed me a symbol that looks like a tiny bed in the lower right hand corner and announced it was the space bar. Ha! What a difference a space makes. In my defense, I will say that the clerk at the Morro Bay B&B could not find the space bar either. Anyway, the GPS and I have been doing very well – except for yesterday, when the hot California sun melted the glue that held it on the dash and dumped it in my lap.
Like my computer, I’m sure I’m only using one fourth of its capacity and that it has little GPS nighttime imaginings of belonging to someone who is worthy of it. But I am thrilled. After the initial shock of having a moving screen on my dash and another voice in the car, I have grown dependent, even delighted to be safely guided through the chaos of southern California traffic.
I still live in avoidance of gas station trauma and freeway madness but am adapting and getting better every day.